Comfort and Joy

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Today both of my daughters were home sick from school. I cancelled my work for the day, slowed down, focused on comforting, and tried to dodge the bug that zoomed around the second grade as much as possible. One of my girls was sicker and needed to rest and the other was a bit activated; she was not well enough to go to school, but still with a fair amount of energy. So, she and I started the holiday granola gift production (after adequate hand-washing, of course). Her sister even joined in the fun eventually, sitting on the floor and shelling pistachios. The house soon smelled like cinnamon, maple, nutmeg, and orange zest. My girls were so delightfully invested in their shelling and measuring. The look on my daughter’s face when she used her hands to mix the warm sunflower oil and maple syrup with the oat and rye flakes was just delightful. “It’s soooo warm… This feels awesome.”

I thought about what a sensory experience it was to create food together like that. I thought about how blessed I was to have this break in my work schedule so that we could have moments together that reinforce the work that I do. Creating positive food memories and traditions like this one – and allowing the food to truly feed our senses (before we even take a bite of it) – makes me feel like I am actually practicing what I preach. I’ll admit to eating mindlessly sometimes, lunching while I check my email so that I barely taste my food. But today, in the kitchen with my sweet helpers, I experienced food the way I want to experience food, with all of my senses and with a sense of creativity and giving.

I have a feeling that this tradition will continue for years to come, and I plan to make time for it so that it can happen without needing a major illness to slow us down. My now-seven-year-old daughters may not want to help me in the kitchen with such gusto in the future, but I hope that the familiar smell of cinnamon, maple, nutmeg, and orange zest will bring a warm, sensory reminder that winter is here.

Here is the recipe, adapted from Shannon’s Kitchen, the blog of Farmers to You, a Vermont-based company that brings food from local farms to the greater Boston area. Just promise me that you will allow yourself to use your hands to mix the warm cinnamon-oil-maple-syrup mixture with the oats. My daughter was right; it really does feel awesome.

May all of your senses be fed this holiday season…

Recipe for Holiday Granola

4 cups rye flakes

3 cups rolled oats

1 cup unsweetened shredded coconut

1/3 cup sunflower oil

1/3 cup maple syrup

zest of one large orange

2 teaspoons cinnamon

½ teaspoon ground nutmeg

1 cup raw almonds

½ cup walnuts

½ cup shelled pistachios

1 cup raw pumpkin seeds (pepitas)

½ cup pecans

½ cup sunflower seeds

1 cup dried cranberries

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

Wash the orange and zest the entire rind.

Put the sunflower oil and maple syrup on low heat. Add cinnamon, nutmeg, and orange zest.

When all the ingredients are well-combined, pour over the rye flakes, rolled oats, and shredded coconut. Stir well.

Put rye/oats mixture on 2 baking sheets and bake for 15-20 minutes. Open the oven, stir well and bake for another 15-20 minutes until golden brown. Time varies depending on your oven.

While the rye/oats are baking, roughly chop (or choose to leave whole) the nuts, seeds, and cranberries. Combine them all in a large bowl.

Once the oats/rye have cooled, combine with the rest of the ingredients and enjoy!

The green pistachios, green pepitas, and red cranberries look particularly festive for a holiday gift, but play with whatever ingredients you have at home. Ask yourself what yourfavorite granola would contain... Nourish yourself and the people you love. Serve over milk-of-choice or yogurt or just eat right out of the jar.