When I was in college, my quarterly trips home were filled with family time, which meant hanging out at home, taking walks, going to the mall with my mom, and sharing endless meals together. My mother always seemed to be in the kitchen, not just cooking all of my favorites, but cooking a lot extra to freeze so I could bring a taste of home, “Mama’s taste,” as she called it, back to school to comfort me when needed. I didn’t think that I would be repeating her actions so soon– my kids are only 7 and 9. But today I found myself scurrying after school drop-off to the grocery and then to my own kitchen, where I felt a frenzied compulsion to make special snacks for my 9 year old, who is about to depart for a three day school trip to California’s Gold Country. She didn’t ask me to, and in fact has asserted that “I love you but am not going to miss you because I will be having so much fun exploring with my friends.” That’s what we want as parents, right, to raise our children to be independent, able to happily go on their own way to explore the world? Of course– just not yet.
Last weekend, my husband’s niece got married. She could not believe, and nor could I, that the first time I had met her, she was only 7, my younger daughter’s age, and the idea of marrying a boy was “yucky.” Now she is grown up and independent, a beautiful bride, and successful at her job on Wall Street. Was this really the same mini-Goth girl who brooded over RL Stine’s Goosebumps books when we first met?
I’m not ready to even contemplate my kids leaving the nest– hopefully that is a very, very long time coming– but I am reluctantly ready to let my older one, my first baby, go on her own adventure for just a few days. She’ll be panning for gold, and that might be a good thing for the whole family. Here’s what I made for her to carry along, just in case she misses home: a granola recipe I originally made in honor of my own mother, and her kitchen. Have fun, baby. Come home soon.
Growing Up Too Fast, Going Away, Gold Rush Granola
Makes 8 cups
Vegetable cooking spray
4 cups old-fashioned (rolled) oats
1 cup sliced, untoasted almonds
1 cup coarsely chopped dried fruit of your choice– I used dried white nectarines, cranberries and pineapple
1/2 cup sweetened flaked coconut
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
Pinch of salt
1/3 cup vegetable oil
1/4 cup honey
1/2 cup light brown sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
Optional: 1/2 cup (or more) dark chocolate chips or coarsely chopped dark chocolate
1. Preheat oven to 325 degrees.
2. Lightly coat a rimmed baking sheet with cooking spray.
3. Combine almonds and dried fruit in a bowl and set aside.
4. In another bowl, stir together oats, coconut, cinnamon, and salt and set aside.
5. In a small saucepan, combine oil, honey, and sugar. Bring to a boil and remove from heat. Stir in vanilla.
6. Drizzle this syrup over the oat mixture and toss with a wooden spoon.
7. Pour the coated oats onto the prepared sheet pan and spread evenly. Bake, stirring every 10 minutes so it bakes evenly, until golden (about 25 minutes). Add the nut and fruit mixture in the last 5 minutes of baking. (Adding this earlier carries the risk of burning.)
8. Let granola cool completely on baking sheet.
9. Once cooled, add chocolate chips/chunks if desired.
10. Excellent eaten by the handful on hikes or creekside while panning for gold. Great also with milk. Store in an airtight container.