Saturday, January 2, 2010

Cranberry Ginger Granola

There is something about blustery winter days that require a wood burning stove. My two favorite high school English teachers (who, quite conveniently, are married to one another) knew (and still know) this; we hunkered down next to theirs today for a pleasant visit filled with conversation and kitten antics, coveting one (kitten and stove) of our own. Ian behaved himself beautifully, even if he didn't completely self-entertain.

We talked for a long time about everything from mystery novels to good kielbasa (Michael has a fondness for smoked meats) to veterinarians, and they brought me up to date on the activities of my former schoolmates. As we were talking, it occurred to me that though they have no children of their own, they've collected so many of us over the years ... the misfits, the lonely ones, the ones that have been brainwashed by well-meaning parents. I spent many nights on a fold-out futon in their "mystery room," a room lined with built-in bookcases filled with tattered novels, and I remember waking up many mornings feeling so lucky to be there, warm bowl of oatmeal waiting for me in the kitchen along with a steaming mug of Earl Grey tea (with or without milk, as you please). Sometimes I went with my high school best friend, but as we grew apart, I found my way there alone. They called their house Bryn Myrddin--Merlin's Mountain--and it was a fitting name, somewhere you could hide away. And as adults, many of us still return, bearing only a paltry six pack of beer in gratitude for their unconditional love, their warm welcome, and their unwavering support.

Mare had to leave early today to see her own parents, who are aging less than gracefully, it seems, leaving Michael to entertain us and feed us the always-delicious always-simple lunch (usually, in the winter, involving homemade bread and soup). Watching her go, I wished I could take care of her, shielding her from her demons as she has shielded us all these years. When I got home, I baked a batch of granola, which I've been perfecting this winter break. It's loosely based on the recipe from this blog, by the Leftoverist herself, but I've modified it a bit. She admits that "all granola recipes are just a scaffolding for whatever you want to do or whatever you have in your pantry." It seemed like the right sort of thing to send full of health and energy-sustaining ingredients, and nutty, like we are. I hope it helps, or that at the very least, it reminds her how many of us love her for the generous gift of herself, so freely given, these many years.

Cranberry Ginger Granola

8 cups. thick-cut old fashioned oats
1 c. coarsely chopped walnuts
1 c. pumpkin seeds
1 c. coarsely chopped pecans
1 c. virgin coconut oil (any oil would be fine, but this is supposed to have healthful properties and isn't so refined)
2/3 c. agave nectar
pinch salt
1 1/2 c. dried cranberries
1/2 c. candied or crystallized ginger, rinsed (to get some of the sugar off) and finely chopped

Heat oven to 350 and line two baking sheets with parchment paper.

Combine oats, nuts, and seeds in a large bowl.

Mix oil, agave nectar, and salt well. Pour over oats, mixing thoroughly. Spread out onto baking sheets and bake for 20-30 minutes until brown, checking often, stirring occasionally, and rotating baking sheets halfway through.

While oats are cooling, add cranberries and ginger, stirring thoroughly. Transfer granola to an airtight canister(s).

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