I have this vision of exactly how our lives should be, my husband’s and mine. It is crystal clear, down the minutest detail. The path to this particular version of life seems straightforward; as long as we complete A, B and C, then we will inevitably come to D. The trouble is life’s unpredictability. I organize, prioritize, grasp each task with an iron fist and still, a simple curve can throw it all off course. The compartments of one’s life can be in perfect order, lined up like little matrioshka dolls, then tip and tumble with the slightest breeze. It is frustrating, to say the least.
Somewhere in me I know that this is the nature of the universe, and that God has His plans, however convoluted they may seem. Past experiences have proved this theory: A couple years ago, my husband and I found a cute little condo that we wanted to buy as our first home together. Everything was in order, the contract drawn up, the terms and conditions set. The final detail was the home loan. It seemed like a done deal, but at the last minute, we were denied and the whole thing went up in proverbial flames. We were devastated; our dream was right at our fingertips, then destroyed in seconds with a form letter. Just a few months later, though, our income was drastically cut by unforeseen circumstances. If we had bought that condo, we would have been doomed. Done for. Up the creek. So, what had seemed like a tragedy of epic proportions turned out to be a gigantic blessing. That event provides much comfort in times of particular frustration. So does granola.
Looking for safe and predictable? That’s granola. It’s constant, stable, and impossibly simple. I eat it almost everyday and never grow tired. When I make a batch, I know for certain it will emerge from the oven golden brown and delicious. I know for sure the house will be softened by the calming smell of cinnamon and toasted almonds. And all that knowing and certainty is worth far more than the fifteen minutes in the kitchen it requires.
There are a zillion granola recipes out there, all very similar yet drastically different. Some have just a few basic ingredients, others look more like a grocery list than a recipe. But alas, after much research and many failed attempts, I found the lifeline that runs through every granola recipe.
Old-fashioned rolled oats
Dried fruit (e.g., raisins, dates, prunes, apricots)
Nuts (walnuts, pecans, almonds)
Seeds (pumpkin, sunflower, flax)
Sweetener (honey, agave nectar, brown sugar, maple syrup)
Spice (cinnamon, ginger, clove)
Oil or butter
With this formula, anyone can make a batch of granola with whatever they have on hand. Generally, everything can be added ‘to taste,’ or whatever you think looks appropriate. The only thing to really pay attention to is the oil/butter- you want the fat to only graze each component, enough to make it just faintly glossy. Too much and you’ll have some weird, greasy granola on your hands.
The recipe below is the formula that fits best for me, but please play around with it to find your own style (then come back here and let me know! I love finding new variations.) I had been using raisins and dried apricots, but I recently purchased a huge box of dried cranberries and fell in love with the flavor combination. Regarding health benefits, though, raisins and apricots are the way to go.
makes about 5 cups
3 cups old-fashioned rolled oats
1 cup almonds, sliced or roughly chopped
½ cup raw sunflower seeds
1 tablespoon wheat germ
¾ tablespoon ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon ground ginger
¼ teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons canola oil
½ cup agave nectar or honey
½ cup unsweetened coconut flakes
1½ cups dried cranberries, or 1 cup raisins and ½ cup chopped dried apricots
Preheat oven to 325 degrees.
Combine all ingredients except the dried fruit, mix thoroughly.
Spread onto a greased or lined baking sheet (a jelly roll-style pan works great here, as the sides makes for easier stirring.)
Bake for 30 minutes, or until mixture is golden brown and awesome. Be sure to stir every 10 minutes to ensure even cooking.
The granola will harden as it cools. The darker you allow the mixture to get, the crispier the finished product will be. Once fully cooled, store in an airtight container at room temperature for about 1-2 weeks, or several weeks in the refrigerator.