I first heard about Neil Gaiman when I was a teenager and completely, absolutely obsessed with Tori Amos. Her music, her sensuality, her raw words and I don’t give a shit mentality…I loved all of it. She got me through high school. Through not fitting in. Through being completely pissed off that I had to go to private Catholic schools and being completely pissed off that my classmates played football and not instruments. I knew if could just get home, I could turn on her music, and everything would be right again. Everyone I just spent the last 8 hours with would go away. I could be me. I could be free. In some article I read, Tori mentioned that in Tear in My Hand, she made a reference to Neil Gaiman, and so I quickly went down that path, researching him and anything I could find about him, keeping his name and his work in the back of my mind all these years.
So now we get to 2015 and I become obsessed with Ted talks. It was one of my goals that year, to push myself to do things that I am truly uncomfortable at. I’m an introvert and I’m happiest alone, with my thoughts, music and books. I’ve always been that way. But I have worked in management for over a decade, so there are a lot of situations where I am completely uncomfortable, however I have to get through them. Public speaking is one of those areas. So by watching Ted talks and reading books on public speaking (and practicing as well), my goal was to get better at public speaking, or at least feel a bit more comfortable when leading an audience. Along this journey, I ran into a Ted talk by Amanda Palmer, which I absolutely loved. So I then bought her Art of Asking; it’s excellent. She’s a badass. She represents everything I love about people who go against the grain. Live your life, the way you want to live it, and don’t take shit from anyone. Thank god for you people.
So I now have a girl crush on Amanda. I listen to her music, which is honestly not always what I would normally be drawn to these days, but god does it grow on you. She’s good. And one day I decided to google her, which I don’t always like to do. I prefer to know people how I think they are and not how the internet tells me they are. But I was curious. And she’s married to, you guessed it…Neil Gaiman. So my little world exploded.
I hope Amanda is the modern-day Tori. I hope every high school girl who hates her life can go home and be alone and listen to her words and know that in a few years everything will be OK. She’ll be able to control (somewhat at least) who she hangs around. She’ll be able to control what she reads and if she wants to receive the news and she doesn’t have to hear about football or George Bush or guns at all, if she doesn’t want to, ever. She has that choice. So thank you, Amanda. And thank you, Tori. You got me and I am sure many, many young girls (and guys, for that matter), through some rough times. Y’all kick ass.
And another fun part to go along with this…I read Jenny Lawson’s Furiously Happy at the end of last year. There’s a section of the book where she’s describing being in a vocal recording and not doing well; she’s freaking out, can’t calm her nerves, and so she reaches out to her friend for advice. He then gives her the best advice ever: Pretend you’re good at it. That friend? Neil Gaiman.
Oh, how I love the little patterns that come to us in life. His books are purely excellent as well, by the way.
So I took Neil’s advice, meant for the other Jenny. Pretend you’re good at it. Why not? Because life is too short to think everyone else is better than you, cooler than you, has better opportunities than you, has advantages over you. Just go for it.
Here’s my Pretend You’re Good at It Peanut Butter Chocolate Bars. Named, affectionally, because I’m not too sure how good I am at this. But I do know I might as well give this a shot. Oh, and turns out, after two failed tries, these little babies are delicious.
With nothing but love, to Tori, Amanda and Neil. Thank you, thank you, thank you.
Peanut Butter Chocolate Freezer Bars
Makes 16 bars
Hands on time 20 minutes; total time about 2 hours
1/3 c. walnuts
1/3 c. almonds
2 c. rolled oats
1/2 tsp. vanilla
6 tbsp. maple syrup, divided
1 c. peanut butter, divided
5 tbsp. coconut oil, divided
1 c. dark chocolate chips
1/3 c. coffee
1/3 c. almond milk
Line a square baking dish with parchment paper. Make sure the edges of the paper are hanging over the sides of the dish so the bars are easy to remove when frozen.
In a food processor, place the walnuts and almonds and process for about 30 seconds. Add the oats, vanilla, 4 tbsp. of the maple syrup, and 1/2 c. of the peanut butter. Process for a minute or so, until all contents are mixed. Remove from the processor into a large bowl, and pour over 3 tbsp. of the melted coconut oil. Mash the oil in with the back of a spoon, and then place the nut mix in the square baking dish. Press down with the back of the spoon to form one solid layer.
In a small pan set on medium low, melt the remaining 1/2 c. peanut butter with 2 tbsp. coconut oil and 2 tbsp. maple syrup. Stir slowly for about 3 minutes until the contents have combined, and then pour on top of the nut layer. Put in the freezer for about 30-40 minutes, until the peanut butter has hardened.
Now take the dark chocolate chips, coffee and almond milk, and melt in a small pan on low, stirring slowly, for about 3-5 minutes. Set aside for a few minutes to cool off and then pour the chocolate layer on top of the peanut butter layer. Freeze for about an hour.
When ready to eat, remove the bars from the dish by lifting the parchment paper. Slice, and serve immediately. Keep the remaining bars frozen until ready to eat.
I hope you enjoy!