About Granola, But Not

I got an email from a reader last week that made me think. And then smile. She mentioned how she liked my blog because it was about food while simultaneously being nothing about food. The more I thought about it, the more I realized she’s probably right. If you really just wanted a quick granola recipe, there are many other places you’d probably go first. But here we are. And it’s  late on Tuesday night and it kind of feels like fall rather than summer and my sixteen year old dog is snoring at my feet. I’ve made a fresh batch of granola for the morning, there’s a giant mosquito buzzing around my desk that I can’t seem to catch, I’m drinking lime fizzy water from a straw and wishing my sister a happy first day of work tomorrow. So, yeah. I like talking to you about baking and salads and homemade ice cream.  But I also liked talking to you about books and yoga and how amazing afternoon naps are. About movies and wacky seasons and travels. And hopes and family and pretty dishes. All that. Hopefully you’re down. I’m guessing since you’re still reading this paragraph, maybe you are.

Coincidentally, I’ve been powering through a book that’s relevant to this idea of being about something while not being about it at all. Have you read Murakami’s What I Talk About When I Talk About Running? On the surface it’s a memoir about Murakami’s long-distance running career. But if you asked me what the book was about, I probably wouldn’t even mention running. Instead, it’s about finding happiness in what you do, questioning why you commit yourself to certain activities, “the blessed right to grow old” and change.  It’s a sweet exploration of one man’s passion and how it has seeped out into every other area of life. It makes you think about yours: passion and life, that is.

“I didn’t start running because somebody asked me to become a runner.  Just like I didn’t become a novelist because someone asked me to. One day, out of the blue, I wanted to write a novel. And one day, out of the blue, I started to run–simply because I wanted to.”

There’s this kind of loose logic to Murakami’s life narrative that I admire. While it’s quite structured with running schedules, book tours, and teaching gigs–it’s also quite spontaneous in that he follows the pulls that lead him towards happiness or fulfillment. He doesn’t question them. He doesn’t try to make much sense of them (because how can you really make sense of getting up at the crack of dawn to run 26.2 miles?). The blind following of those pulls and tugs: we don’t do that enough. At least I don’t.  It’s much easier to excuse them as too whimsical or expensive or unrealistic. But lately I’m all about diving in. Right now I have friends that are starting their first business, beginning new jobs, being published, getting married. There are thresholds everywhere I turn and it’s exciting and full of risk and craziness and blind dives without looking back.

It doesn’t always have to be marathons or marriages we’re talking about here. It can be as small as trying out a new granola recipe because you’re pretty sure it’ll knock the socks off your mornings in early August. That’s what I did today. Many of you may remember the buzz around this time last year when The New York Times published their recipe for Olive Oil Granola. I never tried it because I’m basically married to my own recipe which I created while, coincidentally, training for my first marathon in Colorado. But lately I’ve been curious–what if I took the components I love about my granola and blend in olive oil, maple syrup, and kosher salt as the New York Times does? Well, a whole lot of goodness happens. That’s what.

So I’ll leave you with this simple, adaptable, morning-changing recipe and a quote from Murakami. He should have the last word here.

“And I hope that, over time, as one race follows another, in the end I’ll reach a place I’m content with. Or maybe just catch a glimpse of it”

Olive Oil Granola with Pecans and Cherries

Olive Oil Granola with Pecans and Cherries

  • Yield: 8-9 cups
  • Prep time: 10 mins
  • Cook time: 35 mins
  • Total time: 45 mins

I love making granola in a convection oven because it cooks evenly and you don’t end up with burned bits around the edges. So I’ve included cooking times for both a convection and a standard oven here. This recipe is also forgiving, so feel free to use your own mixture of nuts and dried fruits. And play around with different olive oils. It’s amazing how a fruitier oil honestly conveys that taste once baked. I’m hooked.

Ingredients

3 cups rolled old-fashioned oats (not instant; use gluten-free oats if that is a concern)
1 cup raw pecan halves
3/4 cup sliced, raw almonds
1/2 cup raw pumpkin seeds
1/2 cup sweetened coconut
1/4 cup sesame seeds
3/4 cup dried cherries
3/4 cup maple syrup
1/2 tsp. vanilla
1/2 cup olive oil
1/4 cup packed light brown sugar* (see note below)
1 tsp. kosher salt
1/2 tsp. cinnamon
1/2 tsp. cardamom
Note: The subsequent times I've made this granola (and there have been quite a few), I've left out the sugar completely and it's still fabulous. The maple syrup adds just the right amount of sweetness. So if you like a little bit sweeter granola, use it. If not, don't.

Instructions

Preheat the convection oven to 275 or the standard oven to 300 F. With the exception of the cherries, mix all the ingredients together in a big bowl and spoon out onto a large, rimmed baking sheet.

Bake Times:
–Convection Oven: 35-40 minutes, stir every 15 minutes.
–Standard Oven: 45 minutes, stir every ten minutes so granola doesn’t stick to the sides of the pan and burn.

Granola will be done when it’s golden brown and well toasted. Remove from the oven and stir in the dried cherries. Let cool completely. Serve with dollops of plain yogurt and fruit.

Comments

  1. Shaheen {The Purple Foodie}

    Such an enjoyable post. And inspiring in a way to read that you have friends starting new businesses, getting new jobs etc.. I'm in such a stage in life where uncertainty looms. But I know if I'm persistent, things are bound to work out.

