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Granola Improvisation

At some point, I don’t know when and I don’t know how, I started running late. This phenomenon took me somewhat by surprise. Even with small children in tow I used to be predictably punctual. My internal rhythm kept me calibrated and I tended to show up where I was expected to be, on time.

Over the years though, my beat has started to slip a little. My personal drummer seems to have given up on the marches and taken on a gig with a jazz band. These days I am late to my morning Bible study, late to my son’s basketball games, late to doctor’s appointments even late to meet friends for coffee.

Mid January, when I got around to making my New Year’s resolutions, it occurred to me that a resolution to be more punctual might be in order. I also enrolled in a morning art class, which seemed like the perfect opportunity to exercise my new resolve to be on time. It seemed possible and yet I still found ways to procrastinate and fall behind schedule, like driving my son to school because he didn’t want to take the bus and taking photos of a fabulous sunrise. Late, as usual, I ran out to the car and left for class without eating breakfast or packing a snack.

But fortune smiled on me. It didn’t take as long to get there as I had thought and so I had time to grab a cup of coffee before class. Then at break time my friend Christi shared her homemade granola with me. I hadn’t thought of granola in a long time but suddenly it seemed like the perfect food. Rich in nuts and grains and dried fruit, it is very nutritious. It is also compact and conveniently carried, doesn’t spoil easily and tastes great.

After a few bites I knew I wanted to make some for myself so I started asking questions. Christi gave me lots of great hints like adding unsweetened shredded coconut and even finely chopped fresh ginger. She encouraged me to experiment.

While I collected ingredients and experimented with recipes I found lots of other posts about granola. It seemed that everyone was thinking about granola in January, in fact January was officially National Oatmeal Month. Who knew? (apparently lots of in-the-know bloggers.)

Now it is February and it seems I am late again. But no matter. I do dance to the beat of my own drummer and I am finding that jazz is a genre that suits me. Where else would I discover that letting a note lag adds just the right amount of tension to keep a tune fresh and interesting?

I would still like to be more punctual, but maybe it’s okay to fall a step behind now and then. Maybe it adds a needed hint of syncopation to the composition of my life. Perhaps it is no great tragedy to be a few minutes late because I stopped to admire the sunrise.

On the other hand there are times to remember that being punctual at the expense of being totally prepared might allow me to be blessed by the generosity of a friend. In either case the important thing is to lay down a solid beat when it is my turn to carry the tune.

So now its February and its my turn. I have three different granola recipes. Each improvises on a basic theme of oats, seeds and nuts roasted with a sweetener and spices and then combined with dried fruit. Each has a distinctive flavor, varying in complexity, depth and sweetness.

The first is a little different than others I’ve seen thanks to Christi's suggestion to add ginger. I scattered ginger among the nuts, seeds and grain as they toasted and then stirred in bits of candied ginger with the apricots at the end. The result is a sultry blend of spice and citrus lightly sweetened with agave nectar.

Since my granola came to the oatmeal party late I decided to make another batch and dress it for Valentine’s Day. This one was drenched in honey and included romantic marcona almonds, dried sweet cherries, cranberries and even freeze dried strawberries from Trader Joe's. It is bright and pretty with a hint of sweet honey. Still, this variation could have used a little more tasteful phrasing. The strawberries, fabulously crisp and tart from the bag, got ever so slightly squishy when mixed into the granola. And the marcona almonds, though individually luscious, were too salty for the mix. The recipe might work better with slivered almonds.

To end on an uplifting note, I made a third batch. This one was laced with earthy peanuts, deep tones of brown sugar and a hint of black pepper. It included orange juice and was sweetened with Shagbark Hickory Syrup from Hickoryworks I received in a gift basket from Newburgh Country Store. I think maple syrup or honey would work just as well but if you have access to hickory syrup try it, it added a great smokey note to the flavor.

Cashew Ginger Granola

3 cups old fashioned rolled oats
1/2 cup sesame seeds ( I used half black and half white)
1/2 cup unsweetened shredded coconut ( I used Bob's Red Mill brand)
1 cup raw pepitas
1 cup pistachios
1 cup cashews
1/4 cup finely chopped fresh ginger
1 Tablespoon fresh lemon juice
3 Tablespoons canola oil
1/3 cup agave nectar
1/3 cup water
1 cup dried apricots, coarsely chopped
1 cup uncrystallized Candied Ginger (Trader Joe's Sweet and Smooth variety), chopped

In a large bowl mix together the oats, sesame seeds, coconut, pepitas, pistachios,cashews and fresh ginger.

