When I was a kid growing up, I was fairly smart. My parents were committed to helping me learn as much as possible. I remember my father (who was a computer programmer right when computers were becoming a thing) printing off extra math questions onto giant green and white paper for me to do when I got home from school. The rule was that I had to do as many worksheets as I was tall. Spoiler alert: I’m tall. There’s a home video of me at six-years old learning how to use a compass–and not the compass like pointing to north compass, but the technical drafting math compass as used by engineers and architects. Please note that I never once have used a compass in my life since then. Even thought my parents tried so hard to make sure I had my facts and figures straight, there are so many weird facts and ideas that get stuck into your head when you’re a kid. For example, when childhood me would hear stories about Chicago and in my mind I would picture where Chicago was located on the map of the United States, it was somewhere around the Montana/North Dakota area. Yeah, I have no idea how that happened.
Today’s confession is that I’ve always had a similar struggle with the idea of when the seasons are supposed to happen, and in particular Winter. Let me explain. I am a sucker for Christmas. A. Sucker. I love everything about it. I love the idea of snow and hot chocolate and Santa and presents and the tree and decorations and warm mulled cider and reindeer and magic and and and and. My dream job is Mrs. Claus. Dream job. If Santa was real I would marry that man in a heartbeat. So for some reason, when I was a child and all through my adult life, Winter has always felt like it’s supposed to be the season leading to Christmas. Think about it. The weather for Winter is frosty, often bleak, and it’s colder than it should ever be… shouldn’t you have Christmas to look forward to? Christmas should be the idea that gets you through the Winter. It’s the celebration that honors and finds joy in the snow and it should signify that afterwards you get to move into Spring. Right? Right?!
No. Not right. Not at all right. Christmas is the START of Winter. You get all excited about the delightful holiday trappings and celebrating the season then SIX DAYS LATER you’re supposed to put all of your Christmas gear away and embrace eating healthy and working out and more vegetables. UGH. Double ugh. It’s too soon! It’s not fair! There’s still 3 MONTHS of horrible cold chilly rain/sleet/snow and all of the things that brought you seasonal joy are gone. Instead of your warming eggnog, here’s your thin celery stalk gruel. Cheers.
I thought about starting a petition to move Christmas to March, but I figured that I might get a little bit of resistance. Thus in order to combat my own personal seasonal bafflement I’ve decided to choose to celebrate the seasonal treats through throughout the entirety of Winter rather than overloading myself on everything within two weeks. Three months of Christmas treats! YESSSS! Here’s where the light dawns on this granola.
Have you made your own granola yet? No? That’s ok, there’s no judgement here. I didn’t make my own until a couple of years ago. I’ve never been a huge believer in granola because I associated it with my childhood memories of trailmix. Big mistake. Trailmix is like working for food. Whatever one you bought, there’s something in there that you will obviously find gross that you’ll have to pick around, thus stopping you from eating handfuls at a time. My preferred food serving is a handful. Granola however is heaven-sent. It’s sweet, crunchy, chewy, with a touch of salt to bring out the flavors. It’s great on its own, but it adds even more magic as a topping for yogurt, overnight oats, chia pudding, regular pudding, pancakes, waffles–Do you see that?! Granola will give you an excuse to eat more waffles! Granola is also fantastic because it’s infinitely customizable to what you have in your pantry and what sounds good to you in the moment. Cherry Vanilla Almond is always a big hit in my house but I’m also very partial to Banana Anise. Any overflow you have makes a great foodie gift or hostess gift. Fair warning though: Once you open the gates to your own granola-making-heaven, it will be hard to stop. Get ready to have a new foodie-addiction!
This Cranberry Gingerbread Granola is perfect for Christmas, but will also treat you to some winter/Christmas flavors into ACTUAL WINTER, and making the lack of sun a bit more bearable. It makes quite a big batch, so spreading it out over two baking sheets is a good idea. Feel free to scale it down if you’re not sure you’re committed to the process yet and then just use one sheet. Spoiler alert: you should be committed.
Cranberry Gingerbread Granola
(Makes roughly 9 cups)
- 4.5 cups rolled oats (not quick-cooking, I use gluten-free)
- 1 1/2 cups roughly chopped raw pecans
- 1 1/2 cups unsweetened coconut flakes
- 1/2 cup raw pumpkin seeds
- 1/4 cup black sesame seeds
- 3/4 cup coconut sugar
- 1 3/4 tsp salt
- 3/4 cup maple syrup
- 3/4 cup coconut oil, melted
- 3 Tbsp molasses
- 1 tsp vanilla extract
- 1/2 Tbsp cinnamon (I use Penzeys Vietnamese Cinnamon which is quite strong)
- 1 tsp ground ginger
- 1/4 tsp ground cloves
- 3 egg whites
- 1 heaping cup dried cranberries (I use apple-sweetened which I buy at Natural Grocers)
- 1/2 heaping cup golden raisins
**Note: Any of the above ingredients can be substituted. Don’t have pecans but you have some almonds? No problem, swap it. Don’t like maple syrup but you have some agave or coconut syrup? Swap it. Do you hate pumpkin seeds and the stores are closed and you have no other seeds within a 40 mile radius? Don’t worry, just add something else like pistachios or pinenuts or walnuts or or or. Trust the granola. Feel your inner granola-heaven. You got this.
- Preheat the oven to 325 and position the two oven racks at the upper and lower thirds.
- Line two baking sheets with parchment paper.
- In a large mixing bowl, combine all of the dry ingredients from the oats through the salt. Stir to combine.
- In a smaller separate bowl, whisk together the maple syrup, melted coconut oil, molasses, vanilla, and the spices.
- Pour the wet ingredients into the dry and stir several times to coat well.
- Add in the 3 egg whites and stir again to coat. <This step helps create clumps of granola>
- Divide the granola mix evenly between the two baking sheets.
- Bake for roughly 40-60 minutes. Stir the granola and rotate the baking sheets at roughly 15 minute intervals to keep your eye on its progress.
- The granola will be done when it smells good and toasted in the house. It may seem to still be slighly wet and sticky, but should dry as it cools.
- Once cool, stir in the cranberries and raisins. Store at room temperature in an air-tight container to maintain freshness.
Suggestions for use:
- Sneak little handfuls while your coffee pot is heating up in the morning or while waiting for your waffles to cook.
- Put in little portioned baggies for school or work lunches.
- Put in decorative jars, bags, or boxes for hostess gifts, teacher gifts, or random Thursday gifts to a friend. (Why hello! It’s me, your blog friend. What is this surprise gift? Is today Thursday?)
- Use as a topping for waffles, pancakes, yogurt, or smoothie bowls
- Use as the crunchy element of a salad instead of croutons –Pear Blue Cheese Arugula maybe? Eh?