Wednesday, April 28, 2010
Memories of March Break + Really Special Bird Food
It's only Wednesday and I'm already aching for the weekend (ok yeah, so now it's Thursday but it was Wednesday when I started this post and it's not my fault that I was nodding off in front of the computer and was sent to bed before finishing). So much has happened this week that I feel like it's already Friday. Boo. I hate these weeks, but the truth of the matter is, there's nothing I can do but go with the flow and wait for the 3:34 bell on Friday afternoon.
To make my go by quicker, I've taken to consuming my free-time thoughts (which aren't too numerous during the school day!) with pleasant memories. Today as I was walking to work, I passed by a small park and noticed an elderly man scattering bread crumbs on the ground. He was literally surrounded by pigeons, starlings and little sparrows. As I watched the birds having breakfast with a kind and gentle friend of theirs, I remembered my recent close encounter with birds during the rainy first weekend of March break.
We were in Kingston, and had just hiked from the city limit bus stop, (crossing a private farm..yeah .. don't ask) to a conservation area. Although it was a little drizzly and grey, the experience was wonderful. We followed a trail to a maple sugar shack (which was closed .. but we managed to sneak in and get a private and up-close introduction to the boiling sap.. the smell was incredible..) and along the way, took a detour along a trail called "Chickadee Lane." Turns out, that during the busy season, you can take hikes along this path and your tour guides hand you nuts that you can feed the chickadees with. Well, we didn't need tour guides or nuts for that matter, to have a wonderful experience feeding chickadees (which landed right on our hands!). What did we feed them with? What attracted those normally shy little creatures to land right on our hands and have a nibble?
Granola. But not just any granola. It was granola that was actually supposed to be granola bars, but ended up being crumbled up into chunks because I didn't want to add as much sweeteners as the original recipe called for. I noticed the original recipe at Seven Spoons, and thought it would be a nice snack to fuel us during our adventures in Kingston. I cut back on the sugar, as I usually do, but this time, got drastic results. They smelled wonderful, looked beautiful in the pan, but because there was only half the brown sugar and honey in it, the mixture crumbled when I tried to cut it into bars. I was disappointed until I tasted it. Crunchy, wholesome, tangy from the dried cranberries and apples, and just the perfect sweetness level. I guess I'm not cut out to make granola bars, but this little "mistake" worked out quite well for us, as well as our chickadee friends. They ate up our granola bits and came up close for a taste. It was a snack that we shared with the birds, so it couldn't be a mistake, right?
As I'm writing this post, I'm longing to be on a bus back to Kingston and the conservation area with those adorable chickadees. But alas, responsibilities always overrule desires, so I think I'll just go make another batch of granola.. and you should too! It'll definitely make your long week go by quicker!
** On a really random note, here's a picture of the maple syrup I used for the granola. It had to be about 20 years old from the first time my family travelled to Quebec. And check out the top of the can! It's got a recipe for biscuits simmered in maple syrup! So neat! Brings back so many
Apple Cranberry Granola Chunks
(adapted from Seven Spoons)
2 cups of oats
1 tablespoon of ground flax
1/4 cup of raw pumpkin seeds
1/2 cup of slivered almonds
1/4 cup of unsweetened coconut
3 tablespoons of honey (I used wildflower honey)
1/4 cup of maple syrup
1 tablespoon of brown sugar
2 tablespoons of canola oil
a pinch of salt
1 teaspoon of vanilla extract
1/4 cup of dried apples, diced up
1/3 cup of dried cranberries
1/4 cup of chopped walnuts
1. Toss the oats, flax, pumpkin seeds, almonds and coconut together and spread out over a sheet pan. Bake in a 350 degree oven, tossing occasionally until golden brown and fragrant (about 15 minutes)
2. Meanwhile, gently heat up the sugar, honey, maple syrup, oil, salt and vanilla extract.
3. When the oat mixture is nice and toasty brown, pour it out into a large bowl and add the dried apples, cranberries and walnuts. Add in the warm sugar mixture and give it a good stir so that everything is incorporated. Oh! And lower your oven to 300.
4. Spread the mixture out on a baking sheet and bake in a 300 degree oven for about 25 minutes or until things start to smell yummy and toasty and maple-y.
5. Eat straight up as an energy booster, or on top of yogurt for a morning treat.