It's both the sweet and salty elements that so often make for the best, most complex flavor experience; and it's quite the same when it comes to life experiences as well, as those salty moments we experience give balance to the sweet ones.
The wonderful complexity of a little piece of rich dark chocolate topped with just a whisper of sea salt is something that I love to savor and enjoy in tiny nibbles whenever I get the chance.
And lightly salted roasted almonds covered in dark chocolate? Even better!
Biting off a little at a time and allowing the richness to slowly melt away on my tongue is the best way to get the fullness and the depth of the flavors that are at once deep, dark, and almost smoky, yet slightly kissed with sweetness; and then there’s the little zing from the salt…
I luxuriate a bit in how a combination of two opposites in one can be so unique and pleasurable!
I don't necessarily think that I need that touch of salt when it's sweet chocolate that I'm daydreaming of indulging in; but then when it's there, it makes perfect sense and the taste wouldn't be quite the same without its delicate presence.
And life seems to be no different in that regard.
Don't those sweet moments seem to, so very often, get mingled and mixed together with a touch of challenge?
Doesn't there almost always seem to be a little unexpected bump in what seems to be an otherwise completely smooth road? (Perhaps that's just the almond in the chocolate.)
And while I feel that all I need and want in my life is for the sweetness to be present, for there to be no mixing of anything salty (or perhaps, bitter, or sour) into those easy-to-love sweet ingredients, I also know better that the flavors of life would not be as balanced and therefor ultimately pleasing if there wasn't something to provide a slightly different note, one that creates contrast to keep me awake and exploring in a given experience.
See, if you ask me, I’d probably say that I prefer for things to be easy; I'd like for them to go according to plan, to have that “singular note”.
I'd like nothing more than for life to be simple and straightforward, without that element of surprise.
But that's not how it goes, not with life who has a mind of its own.
Just as a soft, chewy, sweet, nutty and slightly salty Trail Mix Cookie Bar has all of the complex flavors that I utterly adore to experience when it comes to the flavor of my food, so do the situations and experiences of life so very often have within them both the sweetness and the saltiness, the savoriness, that keeps things rich and never boring.
The sweetness elicits one thing in us, and the salt, an entirely different thing.
And it's in those very moments when we partake of the flavor of both that we find out who we are, what we're all about, and experience a shift (and possibly even growth) from being presented with these contrasting notes.
It's taking all that life has to offer, all that it has to throw at you, and making those seemingly opposing flavors work to create one, fulfilling, complex, pleasurable and ultimately enjoyable experience.
It's taking the sweet with the salty, and discovering that it's really quite unexpectedly delicious.
Taste what's good and pass it on.
Sweet n' Salty Trail Mix Cookie Bars
by Ingrid Beer
Yield: Makes about 16 bars
• 1 ½ cups all-purpose flour
• 1 teaspoon baking soda
• ½ teaspoon salt
• ¼ teaspoon ground cinnamon
• 1 cup unsalted butter, room temp
• 1 cup brown sugar
• 2 eggs, room temp
• 1 tablespoon pure vanilla extract
• 2 ¼ cups rolled oats
• 8 ounces bittersweet (dark) chocolate, chopped into chunks, divided use
• 1 ¼ cups roasted and salted almonds, roughly chopped, divided use
• ½ cup dried cherries
• 1 ½ tablespoons coconut oil
-Line a 13 x 8 x 2 (roughly) baking dish with enough parchment paper (lightly misted with cooking spray) to create an overhang for easy removal.
-Whisk together the flour, baking soda, salt and cinnamon together in a bowl, and set these dry ingredients aside for a moment.
-Place the butter and the brown sugar in the bowl of a standing mixer fitter with a paddle attachment, and cream together on medium for about 2-3 minutes until fluffy.
-Add in the eggs, one at a time, and then the vanilla, and continue to mix.
-With the mixer on low, add in the dry ingredients, mixing just until combined.
-Add in the oats, 4 ounces (about half) of the chopped chocolate, the cherries and 1 cup of the chopped almonds, and mix just until incorporated.
-Turn the dough out into the prepared baking dish, and using your fingers (easiest), press the dough into an even thickness into the pan; preheat the oven to 350°, and while it heats, place the baking dish with the cookie dough into the fridge to chill.
-Once the oven is hot, bake the cookie bars for about 25 minutes; allow them to cool in the pan for 20 minutes, then lift out of the baking dish and allow to cool completely before cutting into bars.
-To finish, combine the remaining 4 ounces of chopped chocolate with the coconut oil in a ramekin or small dish, and melt together in the microwave; stir and then drizzle over the bars, and sprinkle the remaining ¼ cup of chopped almonds over top, allowing chocolate to set up before enjoying. (If it's warm in your kitchen, pop them into your fridge for a while to set up the drizzled chocolate.)