Happy New Year! Predictably, I've started out with a lot of health resolutions. Even I am not divulgent enough to display my little chart here, but some are easy, some are harder. And by "health," I mean it all--body, mind, spirit. Go overboard with fruits and veggies, send mail, get outside, sit up straight, meditate and read poetry more often. I've learned the hard way that it's not about conquering all those resolutions. It's about putting them out there.
I've read a lot of poetry this week, remembering how its economy of words gives me something to hold onto when the day's anxieties hit. Coleman Barks, the preeminent translator of Rumi, relates this story:
Meditation, or any solitary practice (a walk before dawn, a poem every morning, sitting the roof at sunset), gives depth and expands the soul's action.
A man in prison is sent a prayer rug by his friend. What he had wanted, of course, was a file or a crowbar or a key! But he began using the rug, doing five-times prayer before dawn, at noon, mid-afternoon, after sunset, and before sleep. Bowing, sitting up, bowing again, he notices an odd pattern in the weave of the rug, just at the quibla, the point where his head touches. He studies and meditates on that pattern, gradually discovering that it is a diagram of the lock that confines him in his cell and how it works. He's able to escape. Anything you do every day can open into the deepest spiritual place, which is freedom.
I just love that--anything we do every day can open into the deepest spiritual place. And you know me--I put cooking into this category. Increasingly, cooking is something it's possible to get away from. You can do "food preparation" instead, removing things from boxes and warming them up. You can buy all your carrots already cut up or eat most of your meals out. But when we do that, I think we're missing out, not just on the health benefits, but on the meditative ritual cooking can be.
I paid $4.00 yesterday for a bunch of rainbow carrots grown in this county. Splitting the red one down the middle, I saw two more layers inside--orange, then yellow. A whole riot of color! Standing there with my knife on New Year's Eve, arranging those beautiful carrots on a platter, was another chance to be mindful, to think of the farmers that tended those carrots, to be grateful for this region we live in, and to enjoy the small movements of running the carrots under the sink, twisting off the tops. Of course I don't always slip into this state while cutting vegetables! But these moments aren't as accessible to me when I'm not in the kitchen. It's one of the places I feel most free.
And my kitchen always has a jar of granola in it. The kind I'm into lately is made with brown rice syrup, which makes it unbelievably clustered and shiny. Almost shellacked. This is the olive oil granola recipe I've been into for the last 18 months, just a bit different. Another health goal of mine is "Automate my breakfast." A jar of this makes that easy to do.
Hazelnut Sesame Granola Clusters
You can find brown rice syrup at good grocery stores, at a natural foods store, or even bulk at some places. This is the same olive oil granola recipe I've been wild about for the last 18 months, courtesy of Melissa Clark. As you're cooking this, it might look like you've done something wrong. The syrup will be bubbling up around the oats and it will look much more viscous than your regular granola might. Don't worry! Stir it every ten minutes, and let it cool all the way when it comes out of the oven. It will dry up nicely.
3 c. old fashioned oats
1 c. slivered almonds
1.5 c. hazelnuts
3/4 c. raw sunflower seeds
1/4 c. sesame seeds
1 tsp. kosher salt
1/2 tsp. ground ginger
1/2 tsp. cinnamon
1/3 c. brown sugar
1/2 c. extra virgin olive oil
3/4 c. brown rice syrup
1 c. whole dried cranberries
Preheat oven to 300 and line a baking sheet with parchment paper. (I wouldn't recommend doing it without parchment paper, a silpat, or something that will make your sheet non-stick, as the syrup acts like glue!)
Combine first 9 ingredients in a large bowl, then add olive oil and brown rice syrup, mixing until everything is coated.
Spread mixture out evenly on baking sheet and bake for 35-45 minutes, stirring every ten minutes and removing when mixture is an even golden brown. Granola will be wet when you remove it from the oven, and will stick together quite a bit as it cools. Once it's totally cool, break it up into chunks. You can, of course, break it up so it's quite loose. Whatever is to your liking. Add cranberries and store in an airtight container.