In a small bowl mix together the lemon juice, oil, agave nectar and water.

Pour the liquid mixture over the oat mixture and stir until well combined. Spread on a large baking sheet or roasting pan.

Bake at 350 degrees for 20 to 30 minutes, stirring every 8 to 10 minutes, until oats are golden brown.

Remove from oven and allow to cool.

Mix in the apricots and candied ginger.

When completely cool store in an airtight container.

Valentine Granola

3 cups old-fashioned rolled oats
1/2 cup sesame seeds
1/2 cup golden flaxseed
1/2 cup sunflower seeds
1/2 cup unsweetened flaked coconut
2 cups almonds (slivered or whole)
1/2 cup honey
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 teaspoon cinnamon

1 1/2 cups dried cranberries
1 1/2 cups dried cherries ( I used dried bing cherries from Trader Joe's)
1 cup freeze dried strawberries (also from Trader Joe's), if desired

In a large bowl, combine oats, sesame seeds, flaxseed, sunflower seeds, coconut and almonds.

Stir the vanilla and cinnamon into the honey. Pour over the oat mixture and thoroughly combine.

Spread mixture on a large baking sheet or roasting pan and bake at 350 degrees for 20 to 30 minutes, stirring well every 8 to 10 minutes, until the oats are golden brown.

Remove from oven and allow mixture to cool. Stir in cranberries, cherries and strawberries if desired.

When completely cool store in an airtight container.

Hickory and Nuts Granola

3 cups old-fashioned rolled oats
1/2 cup golden flaxseed
1/2 cup wheat germ
1/2 cup sunflower seeds
1/2 cup peanuts
1 cup pecan pieces
1 cup walnut pieces
1/4 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup orange juice
1/4 cup hickory syrup (pure maple syrup or honey could be substituted)
1 Tablespoon vanilla
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
1 cup dried apricots, coarsely chopped
1 to 2 cups dried cranberries or cherries

In a large bowl mix together the oats, flaxseed, wheat germ, sunflower seeds, peanuts, pecans, walnuts and brown sugar.

In a small bowl or measuring cup mix together the orange juice, hickory syrup, vanilla, cinnamon and pepper.

Pour the orange juice mixture over the oat mixture and stir until thoroughly combined.

Spread mixture on a large baking sheet or roasting pan and bake at 350 degrees for 20 to 30 minutes, stirring well every 8 to 10 minutes, until the oats are golden brown.

Remove from oven and allow mixture to cool. Stir in the apricots and cranberries or cherries.

When completely cool store in an airtight container.


Anonymous said...

I just made a HUGE batch of granola this week--wish I had seen this first!! It looks fabulous.

Paula said...

These are great recipes! I like granola, both as a snack and as a cereal, but I've not made it. I love dried apricots, so I know I'd like that one, and those dried strawberries are pulling at me, too! I notice you like Bob's Red Mill products; have you been to their headquarters? I've not been, but was just looking into making a homeschool trip down there. YUM!

Bunny said...

They all look so good! I trying to eat better, this sounds wonderful!

Lisa said...

Ricki - Thanks! This was the first time I had tried actually making granola in years. I love ginger so that idea really sparked my imagination.

Paula - I do like the products from Bob's Red Mill but I have not gone down to Milwaukie to visit the store or tour the mill. It sounds interesting though. I think it would be great for a homeschool trip.

Bunny - Thank you! Granola is packed with healthy ingredients and it smelled so good while it was roasting that my son hung around the kitchen waiting for a taste while it was in the oven. My problem is that I can hardly keep from endlessly snacking on it when I have some in the house.

Cathy said...

Visiting The Red Mill is definitely worth the trip. You'll be amazed at what you find there. All kinds of grains and plenty of good information.

Love your granola ideas, Lisa. I never thought to add ginger.

grace said...

lisa, you write so well--your posts are always a pleasure to read. :)
meanwhile, although all of the recipes you've posted sound stellar (i don't get choosy when it comes to granola), but the valentines day batch is my favorite. :)

Michelle said...

The granolas sound wonderful! When I was teaching I kept a bag of homemade granola in my car so I could munch on the way to work and periodically throughout the day!

I'd forgotten all about granola being a convenience food!

Cheri Sicard said...

Homemade granola is the best and I am always looking for new variations. Thanks for sharing.

Deb Schiff said...

Wow! All your granolas look gorgeous! Very nice.

Theresa said...

The granola looks delicious! Your sunrise picture is gorgeous and now I want to make some granola...You are a talented woman.