My entire family is in South Africa this week visiting my son-in-law’s family and touring the countryside. I decided to stay closer to home, as I am working on a few culinary projects.
Each year during freeze up, we decide either to travel or stay at Winterlake Lodge. The choice is usually to be away from our lodge during the multi-week process of weather transition from fall to winter. The ice on our lake has to freeze solid and become thick enough to hold the weight of an airplane before we can travel in and out. Soon, we’ll all pack up and fly back to the lodge for the winter season.
Winter is a favorite time of year for us at the lodge. The tempo is peaceful and quiet — except when we are feeding or harnessing the sled dogs. In the morning, Carl and J, our winter caretaker, wake up early to stoke fires and start the coffee. They usually sit around the woodstove in darkness, reading books by headlamp and sipping their coffee. A little later on, one of them will turn on the generator so we can have lights and running water. That’s when I get up and the morning kitchen gets going.
This comforting and simple morning routine, repeated day after day throughout the winter, balances our frenetic pace of summer. We linger over meals, talking about anything and everything. We shut out the world, essentially, letting only what we want in.
Breakfast at the lodge is a hearty affair. The crew needs fuel to tackle their day and embrace the snow. The work at the lodge is predominantly shoveling snow, cutting firewood, and running the sled dogs during the winter. Staying warm is constantly on the to-do list.
I am preparing batches of granola to take out to the lodge with us. It’s kind of like our summer trail mix — always great to have on hand. It’s easy enough to buy store-bought granola, but why should you? It’s not difficult to make, endlessly customizable, and there is just something wintery and charming about having your own granola sitting on the shelf waiting for those long, lingering breakfasts.
I use rolled oats primarily as a base for my recipe but since we always have steel-cut oats (oats that haven’t been smashed flat by a roller) on hand, I mix the two together. We make a couple of varieties of granola but a favorite of mine is a mixture of macadamia nuts, dried blueberries, and dried mangoes.
Most recipes call for a little bit of oil and some sweetener. How much sweetener you put into your granola determines if it is sticky and crisp or more dried and toasted. I opt for the dryer side. We sometimes use only honey, or sometimes a combination of brown sugar and honey or maple syrup. I advise you to use honey only from Alaska (or a known source) so you know it isn’t imported from China. I sometimes add in a little liquid, like lemon juice or unsweetened blueberry concentrate (I buy this in the health food section of the grocery. It’s handy for sauces and other uses).
I add in any fresh fruit or delicate dehydrated fruit after the granola is baked (so these bits don’t burn).
The following are some suggested variations on the recipe:
- Nuts: slivered almonds, whole almonds, pecans, macadamia nuts, walnuts, or cashews.
- Dried fruits: cranberries, blueberries, cherries, unsweetened coconut, figs, or apricots.
- Seeds: flaxseed, sunflower seeds, and pumpkin seeds.
- Sweeteners: honey, maple syrup, rice syrup, birch syrup, or brown sugar.
- Flavoring: lemon juice, blueberry juice concentrate, apple juice, cranberry juice concentrate, cinnamon, ground ginger, orange zest, ground cardamom, or nutmeg.
- 6 cups rolled oats
- ½ cup steel-cut oats
- 2 cups nuts and seeds of your choice
- 2 cups dried fruit of your choice
- ¼ cup canola oil
- ¼ cup packed brown sugar
- ¼ cup Alaska honey
- ¼ cup blueberry juice concentrate (optional)
- Preheat the oven to 300 degrees. Grease 2 baking sheets.
- Combine all the ingredients together, mixing them well with your hands.
- Spread the granola onto the baking sheets. Bake for about 30 – 40 minutes, watching closely towards the end so the edges don’t burn. I like to turn the granola once or twice while baking.
- Remove from the oven and cool completely. Store the granola in glass jars or sealable plastic bags to stay fresh.