Baby Steps

So this will be my first post on a baked-good item. It has only been nearly a year…my falling into any sort of baking habit will be fumbling, like baby steps. I am not scared to bake or horrible at it. The thing is, I associate baking with sweets – cakes and cookies – which are not popular in my house. We have had a box of Frango mints in the freezer since last Christmas and will occasionally retreat to that box after dinner for a single mint. This box is still half full.

My little brother visited over the weekend. For lunch we went to the amazing Kuma’s Corner, then decided to walk off our gluttony. We walked four miles and, inevitably, covered topics from how awesome it would be to own a house in Lincoln Park to the genius of Southpark episodes. A college kid, he expressed that he wants a stand-up mixer when he eventually gets his own apartment. Guiltily, I told him that both my sister and I have one (hand-me-downs). They are rarely used. Since life is often about making goals, however trivial, I’ll strive to get out my mixer this winter, affix the dough hook and turn on the oven for some fresh focaccia and extra heat in the apartment.

This morning I woke up to eat my breakfast choice of the month, greek yogurt with granola, yet realized I finished the granola yesterday. At this point I contemplated having leftover chili to start the morning.  I remember visiting family when I was younger and witnessing one of my aunts steaming clams and boiling spaghetti for breakfast. I suppose this is the side of the family from where I draw my fondness for savory and salty foods. Though the cowboys used to do it, I closed the fridge door on the chili pot. Luckily, a good granola is incredibly easy to put together.

My granola recipe is very bare-bones. Notice how I didn’t even chop the nuts. The recipe does, however, serve as a pretty good foundation if you wanted to add anything else like coconut or ginger or sunflower seeds. I used agave nectar to cut down on sugar, but alternatives like honey, maple syrup and brown sugar would produce a sweeter and richer result.

I should add that making your own granola is deeply satisfying and makes your house warm and smell like a bakery. Teeny baby steps. Some homemade chocolate chip cookies sound good right about now.

Homemade Granola

Ingredients
2 cups rolled oats
Salt, to taste
1 cup mixed nuts of your choice
2 tablespoons seeds (flax seed, sunflower seed etc.), optional
½  teaspoon cinnamon
¼ cup warm water
¼ cup agave nectar or maple syrup
1 teaspoon vanilla
½ cup dried fruit

Set the oven to 300 degrees. Line a baking sheet with some foil and either butter or spray to prevent the oats from sticking. In a large bowl stir together the oats, salt, nuts, seeds (if using) and cinnamon. In a separate bowl stir together the warm water, agave nectar (or maple syrup) and vanilla, pour this mixture over the oat mixture. Stir to combine. Spread the oat mixture evenly on the prepared baking sheet.  Bake this for 30-35 minutes, stirring occasionally so that the mixture doesn’t burn. You want the granola and nuts to be nice and golden brown. Once done, remove from oven and sprinkle the dried fruit over granola. Let cool and enjoy! Will keep in sealed container for about a week or refrigerated for one month.

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