January 18, 2010

January Simplicity

Fruity Nutty Grainy Granola

Every January I get an even stronger than usual craving for simplicity. It just seems right. Even nature goes the simplicity route in January with the pale color palette of its fauna; winter flora depend on nothing more than the structure of bare trunk and naked branch for beauty. I’m always relieved to put away the holiday decorations, gaining back a bit of Zen from the fussy, pretty, glittery displays.

In January I’m also ready to retreat from the culinary excesses of the holidays and eat more simply. For me, this means turning all the dribs and drabs from the cupboards, pantry and refrigerator into delicious and healthful meals. Only a few necessary perishables such as produce, eggs and milk are purchased all month. Using what I have becomes a treasure hunt and creative challenge.

This year, the little nub of Port Salut has been stirred last-minute into a risotto; straggling jars of chutneys and sauces glazed pork tenderloin and roasted vegetables; remainders of various and sundry pastas have taken the plunge into a hot soup. The half-used and long-forgotten tub of miso paste has been moved forward in the fridge to be finished off as salad dressing and breakfast broth. Tomatoes and bell peppers dried from our summer garden will make their way into stews and braises. Asian pears and apples also dried from our orchard will go into homemade granola along with seeds, grains and nuts pulled from the way-way back of the freezer.

In this way we offer ourselves an end-of-the-year clearance sale. We eat well and at the same time promote a good stock rotation and allow our pocketbook to rebound from holiday spending.

This January exercise always reminds me~ near the end, when the cupboards are nearing bareness~ of my privilege. I like starting the new year out with a mindfulness of gratitude, health and simplicity.

Here’s a delicious, healthy and simple granola that I’ve made for years. It's perfect over a bowl of yogurt, with milk or sprinkled over pancake batter before flipping a cake. This flexible recipe is more of a proportion guide, so feel free to exchange maple syrup, frozen apple juice concentrate, brown rice syrup or honey for the agave syrup; butter or canola oil for the olive oil and any dried fruit for the apples and Asian pears… whatever it is you happen to have in your pantry.


Fruity Nutty Grainy Granola
4 cups thick rolled oats, not quick cooking
1 cup pumpkin seeds, or other nut of choice (whole cashews are over-the-moon amazing)
1 cup sunflower seeds
1/2 cup wheat germ
1/2 cup sesame seeds
1/2 cup flax seeds

1/3 cup fruity or neutral olive oil, canola oil or butter
1/3 cup brown sugar
1/3 cup agave syrup, brown rice syrup, honey, maple syrup or frozen apple juice concentrate
1 teaspoon kosher salt

1 cup dried fruits of your choice, chopped

Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Mix seeds, nuts and grains in a large mixing bowl. In small saucepan, combine oil or butter, brown sugar, other sweetener of choice, and salt. Place over medium heat, stirring frequently, until bubbly. Remove from heat. (At this point, feel free to add a teaspoon of vanilla, almond extract, or spices such as cinnamon and nutmeg.)

Slowly pour oil mixture over dry ingredients in bowl, stirring with large silicone spatula to evenly coat dry ingredients.

Pour onto baking sheet and bake for one hour, stirring every 10 minutes or so. (You may like yours more lightly baked, more like muesli. I prefer my with a little more toastiness.) Remove from oven and stir every few minutes as it cools to break up large clumps. When cool, stir in dried fruits. Store tightly sealed.

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