While the act of eating can be one of the most enjoyable experiences in one’s life, I’ve found it can also be one of the most confusing and stressful. I started this journal to document the food and meals that have made an imprint on my daily life, those foods that are special to me, and those that have been a part of my journey and development into adulthood. Recently, my idea of an enjoyable food has drastically shifted. While I’ve gone through phases and fads, I’ve always found a way back to a balanced life. Regardless, I’ve always had the choice to eat whatever I want. As of recently, I’ve discovered that my relationship with food is not that simple anymore. Through a long period of trial and error, with my diligent naturopath in tow, I learned that I have a fairly noticeable sensitivity of sorts to wheat, dairy, and a few other miscellaneous foods. Quite honestly, I have not taken this new discovery very seriously. I did not believe these items were actually causing my ongoing skin issues but rather assumed there was a third variable (i.e., seasonal allergies, stress, etc.), especially given the fact that only a small portion of the population actually has a true sensitivity to wheat products containing gluten. And maybe it is actually a third variable in play, I may never know for sure, but what I do know is that I feel worse when I eat these foods and my skin problems seem to flare up at these times. When I do not eat them, my skin is fine. While it has taken me since February to get here, I am finally ready to make more longstanding changes to my eating habits (well at least I feel that way today…) in pursuit of a state of increased wellness.
However, when a certain type of food or pattern of eating is so ingrained in your self identity and enjoyment of life, it is extremely difficult to suddenly change. While I’ve always experimented with gluten free foods and typically live dairy free most of the time, it has always been a choice. I’ve still enjoyed a fair amount of pasta, bread, cheese, and ice cream in my daily life, especially growing up as an Italian American. When I think of comfort food, I envision gnocchi pesto, thin crust pizza, and risotto with nutty Parmesan mixed in. I often long for a hunk of crusty bread and cheese on a hot summer evening, or a provolone and turkey sandwich on a hike. I cannot instantly change the foods that make me feel alive and reminiscent of the past, so these past few weeks have been stressful. I feel as though I am in a constant battle between wanting to eat whatever I want but also desiring for my body to feel well. I want to cook my grandmother’s ravioli, make my favorite pie crust, and eat a simple slice of regular bread. But I can’t always and I think I finally realize this. I think the breaking point came for me after these past two weeks of feeling just awful because of the food I was putting in my body and the mental fatigue I felt from the ongoing battle. Given this, the recipe I leave you with today feels like common ground. It is the bridge between my past and future relationship with food.
That brings me to granola. Granola is special to me. It reminds me of home. It reminds me of my mother and it reminds me of my first post-college days. I can firmly say, it is one of my favorite things to eat. However, granola and I have come a long way. My first memories of granola are of those in a store bought milk-like carton my mother use to buy. She would eat the granola straight from the carton dry. I followed suit, except I would pour myself a small bowl at night, snuggle up in our big, green comfy armchair in the family room, and watch a show. I would eat the granola dry, like my mother, and always at any time of day but breakfast or lunch where it usually makes it’s appearance. I also almost always had a second bowl. Nowadays, granola is my saving grace. It serves as a quick breakfast that is healthy, reliable, and absolutely addicting. I think one of the things I like best about granola is that there are so many combinations I never get tired of it. I make my own granola and have for some time now. And it is easily made gluten free by purchasing certified gluten free oats, such as those you can find at Whole Foods or Trader Joe’s. I can’t bring myself to buy it when the homemade stuff tastes so much more satisfying, is simple to make, and is without a doubt better for your body. While I have gone through many granola recipes and likely will end up posting another, this has been my go-to lately which is a little surprising. This granola recipe has honey and coconut oil. I generally have a preference for maple syrup and olive oil because of the richness and depth of flavor. But there is something about the way honey creates the perfect clumps which make it easy to grab while passing through the kitchen for a snack or tossing some on a smoothie. My hope is that you will enjoy this simple but flavorful and relatively healthy granola in your own home. Through the continuous turmoil of these past few months, this granola has been the common ground; it has and likely always will be a comfort food to me that encompasses memories from the past while easily blending with changes in my eating habits for the future, and for that I am thankful.
Granola with honey, cardamom, and coconut
4 cups rolled oats
1 cup sliced or chopped raw almonds
1 cup roasted, unsalted or raw sunflower seeds
1 cup unsweetened coconut flakes
1 tbsp each of chia, hemp, and white sesame seeds
1 heaping tsp salt
1 heaping tsp cardamom
3/4 cup raw, local honey
1/2 cup melted unrefined coconut oil
Preheat the oven to 325 degrees Fahrenheit. Prepare two baking sheets with parchment paper or Silpat baking mats.
Combine dry ingredients in a large bowl and mix well.
Heat the honey and coconut oil in a small sauce pan on medium low while stirring. Remove from heat once melted. Pour over dry mixture and stir with a wooden spoon until well combined and there are no dry remnants.
Pour granola onto the baking sheets and bake for approximately 25 minutes, stirring every 5-10 minutes to evenly brown the granola. After 20 minutes, check the granola frequently to ensure it does not burn. The granola is ready when it becomes a rich golden color.
Enjoy layered in yogurt with fresh berries, with unsweetened almond milk, sprinkled on top of a smoothie, or straight from the jar. The granola can keep for approximately 2 weeks in a well sealed container at room temperature. This recipe makes quite a bit and typically serves my husband and I for at least a week or so.