I regret to inform you that I am not a people person. This is why 6:30 AM is my favorite part of the day. No people then. Just me, a laptop, some hot coffee and silver daylight peeking out behind some bare trees. It is 30 minutes of hope, before the permission slips you forgot to sign and the emails from bosses with “great ideas” start rolling in.
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But eventually people start coming down the stairs, in footed pajamas, sleep still pressed into their tiny, angry cheeks, and they start asking about something to eat. Usually this involves some bacon and the shake of a Cheerios box. But lately I have craved something better, something heartier or at least something made by me.
I know you think this blog is about dinner, but start thinking about breakfast, and making ChezSuzanne's My Favorite Granola with Dried Fruit. The thing about this recipe is that it is not asking you to be overly virtuous, or to go camping.
It offers a deep molasses goodness, paired with the kiss of some tangy, rather than arduous dried fruit.
It is great in plain yogurt, or shoveled into your face by the handfuls. However, do NOT add it to a non-fat, sugared up yogurt that food producers, with their patronizing view of your fat needs, may have forced upon your store. It will make your breakfast suddenly horribly cloying.
I made ChezSuzanne’s recipe twice, and have a few general thoughts. The first time, I used organic quick oats, because that is all I had in the house, and, lacking cardamom, used nutmeg. (Who runs out of cardamom anyway? I am pretty sure someone stole it. Who, I cannot say, but it is clearly the same villain who regularly misplaces all my back issues of Gourmet and that thing that is good for cleaning all those things.)
Further, missing dried cherries, I did enjoy cranberries instead. I did not use vegetable oil but rather a nice young olive oil. These sound like major adjustments when lined up here, but they really are in the exact same spirit and it was delicious.
The next time, I used rolled oats, per foodpickle, and bought some new cardamom. The oats clumped a bit less but I have to say were not as superior as one might think to the quick cooking ones. The cardamom does bring a whole chai-latte vibe to the whole matter. So use either spice, depending on which flavor you prefer. If you don’t have sunflower seeds, just use more pumpkin.
Finally, you should follow her cooking directions carefully, stirring the mix once it is in the oven as she instructs. I set the microwave timer for ten minutes, so I would not forget, because I am prone to getting into long cell phone conversations concerning Mike Huckabee’s chances in Iowa or the last episode of “Modern Family.” Yes, I burn things.
At each interval, I would manhandle it all a little, watching with glee as the brown sugar did that IT’S ALIVE dance that it seems to always do when warm. After my three, ten-minute stirs, I left it in for another 5 minutes, just for good measure. This is between you and your oven.
I have since gone back to food52 and realized that there are a ton of granola recipes here. I can’t wait to plow through the lot of them. But they have a high bar with this dandy treat.
2 tablespoons granulated white sugar or agave nectar
2 tablespoons roasted sunflower seeds
2 tablespoons salted roasted pumpkin seeds
1/4 cup brown sugar
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground cardamom
2 tablespoons molasses
2 tablespoons honey
1 tablespoon vegetable oil (I used safflower oil)
1/2 cup dried fruit, minced (I used a combo of dried apricots, currants and tart cherries)
1. Preheat the oven to 250F. In a large mixing bowl, combine all the dry ingredients except the dried fruit and mix well with your hands.
2. In a small bowl, mix the honey, molasses and vegetable oil together until well combined. Add to the dry mixture and mix well with your hands until everything is well coated with the honey-molasses-oil mixture.
3. Spread evenly in a baking sheet and bake for 30-35 minutes. It's important to stir the mixture every 8-10 minutes pulling all the mixture from the edges and corners into the middle of the baking sheet and re-spreading the mixture. You might also want to rotate the cookie sheet after each stirring.
4. It's done when the mixture starts to darken a shade or two and you can smell the spices in the mixture. Remove from the oven and immediately fold in the dried fruit. Keep folding for a minute so that the dried fruit is warmed by the mixture.
5. Let dry until crispy and store in sealed baggies or jars.
By day, Jennifer Steinhauer, aka Jenny, covers Congress for The New York Times. By night, she is an obsessive cook.
A New Way to Dinner, co-authored by Food52's founders Amanda Hesser and Merrill Stubbs, is an indispensable playbook for stress-free meal-planning (hint: cook foundational dishes on the weekend and mix and match ‘em through the week).