It’s that time again. This month’s Signed and Sealed is a good dose of health and lots and lots of texture and flavor. It’s lightly sweet, delightfully chewy, and perfect for breakfast or an afternoon snack. They’re kind of a happy mistake, but that seemed fitting, because all this goodness went directly to Boston for my friend Cecelia. Let me explain.
Cecelia and I met in the Spring of 2007 while we were studying in Florence, Italy. The program began in Siena, where we underwent an intensive language course for three weeks. I didn’t know a single person, and believe it or not am very shy when I first meet people. It might be easier if I could blog at them, but writing about someone you don’t know for Internet eyes is not a great way to make friends. It might not be a great way to keep friends either, but time will tell. (I’ve found it helps if you send food).
Anyway, I was lonely and a little guilty that I was lonely because, you know, I was in Italy, and was walking to class on a particularly wet, gray, and lonely morning. The center of Siena is the Piazza del Campo, a beautiful, sprawling shell-shaped piazza that is slightly sloped to the center for drainage. So, under-caffeinated and wearing uncomfortable shoes, per usual, 50 strangers future friends and I walked across the Piazza del Campos to our Italian classes.
Halfway down the slope, my uncomfortable shoes and I slipped.
I slipped like I was sliding into home plate. I slipped and kept slipping.
I’m a faller so tripping was not unusual for me, and really not that embarrassing. The embarrassing part was that people actually moved around me. A couple of girls asked, horrified, if I was OK, but most just didn’t want to be lumped in with the girl that slipped down the Piazza del Campo. I don’t blame them.
Then, somewhere close behind me, a stranger yelled, “SAFE!” Her roommate slugged her arm, because, you know, rude. But I could tell, this person was my people. With a sigh of relief, I got up and introduced myself. Someone gets me.
That stranger was Cecelia, and we’ve been wonderful friends ever since. I appreciate a person who laughs with you instead of laughing at you later, and in an instant Cecelia became the type of person I wanted to be around. We laughed all the way to class and really haven’t stopped since. We traipsed through the Florentine streets until we were forced to leave kicking and screaming, then we continued our traipsing when I moved to Boston.
It was a sad day when I moved to Pittsburgh but Celia is one of those friends for whom distance doesn’t matter. We start back right where we left off, always with that same carefree, easy going attitude that made her say “SAFE!” and me sigh with relief. She’s a good friend to have and I’m super happy that I do.
Cecelia isn’t big on sugar, so I knew her treat needed to be low in sugar and what little sugar was added needed to be natural. Granola bars were the obvious choice, but these granola bars weren’t so much as bars as they were crumbles, so instead I made granola bites (see what I did there?) because life should be easy. Cecelia lives that and so do I.
Let’s get started.
Start by chopping up some raw almonds and pecans.
Place those on a pan and put them into a 350 degree oven for about 5 minutes, or until they smell very toasty. Don’t forget about them! They quickly go from toasty to burnt.
Add some chopped dried cherries and golden raisins. Any dried fruit will work, but I loved the earthiness of the dried cherries and natural sweetness of the golden raisins. Plus regular raisins are gross. That’s right, I said it.
Take the nuts out of the oven and let them cool slightly, then add them to the bowl as well.
Now you need the sticky stuff. Melt some butter and add honey and brown sugar. Stir that until everything is combined and the sugar is dissolved.
Pour that over the oats mixture.
Stir it around until everything is fully coated and sticky. Next, line a 9×9 inch baking pan with parchment paper and pour the granola mixture right in.
Using the back of a spoon, gently push the granola into the pan, making sure that you push it all the way to the edges and corners.
Place in a 300 degree oven for 30-35 minutes. Remove pan from the oven and let it cool for an additional 30 minutes. Don’t skip this step! This is what should have made them into bars, but instead made them into clusters. If you take it out of the pan right away, you’ll just have granola. It’s a fine line, people.
After it has cooled, lift the parchment out of the baking pan and let it cool completely on a wire rack.
After it is completely cool, you can cut it into your desired shape. I initially cut mine into bite size bars, but they crumbled, hence the granola bites. Serve with yogurt, sweetened cottage cheese, or by the handful for an afternoon pick me up.
The biggest difference between this and regular granola, except for the fact that I’m insisting that it isn’t, is that this is much chewier. The chewy dried fruit contrasts nicely with the crunchy toasted nuts, and the oats are a mixture of chewy and crunchy.
I ate mine for breakfast with protein-packed cottage cheese and a packet of splenda, but only because I was out of yogurt. Yogurt is really the way to go here.
After sneaking a couple of bites and a breakfast, I packaged them up in a parchment paper-lined bakers box and decorated the top.
Into the mail they went, without a card because I’m the type of person that will go the extra mile to send you something homemade with love, then forget to tell you hello and why I’m sending it. Cecelia wasn’t surprised because she knows me, and was happy to get a text explaining why she received a box of granola in the mail.
I’m really glad I slipped that day, and really glad that Cecelia didn’t keep walking. We’ve had a lot of fun since, and there’s much more to come.
Here’s the recipe!
Nutty Fruity Granola Bites
- 2 tablespoons butter
- 1/4 cup honey
- 1/4 cup brown sugar
- 2 cups rolled oats (I used organic rolled oats from my bulk section)
- 1/2 cup raw almonds, chopped
- 1/2 cup raw pecans, chopped
- 1/2 cup dried cherries, chopped
- 1/2 cup golden raisins
- Pinch salt, optional
- Line a 9×9 inch baking dish with parchment paper and set aside.
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Place nuts on a cookie sheet and toast for 5 minutes, or until very fragrant. Watch these closely. Remove nuts from the oven and let cool. Turn oven heat down to 300.
- In a medium sauce pan, melt butter, honey, and brown sugar over medium heat until well combined.
- Meanwhile, in a large bowl combined rolled oats, cooled toasted nuts, and dried fruit. Add melted butter and brown sugar mixture and stir together until well coated. Pour the granola mixture into the parchment paper-lined baking dish and squish it with the back of the spoon until it is in an even layer and reaches the edges of the pan. Put it into the oven for 30-35 minutes, then remove from the oven and let it cool in the pan for at least 30 minutes. After it has cooled for 30 minutes, lift it out of the pan by pulling the parchment paper, then let the granola cool completely on a wire rack.
- Cut the granola into desired sizes, but it will probably crumble, so embrace the imperfection.