Let me tell you about the county fair and some cows. When I was in college I came across an adorable picture of some cows ‘kissing’. I was smitten and bought it right away. Then I went to the Oswego County fair and got to PET a baby cow (yes, I know they’re called calves, but baby cow seems to have a cuter ring). It was official. I loved cows. So much so that when I moved to Indiana for grad school, my mom took it upon herself to outfit my kitchen with a cow theme.
Now, the Oswego County fair was great for my cow fix once a year. But in the summer of 2008, it became obvious to me that I wasn’t going to get to go home for it. Lucky for me, I lived in the midwest, where 4-H and farming flourish. Enter the Monroe County fair. Unfortunately, I didn’t have a car to get there. Fortunately, I had a young gentleman that, despite having to get up in what he called the pre-morning (at that time anything before 10am was considered the pre-morning), was eager to take me to see some cows. We planned it out and he picked me up around noon. We set out to the fair and the cows, only getting sort of lost on the way.
The fair was actually getting ready to close, but there were still cows. And we walked around and saw them. He grabbed some messy ice cream. I passed. I know me and ice cream when it’s a hundred bajillion degrees outside, and I had no desire to be hot AND sticky on a somewhat-potential-might-be date. We found air conditioning in the building with the stage, and consequently some cloggers putting on a show. We sat (a little close) and he was very brave and patient. Girl + dancers = out of his comfort zone. We walked past the cows one last time and headed home.
We weren’t really ready for conversation to end, so he came back to my place. I didn’t have much to feed him (hadn’t gone grocery shopping yet), but I did have a massive amount of granola that he happily munched on. We watched a Batman movie (not a clue which one – clearly I’m not a movie person) on separate couches, and a little before dinner time he politely excused himself to head home. He didn’t want to be presumptuous and make me think he wanted me to cook for him.
And then I think I called my BFF, slightly baffled. Was that a date? Or were we just hanging out? Sure, there were cows, but doesn’t that, if anything, indicate that it was not a date? Well, as it turns out, it was a date. And every year we go to the county fair together. To see the cows. And to think about how, 3 years ago, a somewhat-potential-might-be date quickly blossomed into a best-day-of-our-lives wedding and a couldn’t-imagine-life-without-each-other daily existence.
And for some reason, around this time, I always get a hankering to make some granola. I must have the intuition that I have a young gentleman that’s probably too polite to assume I’ll feed him, but that I feel the need to make sure he’s not starving. And as quickly as it disappears every year when I make it, I can assure you that intuition is not wrong.
This recipe was given to me by my dear friend Lynda in Massachusetts. In addition to making me think of mine and Chris’ first date, I always think of her, Rich and the many long lasting friendships I gained while in college. Who knew granola could be so sappy?
Note: This makes a ton, but if you won’t eat it quickly it will freeze well. You can add the dried fruit whenever you want, but I’ve found it keeps a little better if you add it as you eat it.
- 2/3 cup honey
- 2/3 cup oil
- 1 t vanilla
- 1/2 cup brown sugar
- 1 cup sunflower seeds
- 1/4 c sesame seeds
- 1/2 cup wheat germ
- 1/2 cup oat bran
- 6 cups oats
- Other add ins such as pumpkin seeds, dried cranberries, raisins, dates, almonds, pecans, walnuts, or whatever else strikes your fancy [this round we added pumpkin seeds and some unsweetened coconut we had lying around]
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
- Mix together honey, oil, vanilla, and brown sugar in a microwave safe dish. Microwave for 2 minutes.
- Mix sunflower seeds, sesame seeds, wheat germs, oat bran, oats and any other additional dry ingredients in a VERY large bowl.
- Pour the warmed wet ingredients over the dry and mix to combine.
- Pour the mixture onto two or three large sheet pans. If you’re using half sheet pans, you’ll just need two. If regular sized cookie sheets then you’ll want three.
- Bake each pan (sometimes it’s easier to do it in two rounds) for about 15 minutes, stirring with a spatula every 5 minutes. If your oven is hot, it’ll take just 15 minutes. If it’s cooler it’ll take closer to 20. You’re looking for it to still seem a bit sticky and toasted a light brown. It’ll firm up and get crackly as it sits.
- Before it cools too much, use the spatula to release the granola from the pan. If you leave it until it cools completely you’ll have to chisel it off and end up with granola shards all over your kitchen. Believe me. My broom and I know.
- Store in an airtight container.