Thursday, July 9, 2020

Life, Friends & Sweet Potato Ginger Granola

My best guy friend recently (well you know in the past two months) said I should start this again, but I wasn’t even sure where to begin.  I didn’t want to talk about Covid and being quarantined that’s for sure.  I also didn’t want to talk about all the cake and blondies I have eaten since March.  So, instead I started to think back on past posts.  To when I was truly loving this, and it was when I was just being straight up myself; getting the thoughts out of my head that sometimes just get stuck.  So, let’s start here with summer.

This summer is a little different, and a lot strange, but summer always makes me think about friends and acquaintances past and present.  I am a summer child, a Leo, and even as a child I never really minded that my birthday wasn’t in the middle of the school year because I just tried to see as many friends as possible over the summer.  In my 20’s, and probably even now, I have always felt like summer was my time to come out of my shell and have a little more fun.  As a child, it was also when I spent more time messing around in the kitchen baking.  Now however it always leaves me thinking in the quiet moments about the past.  About the people that come in and out of our lives and those that stay a little while or a lifetime.  

I am one of those people that still has friends from daycare, and I truly mean pre-kindergarten daycare.  While we may not see each other nearly as much as we want to, I still very much care about them. (Even now my very closest girlfriends are from middle school and high school, and I don’t know what I would do without them.)  As I grow up though, I think more over the summer about how friends have had an impact on my life.  Like if it weren’t for a couple of people, I definitely never would have dreamed of running a marathon, or three, and if it weren’t for James, who was the one who encouraged me to start this again, I definitely would never have gotten on a road bike, ever clipped in, or even attempted to ride 100 miles in a day.  There are other friends though, who later became just acquaintances, who pop up on LinkedIn or Facebook or wherever, that sometimes I wish I just had the guts to reach out to after all these years.  To say the things, I wish I had always said, to keep up with them and remain friends or just actually let them know I am thinking about them without just liking an Instagram post.  And I get it, there are people who come into our lives and aren’t meant to stay in them, but do you ever truly wish or dream about closure, or even about becoming friends with some of them again.  I literally, on multiple occasions, have dreamt about running into an old friend and finally being able to say the things that went unsaid, but I am not sure I will ever say F*** It and actually reach out to them. 

During this every strange time, I have made multiple batches of granola and now as I think on it, I feel like granola can be a good metaphor for the people that make up our lives.  We have our healthy, long-lasting friends, who are there for support and always willing to listen, that make a good impact on our lives, like our oats and sweet potato.  We also have a few nuts in our lives, they are a little crazy, have a depth of character, and they stick around, like our pecans, but some of them don’t make a lasting impact like sliced almonds.  We have people that we meet, hangout with a few times, but something never really clicks, like our shredded coconut here.  (I keep adding this to this granola recipe, but when I am eating it, I barely even realize it’s there.)  We have our different groups of friends, school age, college, 20’s friends, and work friends who are like our spices in the granola, they each bring something different to our life, but can come together in a symphony of flavor.  These are the friends that even as they come and go, they have a greater direction on our life.  Then, we have those friends who pop up every now again, but only last a little while, they are fun and sweet, but sometimes gone just a fast as they came, like our cherries and raisins here.  Throughout life all our people get mixed together and impact our lives in different ways.  Sometimes we don’t see the changes at first, but sometimes we look back, like I do each summer, and see how the people in our lives have led us to where we are today.  Sometimes they even point us in a new direction for the future.  Or maybe you don’t do this, and you really just want some healthy delicious granola.  Either way I hope you Enjoy!  

Oh and a little of what I have been up to during Covid...bringing out those childhood sidewalk chalk skills.

But down to the actual granola.  I wanted it to be healthy"ish", so I replaced the oil with mashed sweet potato, and the sugar comes from maple syrup.

All of the dry ingredients into the bowl, and mix well.  

Then mix with the wet ingredients and spread out on a pan. (Note I normally do this on a parchment paper covered sheet pan too.)

Sweet Potato Ginger Granola:
4 cups whole oats
1 cup chopped pecans
1/2 cup sliced almonds
1/2 cup shredded unsweetened coconut
1 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1 teaspoon ground ginger
1/8 teaspoon cardamon (optional; adds great depth of flavor)
1 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup mashed sweet potato (or mashed pumpkin or apple sauce)
1/3 cup maple syrup
1 teaspoon vanilla extract (or maple extract)
1/2 cup raisins
1/4 cup dried cherries

1.  Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.  Line a large baking sheet with parchment paper.

2.  In a large bowl mix together all of the dry ingredients. (Note, do NOT add the raisins or cherries in until the granola has come out of the oven.)

3.  In a small bowl, or measuring cup, mix together the wet ingredients. (sweet potato, maple syrup and extract)  

4.  In 3-4 additions, add the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients, making sure are the dry ingredients are fully coated.  They will not be wet looking.  (I use a spatula for this.)

5.  Once the wet ingredients are fully incorporated, spread the granola out over the prepared pan in a single layer.  Place in the oven, and bake for 20 minutes.  Then remove from the oven, stir the granola around, flipping it over and then spread out into an even layer.  Bake for about 20-30 minutes until the granola is dry all over.  

6.  Once the granola is done baking, remove from the oven and let cool.  Once cooled mix in the raisins and dried cherries, then store in an air tight container.  Enjoy with your favorite yogurt, fruit and maybe some honey!

Note: If stored in an airtight container this should remain fresh for 2-3 weeks.

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