We love a good zoo.
Admittedly, Badge and I were animal-nerds long before either of our kids showed up; one of our earliest dates consisted coasting through Yellowstone Bear World at a slow crawl, tossing donuts and stale hamburger buns to the eager occupants, cooing over the scruffy-looking cubs—admittedly more me than him— followed by becoming royally ill on a bear-themed tilt-a-whirl that just would…not…end.
Having two kids who are thrilled to their toes with animals (well, hello there Wild Kratz brothers) only fuels the zoo-loving fire, and so it has become the norm when moving, as we often do, to thoroughly investigate the zoo situation in our soon-to-be home. Leaving the Washington D.C. area was difficult for many reasons—the National Zoo and baby Bao Bao making the top ten list. With that bit of back story you can imagine our joy in discovering the zoo here in San Antonio! Pretty sure we’ve paid for that yearly family pass a half dozen times over already with six months left to go.
Animal love aside, there is definitely something magic about walking from one enclosure to another, wondering what you’ll see, a simple delight I can’t help but think comes from a return to childhood excitement. Watching lion cubs pounce through the grass for the first time, or squealing like a little girl when a lory snatches the cup of nectar right out of your fingers is a welcome break from paperwork and deadlines and miles clocked on an indoor treadmill.
Its life: raw and simple and terrifying and beautiful. And whether those wild animals are brought in from Africa or you brought them yourself (and you’re seriously tempted to donate them on your way out) it’s a glorious thing to put life on pause and lose yourself in the slow-motion sparring of a few adolescent giraffes.
It goes without saying, this sort of outing begs for post-party sustenance, which can only mean a picnic, and a picnic is a perfect excuse to tuck a batch of these sweet-and-salty, kids-and-grownup treats into your basket. These squares are another sort of glorious magic—the kind that tames wild wee ones, heals frazzled nerves, brings the troop back into the car and your good graces, and lets everyone survive another day.
We really do love a good zoo.
2 Tbs. maple syrup
1/3 cup brown rice syrup or honey
½ cup almond or peanut butter
½ cup chopped bittersweet (70%) chocolate
2 Tbs. extra-virgin coconut oil
¼ teaspoon fine sea salt
1 Tbs. flax meal
4 cups crisp brown rice cereal
Chopped nuts, almond meal, pumpkin seeds, in any combination for garnish (1/2 cup total)
Line an 8x8 square pan with a piece of parchment paper.
In a large saucepan, bring the maple and rice syrup or honey to a rolling boil for 1 minute, stirring frequently with a heatproof spatula.
Remove from the heat and stir in the nut butter, chocolate, coconut oil, and salt until everything is smooth and the chocolate is melted.
Fold in the rice cereal and pack the mixture firmly and evenly into the lined pan.
Sprinkle the nuts, meal, and seeds on top and let set at room temperature about 2 hours until firm.
Lift the paper out of the pan, and cut into squares. Serves 12.