I love my day job. What’s not to love about hanging with a crowd of children every day, working to inspire them to love books, and love reading? I actually get paid to read The Gruffalo and Chester’s Way to hobbit-sized little people… something I would gladly do for free (shh, don’t tell my boss.) When I’m not poring over cookbooks, I read middle-grade and YA fiction for fun, so the older kids and I are forever comparing notes on our favorite titles. One 7th grader left me a copy of The Unwanteds on my desk one Friday afternoon, then e-mailed over the weekend to make sure I had found it/was reading it (I stayed up all night Sunday night to do so… it WAS wildly entertaining.)
(I do occasionally worry I’m falling way behind on reading the sort of thing normal adults read… it can be tricky to appear wise and relevant at a posh Washington cocktail party if you admit the last thing you read was Billy’s Booger – an utter gem, by the way.)
Last week's Spring Break was grand. After a week that alternated between sleeping in and padding about the kitchen in my jammies, roaming around D.C. with my college-age son (and partner in adventurous eating and cocktails), and wandering down to Florida for lots of long walks and bike rides with my parents, it was a bit of a shock to the system when the alarm went off at 5:30 a.m. Monday morning.
The only way to describe my mood on Monday morning? Grumpy. Ridiculously, irrationally grumpy. It eased a bit with my morning coffee, and brightened a bit more with each kid and colleague who wandered into the library. But the day was non-stop busy and filled with a nasty dose of paperwork, so the mood never did fully lift.
So… I headed home and straight to the kitchen. As I do.
First, I needed chocolate. I’ve found chocolate to be a magical elixir for easing grumpiness.
And I needed to make something nearly impossible to mess up. I wasn’t in the mood for anything with more than about two-and-a-half steps.
Translation: It was time to whip up a batch of granola.
The vision of this granola had been rattling around in my brain for a while… I imagined almonds, pepitas (pumpkin seeds), coconut, and sesame seeds dancing among the oats covered in a deeply chocolatey coating spiked with earthy Mexican cinnamon, cayenne pepper, and a bit of sea salt.
I briefly contemplated adding cacao nibs, but didn’t have any. I then considered chocolate chunks, but then decided didn’t need chocolate chips in my breakfast food. You may disagree, so please add them at will. I did add dried cherries, which I loved, but are strictly optional.
Yup, this one is a winner my friends. I’ve been feasting on this stuff by the fist-full ever since it came out of the oven. It’s not particularly elegant, I’ll admit. But it’s that good. Ridiculously, irrationally good. I did sprinkle it on plain greek yogurt, with a spoonful of cherry preserves for dessert (dreamy!). Then I went back to eating it by the fist-full.
And do you know what? The grumpiness is gone. Coincidence? I seriously doubt it.
Having a rough re-entry to post-Spring Break life in your corner of the world? Whip up a batch of this granola, my friends. It just might do the trick for you, too.
Chocolate Granola with Mexican Spices
- 3 cups rolled oats
- 1 ½ cups sliced raw almonds
- 1 ½ cups pepitas (pumpkin seeds)
- ¾ cup unsweetened coconut flakes
- ½ cup sesame seeds
- ½ cup cocoa powder
- 2 tablespoons cinnamon
- ½ teaspoon cayenne pepper
- ½ teaspoon sea salt
- ¼ cup melted butter
- ⅓ cup olive oil
- 1 tablespoon vanilla
- ¼ cup brown sugar
- ¼ cup real maple syrup
- sea salt for finishing.
- Optional... any combination of:
- ½ cup cacao nibs
- ½ cup chocolate chunks
- ½ cup dried cherries
- Preheat the oven to 300°F.
- Line a large rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper and set aside.
- Toss the oats, almonds, pepitas, coconut, and sesame seed in a large bowl and set aside.
- In a smaller bowl, whisk together the melted butter, olive oil, maple syrup, brown sugar, cocoa powder, cinnamon, cayenne pepper, and sea salt until well combined.
- Pour the chocolate syrup mixture over the oat and nut mixture, and mix until the entire batch is covered in chocolate.
- Spread it on the baking sheet and bake for about 50 minutes.