This has been the first real autumn I have experienced in seven years and the first ever for my children. In southern California, autumn became a time that I dreaded. The fall, accompanied by oppressive heat waves, struck fear in me at the mere mention of the season. Fall in California meant shuttering all the windows and still arriving home to a thermostat reading in the high 90s or 100. Fall meant sleeping restlessly without any covers. Fall still involved a lot of sunscreen and staying under the shelter of trees that did not lose their leaves. Fall most definitely did not involve any desire to get into the kitchen and bake – the added extra heat of the oven would have been more than overwhelming.
This fall has been different. I have returned to the Pacific Northwest and my kids have been eating up autumn. We are lucky to be living in a place where we can experience the season in all its fullness. The house that we just moved out of across town had two mature Big Leaf Maple trees…it is hard to imagine the number and size of leaves such trees drop! Perfect for months of massive mounds of raked leaves. Young imaginations transform piles of dried leaves into scenario after scenario of play.
A fall storm knocked over a tree down the road, and therefore knocked out our electricity for 50 hours. We spent much of the weekend huddled by the fire place for heat and moving around our dark candlelit house with flashlights. The same winds also brought down a large tree limb, which once found on the ground was transformed into the basis of my son’s first outdoor fort.
The kids enjoyed an afternoon of leaf rubbings.
We have feasted on many delicious dinners of wild mushrooms that we harvest in the forest down the street from our new home. I have thoroughly enjoyed piling on my hand-knit wool sweaters again and the kids are delighted with their rain boots that are actually a necessity here.
And of course there have been the large sacs of wild apples my husband and son harvested from abandoned orchards. I have no clue how many hours I spent processing these apples! I know they were many! The freezer is filled with sliced apples ready for pies, crumbles and muffins. I also pulled out the dehydrator and dried tray after tray after tray – hopefully we have enough apple chips to make it through the entire winter.
My favourite use for the dried apples is in granola. I have a dear friend who inspires me immensely. She and her family are also in a new home this fall, further north and east than us. Ironically, she probably feels that they are finally having a real autumn after years spent on the coast! She once mentioned that she makes her own granola and that was the spark that set me on my way to baking granola for my family, too. Home made granola has become a staple in our household, eaten almost daily and always on the cupboard shelf. My lovely friend also provided me with the instructions for the homemade yogurt which tastes especially yummy with our granola. (So easy to make, I will share that on another day).
Here is my recipe for this autumn’s Wild Apple and Maple Granola:
- 5 cups rolled oats
- 1/2 cup raw almonds, chopped
- 1/2 cup raw cashews, chopped
- 1/2 cup raw walnuts, chopped
- 1/2 cup raw sunflower seeds
- 1/2 cup unsweetened flaked coconut
- 1 cup dried apples, chopped
- 1/2 cup raisins
- 3/4 cups maple syrup
- 1/4 cup vegetable oil
- 1/2 cup water
Preheat oven to 275 F. Mix all dry ingredients together except for raisins. Place into glass bakeware dishes (uncovered). Mix wet ingredients together and pour over dry ingredients. Stir well. Bake for 45 minutes. Remove from oven, add raisins and stir. Bake for another 45 minutes, remove from oven and stir again. Let cool. (I store my granola in a sealed jar. I add a couple saved packages of dessicant/silica to the container to keep the granola dry and crisp).
Enjoy both your autumn and your home baked granola, whatever the weather you are having!