So the grad school part first. It has been a busy semester - but really is there a semester that's not busy??? I don't think so! Right now I'm working on a paper (and a poster I'm presenting this Friday - which includes prize money if I win!) with my advisor, beginning work on my prospectus (the plan for what I'm going to do for my dissertation), and awaiting word on my final Ph.D. written exam.
I'm fairly anxious to find out my exam results; I should find out by the end of this week, or beginning of next week - my advisor disclosed to me that the committee of professors is meeting to vote on whether I pass or fail this Thursday, but he's not supposed to tell me the results until Sept. 30th (some stupid grad-school bureacratic rule). Hopefully he'll get to tell me early - if not I'll be reduced to trying to discern something from his body language and other non-verbal cues. Oh, and if I pass the written exam, I'll have oral exams in 2-3 weeks, yikes!
Anyhow, with all that thinking and hoping and working and praying a girl gets pretty hungry! Since a lot of my time is at school I have to bring plenty of food (brain fuel) with me. Granola bars are one on my favorite snacks. While there are plenty of ready made choices it seems like most of the ones that taste good aren't that great for you (especially with all the sweetners they use), and the one's that are good for you don't taste very good. So, I have experimented a bit, drawn from lots of other ideas on blogs and websites, and came up with a pretty tasty, healthy, and easy homemade granola bar. You can also easily adapt it to your own taste preferences:
2 Cups Old Fashioned Oats (could sub other rolled grains too)
2/3 Cup Creamy Natural Peanut Butter (could sub other nut butters)
1/2 Cup Honey (could sub Agave)
2 T. Ground Flaxseed (could sub wheat germ - or omit all together)
1/2 t. cinnamon (optional)
1 1/2 Cups any combination of "Add-Ins" such as chopped nuts, seeds, dried fruits, or even choco chips if your not so concerned about the "healthy" part (I used raisins and almonds b/c that's what I had on hand.)
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Toss the oats (and chopped nuts if you are using them) on a cookie sheet and let toast for about 5-7 minutes.
Meanwhile, in a medium saucepan over low heat mix together the peanut butter, honey, flaxseed, and cinnamon. After the oats have toasted, stir the oats and your Add-Ins into the peanut butter mixture.
Line a square (8x8 or 9x9) baking dish with foil or parchment paper - leave a little bit of overhang so you can pull the bars out of the dish later. Press the mixture firmy into the pan (I put a piece of waxed paper on top so I can press it firmly and it won't stick to my hands). For soft granola bars, just let the mixture cool in the pan (don't bake at all), and cut into bars after it is cool. For crunchier bars bake the mixture for 15-20 minutes until the edges are slightly browned.
Let bars cool in the pan 10 minutes. Using foil/parchment overhang remove the entire block - put on a rack to cool completely. When they are almost cool cut into bars or squares! Don't worry if you may have some pieces break off during the cutting, while it keeps them from looking like perfect bars - it means you get to eat those parts right then!
PS. I bought a pumpkin (the kind you cook - not the big Jack-o-latern type) and I'm planning on making some thing(s) with it soon!