Perhaps it was the way the light was streaming in through the window. Or that my mind’s usual distractions took a moment of reprieve to notice what was what. Whatever it was, I saw it clear as day one morning last fall.
I was, undeniably: Out. Of. Shape.
I argued with myself over the situation. No WAY this was happening! I eat a LEBANESE diet! It’s so healthy! I skip some meals! I’m on the go! I run! I lift weights!
Plus, there was the mint chip. Every walk we made into town in Harbor Springs last summer seemed to include my mint chip cone. My Lebanese mint-lovin’ self couldn’t quit it.
So when I headed back downstate for the fall, I forced myself to follow Dan’s workout routine. The guy is a machine; he’s not satisfied unless he gets his exercise fix not once, but twice a day (weights in the morning, a run in the evening, thank you very much). He wouldn’t let me out of it, either.
We started in with Justin the Trainer. Justin is one Solid Dude. We’re talking military tough. He put us through the paces, always first thing in the morning, and Dan barely broke a sweat. I, on the other hand, was queasy in the corner.
The whole thing brought back bad memories of my childhood efforts at athletics. There was the failed swim test when I couldn’t go the full length of the Olympic-sized pool (hey! I was really small!). There was the Presidential Physical Fitness mile run that I had to walk, last one over the finish line (scarring). Thank goodness I have a sister, an athletic star, who has always believed in me no matter what, and told me so when it came to a golf or tennis swing, which she called “a natural” . . . if I’d just spend some time on it . . ..
You need to eat something before we work out, Justin told me when I got the head spins. In other words: you need to toughen up, girl. He tried to hold me to it, asking what I ate before our session every time I started to turn green. He suggested fruit, nuts, that sort of thing. Sometimes I ate a bite or two of banana. Most of the time I ate nothing.
Then, we started pushing ahead. In between the pain, I felt the gain. I found if I ate a little something before and a little something after, I could do a lot more than I ever thought possible. I started playing with breakfast bars, like the ones Trisha brought over that we could not stop eating. Nutty, chewy, fruity—they’re the kind of delicious that makes you excited when you wake up and know you get to eat another one.
The other day Justin told me to grab the 35 lb. barbell. You’re graduating, he said. When my eyes got huge in both fear and excitement, he reminded me of where I was when we started. He asked what I’d eaten that morning, and I told him about the granola bars.
You got this, he said. And he was right.
- 2 cups pitted Medjool dates
- ½ cup honey, agave syrup, or maple syrup
- ½ cup tahini
- 3 tablespoons peanut butter
- 2 teaspoons kosher salt
- 3 cups old-fashioned oats, toasted
- 1 cup almonds, toasted and coarsely chopped
- 1 cup desiccated (unsweetened) coconut flakes
- 1 cup dried apricots, coarsely chopped
- Line a 13x9x2-inch pan with parchment paper, creating a sling by letting it hang over the long sides by a couple of inches. Process the dates to a paste in the food processor, or chop finely by hand (processing is best).
- In a small saucepan, combine the honey, tahini, peanut butter, and salt. Warm over low heat until heated through and smooth, stirring occasionally. Add the date mixture and continue heating and stirring occasionally until smooth.
- In a large bowl, combine the oats, almonds, coconut, and apricots. Pour the tahini-date mixture over top and stir to combine, which can take a couple of minutes.
- Spread granola mixture in the prepared pan, using a piece of wax paper to press and flatten it evenly. Chill for about 15 minutes, then cut into bars. The bars will last fine at room temperature, in the open air, for a couple of weeks and remain soft and chewy.