When I was younger, Dad worked full time (he still does – poor Dad!) and Mom worked full time and then part time until retiring a few years ago. This meant I needed a baby-sitter. I had one during the school year to drive me back and forth to school and deal with the hustle and bustle and drama that surrounded school. There wasn’t much time left for fun, though. However, I look back very fondly on my time with baby-sitters during the summers of my youth.
While the days were often long and began very early, and I’m sure it felt very much like a job to them, I thought it was a blast and hope they did at least some of the time. It had to be better getting paid to play games and go out to eat instead of stocking shelves or making fast food burgers. We watched morning TV and chatted to kick off our day, before eating breakfast and planning adventures for the day ahead.
The activities varied depending on my age. Playing Barbies and board games, painting and dancing to CDs, pretending like we were pop stars. Those were good times when I was little. There were spa days and movie days, as Blockbuster rental after Blockbuster rental was popped into the DVD player or perhaps even VCR! Clearly this was a long time ago! As I grew older, shopping was my favorite activity, along with eating lunch out. We occasionally baked, though Mom remembers more epic fails than I do, probably because we left her with the mess (though I really hope we didn’t). And one summer, we lived in an apartment and my baby-sitter and I walked down to the pool almost every day. We’d pack a snack or lunch and often found ourselves the only people there. I’m smiling now just thinking about those days.
It wasn’t perfect. Sometimes sitters quit and a few had to be fired. It was a constant struggle for Mom to find someone we all liked and who was responsible enough to do the job well. I don’t think I had the same sitter two summers in a row. I stayed in touch with some of them for awhile, but it was hard to maintain contact as they moved through college and onto real life. They were my friends, my best friends at the time. I enjoyed their company and learned from them. I respected them and sometimes miss that bond. I wonder how they are, what they’re doing, and if they ever think about our time together. I hope they do and I hope they remember it fondly.
I don’t remember what we usually ate for breakfast. Maybe cereal? If I still had sitters, I imagine we’d eat this Quinoa Granola. I have been really into quinoa for a few months now and have been looking for something new and exciting to do with it. When I saw this recipe posted on Aida Mollenkamp’s blog, I knew I had to give it a try. This granola is crunchy, a little chewy, easy to make, not too sweet, and full of flavor. It’s also vegan and gluten free if you use gluten free oats and swap out the honey for maple syrup. The addition of quinoa is inspired and I found myself picking out all the cherries and pistachios because they added such great flavor and texture. This is great eaten out of hand, in a smoothie, or simply with milk. I ate it all three ways and found different flavors were accentuated depending on how I ate it. This is a great and versatile recipe that you’ll make again and again. In fact, I’m out of it and need to get to the kitchen to make some more!
3 cups old fashioned oats (I used Bob’s Red Mill Gluten Free)
1 cup pecans
1 cup unsweetened flaked coconut (I used Bob’s Red Mill)
¾ cup uncooked quinoa (I used Bob’s Red Mill)
½ cup pistachios
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
½ teaspoon kosher salt
¼ cup vegetable oil
¼ cup honey (or maple syrup to keep vegan)
3 tablespoons packed brown sugar (light or dark)
1 tablespoon pure vanilla extract
½ cup raisins
½ cup dried tart cherries
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Line a baking sheet with parchment.
In a large bowl, stir together oats, pecans, coconut, quinoa, pistachios, cinnamon, and salt to combine. Add oil, honey, brown sugar, and vanilla. Stir until the dry ingredients are all coated. Pour onto the prepared baking sheet and spread into an even layer.
Bake the granola 20-25 minutes until fragrant and golden brown. Stir in the dried fruit and spread into an even layer. Allow the granola to cool completely. It should break apart in clumps when cool (love clumpy granola!). Granola may be stored in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 2 weeks.
Recipe adapted from Aida Mollenkamp