Monday, February 21, 2011

Loss & the Granola Experiment

 My family back in Illinois is dealing with another sudden loss; not a member of our family this time, but a friend, a woman who has existed so permanently in my life from the moment I have memories that I kind of can't imagine my little hometown without her. One of those adults I took for granted, because she had always been there.

As I grow older, life conspires to ensure I realize just how many adults I have taken for granted.

From this far, there is very little I can do except send my love and condolences her family's way. My fingers itch to start baking or something, to show up at someone's doorstep with a casserole, but let me tell you, casseroles don't really go through the mail all that well. Also her family will be so inundated with food for the next few weeks they'll be thawing things out of the freezer for months.

God hold you and keep you, Mary Ann Bottoms.

I wanted to make that note, because I wasn't sure what to say or how to talk about it or if I should... when something occurred to me. I signed up to start this particular blog mainly to update my family and friends on things I was up to, at first while four hours away from one side of my family and a good twelve hours from my (at the time) brand new South Carolina family... and now I update from roughly ten minutes from my in-laws' doorstep and a good twelve hours from my parents and my whole extended family.

(And 18 hours of driving away from my brother Bryan, who by the way should move to South Carolina because it is awesome here, so there. I'll get you out here for good one day, big brother.)

In any case, where I was getting at before I got distracted by my attempts to convince my family to move out here was that it had occurred to me that I am under no restrictions to only write about certain things, and my discomfort with writing about death is entirely my own and has to do with my own anxieties and issues more than anyone else's.

I tend not to write about these things because they start up this whole cycle of worry and yes, fear in my mind. Writing about losing my grandma was a shift from all of that, and while I have written about what it means to lose someone who is so much a part of my heart, there's a lot I haven't really said either. Mostly due to that whole cycle and my inability to write anything that doesn't eventually just boil down to It's not fair in a whole lot of words.

But I'm not going to fall into that cycle today. I think you can write about life being sad and those things that make you happy at the same time, without it being a problem.

It's been decided.

Instead, I'm going to write about granola.


See, now, there's a definite shift in mood for you.

I like granola. There, I admit it. I'm a closet hippie at heart. There are so many photos of me in tie-dyed T-shirts... that whole thing at the end of eighth grade and the beginning of freshman year where, I kid you not, I wore flared jeans with butterfly and peace sign appliques, smiley-face necklaces... that time where my mother remarked often that if she'd only saved her entire high school wardrobe, she wouldn't have had to buy me any clothes for a year or two because I was just wearing everything she had once worn.

I like peace, love, and happiness for all, man.


Far out.


See, now this isn't going anywhere at all.

In any case, I am a closet hippie.

I also love granola.

Granola, however, is expensive. At four dollars a box, you often expect to get more than you really do. Everywhere I looked, websites were touting the ability to make the initial investment in making it as a way to save money on buying it, since you spend some money at the outset but then aren't spending 4 dollars a week on a few ounces. I've been researching recipes for homemade granola on the internet for a few weeks now, and Jason and I finally decided to give it a try. I used a couple different recipes to come to my decision: The Best Granola Ever from Heartistic Desires and Toasted Almond Granola from Joy the Baker.

Last night, Jason and I went ahead and made it.

And it is so good... even if I sorta let it cook too long so it's a wee bit closer to burnt than it's actually supposed to be...

Homemade Granola

What You Need
 4 cups oats*
(steel-cut is usually reccomended... I seriously just used our Quaker Oats stuff. As long as it's not instant oatmeal packets, it's all good)
2 cups sliced almonds, unsalted
1/2 cup sunflower seeds, unsalted
1 cup unsweetened coconut flakes
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
3 tablespoons butter
1/4 cup vegetable oil
1/4 cup honey
1/2 cup raw sugar or brown sugar (you don't want to use refined white sugar)
1 teaspoons vanilla extract

Onto Creation

  This is actually really, really basic.

Preheat your oven to 300 degrees. The recipe I had said to preheat to 325, but as I said before, my granola got a little more cooked than it was really meant to be, so I think how hot your oven gets might have something to do with it.

Take the first four ingredients and put them in a very large mixing bowl. Mix them around until they are thoroughly combined, and set aside.

In a small saucepan, melt your butter, vegetable oil, and honey. Add sugar and boil, just slightly, while mixing constantly until sugar is melted. Once the sugar is as close to melted as you're going to get (mine never quite did melt all the way, but maybe I was just impatient), take off heat and add the vanilla extract. Mix until combined.

Take your hot liquid and pour it over the mixing bowl, then toss and toss and turn and toss some more until every bit of the granola mixture has some of the sugar/honey/oil mixture on it. Just keep doing it. This part took a while for me.

Spread your thoroughly combined mixture onto foil-lined baking pans. I had to use two, so unless you have a gigantic baking pan, I think you'll need to use two as well. 

Place in oven and bake for 20-25 minutes. You want to pull the pans out to stir the granola around at least three times during this time period. I would do it every seven minutes or so. I waited almost eleven minutes the first time and I think that was part of my granola-gets-kinda-burn-y problem.

Once that's done, pull out and allow to cool on the baking pan, and try not to eat all of it. Once it's cooled, put into airtight containers for storage. Granola keeps for a few weeks, easily. I'm not sure ours will last that long. This made about a cereal-box-and-a-half of granola. With the supplies I have on hand right now, I could make another two batches without re-supplying on anything but the oats.

I am eating it for breakfast mostly with a little maple syrup and a lot of good plain yogurt. Loves me some yogurt.

Also, dried fruit is a good addition when you're eating it. Or a cut-up banana. 

I love bananas, too.

And that's the note I'd like to end on.

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