Good grief! It’s time for granola around the lake. Welcome to a back-to-nature type breakfast food and a snack food — not as popular as apple pie but an all-American fave, especially among outdoorsy folks who like hiking, camping, or are on the road. Granola is a combo of oats and honey. It’s filling, easy to carry, and contains good-for-you, present-day caveman food — nuts and dried fruit. Dished up with milk or in a yogurt parfait, it’s difficult to pass.
Back in the 1970s, it was my travel staple of choice when backpacking across America, whether it was on the beach, prairie, desert or city — it made me feel connected to home. And, once I hit college in the ‘80s, it was my No. 1 health food. Back in the day, it was easy to find at grocery stores — but I made it myself, too. And, today’s Urban Dictionary notes, “granola” is a term used for a tree-hugging, free-spirited hippie. That works for me then and now.
Flashback several years ago: It’s springtime at Tahoe. In my mind I thought, “It’s time to plant flowers” and “I want a plant room.” So, while snacking on granola (the ready-made kind in the box) for energy, I went into nature girl mode and filled the deck and surrounded the front yard trees with white daisies and purple pansies and petunias (I think, but I wasn’t sure). At first, it was a colorful flower garden, something I had in the San Francisco Bay Area, a place with Mediterranean climate. But, day by day, week by week, I watched my flowers wilt, one by one, and go to flower heaven. Inside the cabin, my plant room was anything but. The oversized hanging Boston ferns went on strike and turned brown. I was left with a few hardy plants. I was garden-less but continued to eat my granola.
As the years passed, I’ve changed my ways and have accepted our cold and hot spring weather and plant growing. Philodendrons and cactus plants sit in the sunny cabin window sills while pine cones fill the flower beds. I still munch on granola while watering the Aspen trees, raking the pine needles and enjoying the wildflowers that grow in my neighbors’ back yard and across the street. But this week, I wondered, “Why don’t they grow in my yard?” as I whipped up a batch of homemade granola.
3/4 cups sweetened coconut
2 cups rolled oats (instant or old-fashioned; the latter is preferred)
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground nutmeg
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1/2 cup honey (local from Reno if possible)
½ cup European style butter (melted)
4 tablespoons natural peanut butter (optional)
1 cup golden raisins
On a parchment-lined cookie sheet spread coconut. Bake at 375 degrees till lightly toasted. Set aside. Turn down oven to 350 degrees. In a bowl, combine oats, and spices. Pour mixed honey, butter, and vanilla. Place mixture on a parchment-lined cookie sheet or pan. Bake approximately 30 minutes. Mix occasionally. Cool. Mix in coconut and raisins. Store in container and keep in fridge.
Toasting coconut is easy and smells heavenly while in the oven. This is an easy-to-follow recipe that delivers chewy granola — not the hard kind that can break a filling. Sometimes, I add nuts or dried fruit suited for the season. During my “hippie chick” days, I made batches of granola in my hometown of San Jose to Eugene, Ore. — a place where earthy people live and eat. But for some reason, the chewy, crunchy popcorn granola bites taste best in the Sierra — with or without a garden.
Motto: You can’t always get what you want at Tahoe but you get what you need by thinking outside of the granola box.
— Cal Orey, M.A. is an author and journalist. Her books include “The Healing Powers” series (Vinegar, Olive Oil, Chocolate, Honey, and Coffee) published by Kensington. (The Healing Powers of Honey and Coffee are offered by the Good Cook Book Club.) Her website is www.calorey.com.