A Season for Baking

I know that fall has arrived and feels like it has already passed in many parts of the country.  Now that we are in Chapel Hill, the signs of fall are less abundant.  You have to search for auburn leaves crackling in the wind. While the grocery stores are filled with mums, winter squash, and pumpkins I am wearing short sleeves and sunglasses.  My windows have been open all day and the dogs have been basking in the sunshine.  The only hint of real autumn is the crisp air in the morning.  The temperatures are dropping at night into the forties only to climb back into the mid-seventies by late morning.  I feel pulled and dragged back and forth between summer’s sunshine and fall’s ingredients.  What foods are “in season” here?  There’s a whole new cooking learning curve for me.  Good thing the farmer’s market is just a brisk Saturday morning walk away.  In the meantime, I am taking advantage of the cool mornings and evenings to crank up the oven to make some “every” season favorites.

 

 

 

 

Since the first time I made homemade granola, I haven’t spent another penny on a box or bag of it.  It takes a little bit of time, but it comes together quickly and easily. You mix up the ingredients, spread them on a cookie sheet, and bake on a low heat until golden brown and your house smells like sweet, roasted nuts and oats.  It doesn’t get much better than this.

First chop up 2 cups of nuts.  I used 1 cup of cashews and 1 cup of almonds this time, but you can use anything you like.  Mix them with 3/4 cup of shredded, unsweetened coconut (You can leave this out, if you have coconut haters at home, but I suggest you try it.  I have converted many a coconut hater with my granola). Finally add 3 cups of old fashioned oats, 3/4 t of salt, and 1/4 cup plus 2 T dark brown sugar.  I have used regular brown sugar before, but the dark gives a lovely depth of flavor.

In a separate bowl combine 1/4 cup plus 2 T real maple syrup, honey, or agave with 1/4 c oil and mix well with the dried ingredients.  Spread it on a baking sheet with a lip or a 13×9 baking pan.  Bake at 250 for 1 hour and 15 minutes, stirring every 15 minutes.  I find it is best to keep track of how long it’s been in the oven.  I use my dry erase board to keep track of the minutes, burning your lovely granola will not be lovely.  After the first stir, you will notice that the house is beginning to smell heavenly.  This is only one of the reasons to make your own granola.  I don’t think a candle company has replicated this aroma.

After an hour and fifteen minutes, the granola will be golden brown and the nuts will be wonderfully toasty.  If you can wait, let it cool.  If not, grab a handful.  You will not be disappointed.

Feel free to add your own flair.  I generally mix some ground flax seeds to the granola after it comes out of the oven.  Adding cinnamon, nutmeg, or other spices to the mix is also lovely.  Raisins or other dried fruits are a natural addition to granola.  A bit of vanilla extract or vanilla bean infused in the liquids can’t be wrong.

Personally, I eat my granola every morning with a bit of Greek-styled yogurt and local honey or a bit of fruit.  Someday, I will have to share with you how I make my yogurt so you can know how amazing that process can be and how delectable the outcome!  The Philosopher drowns his granola in milk and adds fresh berries or bananas.  Since it’s fall, roast up some apples with cinnamon in the oven and top them with some granola and a little vanilla ice cream.  Simple apple crisp!  Toss your granola in your homemade trail mix, toss a few pieces in your pancakes after pouring them on the griddle for another breakfast treat, or give it away as a gift.  People love granola, yet most don’t realize how easy it is to make!  Last year, a good friend made homemade granola and packed it in gift bags for the holidays. Yep, that’s a great gift!

Store your granola in a container with a tight-fitting lid.  One batch usually lasts a few weeks around here.

So dear readers, wherever you are and whatever season your body thinks it is, cook and eat well.  How are you enjoying the changing seasons?

 

 

 

 

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