For the last month it seemed my finger was hovering above the pause button. Just about five weeks ago we were traipsing around the Iowa State Fair when my mom called to tell us my dad’s routine stress test had landed him on the operating table. We held our breaths, gripped things a bit tighter, and waited. We waited for the couple of updates that came during surgery, and then the day to day updates from the hospital while they tweaked his medication, monitored his heart rate and made him get up and walk the hospital halls. We chuckled at the updates on what he was eating, and how all the nurses loved him and how he was tired of the television options in his room.
When the update came that he was being released from the hospital, a week after his surgery, Oliver and I packed some bags and headed north to set up camp at my parents. We proceeded to cook and clean, then cook some more, dirty-ing the counters and stove and then started the process again. Oliver enlisted his help in walking the little dog, only to be distracted by the tall task of dinosaur-morphizing all the sticks and leaves in the front yard. Inevitably he invited them in for a bite to eat and a play, and then proceeded to scatter them, and every toy we brought, all over the house in which I grew up. More to clean.
I find myself a bit amazed at just how adaptable the little guy is. Understandably, he was a bit shy the first couple of days; We were a little road weary, my dad was looking a little bit peaked and everyone was wearing their stress differently. But he warmed up to our new surroundings, and soon found himself happy for a larger audience that was both new to his tricks and half comprised of four-legged friends. Slowly my dad was on the mend, and some sense of routine crept into our days, I even sat in on a few writing classes at the university! Before we knew it, we’d been there a month. Our stint as de facto taxi and dishwasher was ending, and we set our sights on Atlanta again, with a slight detour at Dinosaur World. (!)
But we weren’t the only ones hitting the road. Turns out my dad had a bit of a comeback streak in him. During our third week in Ohio, just one month out from his surgery, his doctor cleared him to take the trip to Ireland my parents have been planning for the last year. We were all a bit stunned. The doctor said he’d have to be conservative of course, rest when needed, put his feet up, lay off the Guinness, but he thought the trip would be fine. So in one of the best deals I’ve ever heard of, my dad traded a bit of stir crazy and his recliner for eight days on the Green Isle.
With so many of us putting miles behind us, I indulged my mother’s requests for granola AND the recipe. Because granola is a perfect travel snack, don’t you think? Its chocked full of nuts and seeds to hold you over in between meals and rest stops, offering a bit of energy without weighing you down. Even D indulged on our long drive home.(!) I happen to think its a perfect snack for just about all the time – a sweet, salty and crunchy answer to my most-dogged cravings. Of course it also makes a delicious breakfast with yogurt and a spoonful of fruit.
Perhaps you’ve had your share of granola or have come to see them as largely interchangeable. Maybe your wondering what makes this granola so special. That’s fair. Like any good answer, its complicated. The olive oil and coconut are a perfect pair, somehow bringing out the fruitiness in the olive oil while the maple brings a balanced bit of sweet. But its not just the well-paired flavors, the tempered sweetness and the highlight of coarse salt that makes this the best granola I’ve ever had. There’s something magic in the texture, all that olive oil acts as a slightly savory glaze to the mix of well-toasted nuts and seeds and somehow lightens up the crunch. Each and every handful is pitch perfect. You can tweak to your tastes or what’s on hand. I’ve used walnuts before, and though I’ve never added dried fruits, Melissa Clark added dried apricots and pistachios to her version, and that seems to me a good compliment to coconut. The not-to-be omitted piece is the sunflower seeds, which bring an almost peanut flavor and added crunch.
Nekesia Davis has been incredibly generous with her recipe, I’ve seen it on a number of my favorite places on the Internet, on Martha Stewart and in Melissa Clark’s In the Kitchen with a Good Appetite. Over time I’ve made small cut backs on the amount of oil, while upping the amounts of seeds. I swapped dark brown sugar for light, and added more seeds again, each time I make it I find myself marveling at the way it flirts with perfection. And then I do the right thing and I share half with my mom.
Olive Oil Granola
- 3 cups rolled oats
- 1 1/2 cups roughly chopped raw pecans
- 1 1/4 cups raw sunflower seeds
- 1 cup raw pepitas
- 1 cup unsweetened coconut flakes
- 1/2 cup olive oil
- 1/2 cup maple syrup
- 1/2 dark brown sugar
- 1 tsp kosher salt
Preheat oven to 300.
In a large bowl combine first five ingredients, and stir to combine. Add olive oil, maple syrup and brown sugar and toss to coat. Spread oat mixture evenly on a rimmed baking sheet. Sprinkle salt evenly over top and bake for 45-50 minutes,stirring every ten minutes. As it gets close to being finished its important to take note of the colors of your granola. You want to bake until the oats show rich toast notes and the coconut strips take on a nice caramel color, the pecans will also become very fragrant.