This time of year with Memorial Day and summer fast approaching always reminds me of being in school and counting down the time until I was free. It was torture sitting and pretending to learn as I stared out the window at the beautiful weather and made mental lists of how I wanted to spend the next couple of months.
For a few years in grade school, before administration sucked all the fun out of our days, along with the band and school newspaper, there were some end of the year festivities to look forward to. First there was a picnic during the school day. Anything that meant skipping classroom time was good.
We walked over to the park across the street, where many of our parents were waiting to greet us with games and food, including an ice cream truck. I typically hung with mom and the other parents but it was still a blast to walk around in the fresh air and bright sunshine, putting in a guess on how many jelly beans were in the jar. I think we also had our yearbooks and ran around getting them signed.
Then there was the festival in the school parking lot one evening late in the school year. That’s right, it was so awesome I didn’t mind spending time on school premises when I wasn’t required to! Lots of food and tons of games filled the parking lot. Mom and Dad usually took a shift working one of the games along with the other parents. I loved helping them. Playing the games totally engrossed me as I collected tickets to spend in the prize room. I probably got tons, including goldfish, I’m pretty sure. I know we still have a stuffed animal snake with a Santa hat. Granny even came with us a couple times. She spent the vast majority of the evening playing the cakewalk, which she’d win . . . over and over. We left with at least three cakes once!
Alas, the school stopped doing all those things, leaving the only thing on our minds throughout the end of May and first few days of June being the end of the year.
When I think of summer, I also think of granola. I’m not entirely sure why, but I think its portability and suitability for picnics, hikes, or snacks on the go has something to do with it. I’d never had granola, let alone made it before. Now, I can’t wait to make it again! Full of oats, nuts, and dried fruit, it has no refined sugar, is gluten free if you use gluten free oats, and is vegan if you use all maple syrup. Not only is it healthy, but it’s also yummy and addictive. Super crunchy toasted nuts, crunchy and syrup coated oats, and chewy dried fruit all with a hint of cinnamon. All these textures and flavors are a dream come true. I also loved it with my Banana Berry Smoothie! So celebrate summer with some granola.
- 3 cups old-fashioned oats (gluten free if you like – I used Bob’s Red Mill Gluten Free)
- 1 ½ cups walnuts
- ½ cup pecans
- ½ cup flaked unsweetened coconut (I used Bob’s Red Mill)
- ½ teaspoon kosher salt
- 2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
- ½ cup canola oil
- ¼ cup + 1 tablespoon pure maple syrup
- ¼ cup honey (use all maple syrup to keep vegan)
- ½ cup dried tart cherries
- ½ cup golden raisins
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Line a baking sheet with parchment.
- In a large bowl, stir together oats, walnuts, pecans, coconut, salt, and cinnamon until combined. Add the oil, maple syrup, and honey and stir until the oats and nuts are fully coated. Spread into an even layer on the prepared baking sheet.
- Bake for about 25 minutes, stirring after 15. Add the dried fruit. Stir it in and bake for 5 additional minutes. The granola should be fragrant, golden brown and toasted. Cool completely on pan. May be stored in an airtight container (I used zipper bags) for up to 2 weeks at room temperature.