Spring has arrived! This afternoon it is warm enough to open the kitchen windows and enjoy the spring breeze. Butterflies flit by the window, some making a stop at the lilac blooming outside the meditation hall. There is sun everywhere and baby green leaves dancing in the wind. In the kitchen there is the scent of vanilla and toasting oats as the granola bakes in our big oven. It all feels so luxurious, and it is!
Granola is a staple at the Monastery. If you come to the Monastery you will find it almost every morning on the breakfast table. During the winter this light crunchy treat is supplemented with oat groats and other warming grains. As the seasons change and mornings become warmer, we sometimes enjoy with just fresh fruit and yogurt. Today there is just the hint of those summer fruit and yogurt days.
12 cups rolled oats
1 cup oat bran
½ cup sunflower seeds
¾ cup chopped almonds (toasted)
½ cup sesame seeds
¼ cup brown sugar
½ cup molasses
1 Tbs. vanilla
½ cup water
½ cup flax seeds
¾ cup raisins
1. Preheat oven to 350°.
2. Measure out all of the dry ingredients and mix them together.
3. Measure the wet ingredients into a small pot and heat it over a low flame until the brown sugar dissolves (it does not need to boil for this to happen). Stir often with a wooden spoon to prevent burning.
4. When the sugar dissolves, pour the wet mixture into the dry and stir together. It is important that the mixing happens right away to ensure that the liquid is evenly absorbed, and it is also good to stir from the bottom of the bowl so that everything is incorporated. Stir until well-combined.
5. Spray two 9 x 13 “lasagna” pans or one large cookie sheet with nonstick spray. If using pans, divide the mixture between them.
6. Place the pans in the oven and allow the granola to bake for 15 minutes. At the end of that time, remove one of the pans from the oven and stir it using a metal spatula. The granola will tend to brown more quickly (and eventually burn) where it is touching the metal pan, so the trick is to run the spatula along all of the surfaces and stir the browning oats into the rest of the granola. Return this pan to the oven and repeat this procedure with the other one. Open the oven door seldom during this process so that the temperature will remain constant and the granola will cook more evenly.
7. Bake for 10 more minutes and then stir again as before.
8. Bake once more for 10 minutes. It’s good to check during this 10-minute period in case the granola has gotten done early. After 10 minutes, check to see if the granola has evenly turned a light brown color all the way through. If it appears that some oats have not completely cooked (they would be pale in color next to the brown), then stir once more and bake for five more minutes. The total cooking time will be 35 – 40 minutes.
9. Allow to cool for at least 15 minutes before adding the flax seeds and raisins. Pour the two pans of granola together into a bowl, sprinkle the flax seeds and raisins on top, and stir them in just enough to combine. The granola will stiffen and become brittle as it cools and will break up into little bits if it is stirred too much.