  2. Andrea

    That looks amazing. And that's often how I feel about things, though I wish I had more guts (like your friends, and Murakami) to follow the directions my life pushes me to instead of sticking with what's safe. But at least with cooking I can be unafraid to take chances and make mistakes - maybe one of these days I'll learn real life lessons from those experiences and take the plunge.

  3. shannalee

    Mmmm I love granola, too. Almost as much as I love talking about food to talk about everything else. :) Glad to have a kindred spirit in you!

  4. Denise | Chez Danisse

    There is a stand at the Ferry Plaza farmers market that sells the best dried cherries. I don't know the name of the farmer, but I bet you know about them already. I haven't bought those cherries in a while, but I will now. I'll definitely make this granola. I like the use of olive oil and I love dried cherries, pecans, almonds, coconut... Thanks. I just might have to add a little extra dark chocolate too.

  5. Wizzythestick

    I find I am at that place in my life as well where I am following my passions - well as much as a full-time job, mother of two allows. It's essential to carve out your own space.

  6. Adriana from Baking Powders

    I love food blogs that don't only talk about food, I like knowing what you've been doing, why you decided to make that recipe and definitely, what you are reading (my last post is about the same thing)...

    I told you via twitter how much i love that murakami book... coincidentally i read it when i started running, and even if his running experience was a lovely read, i definitely liked the philosophy of the book more than anything else... 'pain is always there, suffering is optional'... loved it... seriously, i'm glad you enjoyed it as much

    i was looking for a new granola recipe that didn't involve butter... i think i found one! great!

  7. Dana

    I just love your thought processes and the way you write. That, and you make tasty things like granola and take pretty pictures of them.

    So often, life seems to be about all the little things that you don't expect it to be about, and the big things become out of focus.

  8. Anne

    I fancy being a runner someday. In the meantime, I will stick to granola making (and eating) and I definitely want to read that book! PS I did make granola with olive oil this time last year, it is amazingly good, isn't it?

  9. Matt

    Megan, great post. You had me at hello, or specifically, at granola. But as with any good relationship, you kept me engaged from throughout...:)

  10. Anna

    Haruki Murakami is one of my favorite authors. I love his writing style, fiction or non. He definitely has an interesting out look. Its about time for me to make some granola, I'll have to try this recipe!

  11. dininganddecor

    I just found your blogged and book marked you! Love your blog.

  12. El

    I like that- choosing to do things because you want to. No grand plan. No American social pressure to perform. Simple and honest.

    So tomorrow I want to eat breakfast at your house. Granola please ;>)

  13. A Canadian Foodie

    A compelling and thoughtful read....
    I always put dried cherries in my granola....
    :)
    Valerie

  14. Dana

    I find that I get more comments from "first time commenters" when I write something more personal. I love reading about food here but I also like feeling like I am getting to know you more as a person too. I so look forward to meeting you! I have a granola recipe that I never stray from but it uses a LOT of butter and I like the idea of being a bit healthier.

  15. Danielle

    It IS an exciting time isn't it? ;) So glad to be in touch with you over the past couple of months and exchange stories. And, thank you (x100) for this granola recipe - it's just the 'pull/tug' I need to start making my own!

  16. Sanura

    Murakami is one of my favorite authors. I forgot that he did write a book about running a few years ago. You've inspired me to try making granola, again. The first time it was made, it was terrible. I'm going to try it again this Fall. Love your blog... it's far from nothing.

  17. Carra

    It's like you were reading my mind! I've been trying out all sorts of granola recipes in search of the perfect one. And here it is! I am currently making my second batch of this yummy godness! The wee one and I devoured the first batch so fast. As always, your words about food and life are compelling and beautiful and lead me on many thoughtful journies as I cook away in the kitchen.

  18. Jessica

    I love your blog! The writing and pictures - amazing!! So great to meet you last weekend and now get to know you even better through your blog :) We must hang out again...to discuss more baking and running!

    1. megang

      Yay! Great meeting you too, Jessica! We will definitely hang out again. Running=good excuse to eat many a cookie :)

  19. jill

    This was a lovely post and touched me for many reasons. 1. I'm a runner and will be buying the Murakami book tomorrow if not sooner. 2. My partner is currently looking for work. It's so hard to stay centered during this process, and the way you framed changing times as thresholds- this gives me a nice mental image of great things to come! And finally, 3. I love granola! I will try your recipe next weekend.

    Thanks for your blog, I very much enjoy it.

  20. ursula @ apples&almonds

    I just found your blog. It's lovely! This granola sounds fantastic and I lovelovelove Murakami! I haven't read this book yet, but its on my list. I'll definately be coming back.

  21. Rebecca

    Hi Megan. Linnea told me how wonderful your blog is... I fully agree. I made this granola as my Holiday Gift for coworkers, neighbors and friends (packaged in Mason jars with lovely ribbons) to break from my cookie tradition. What a hit! The folks in Vancouver loved it.
    I am so impressed with what you've done; bravo!
    I'll be staying tuned.

    1. megang

      Thanks, Rebecca. I'm so glad you liked it (and are enjoying the blog)!

  22. Pauline @thelipstickcafe

    Thanks for sharing this recipe! These days, I'm being more intentional about the health factor of my breakfast meals - blending my own veggie and fruit smoothies and now contemplating homemade granolas. A friend of mine also shared Murakami's book with me, though I ought to finish it. Have you read Bird by Bird? Lovely and inspiring read about writing and... life.

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