Friday, December 28, 2012

granola in jars

I decided to give my friends homemade granola in jars this year for Christmas.  The idea was planted at the end of last school year, when a gift was dropped off at the front desk for me to deliver to someone else.  The gift was a mason jar full of granola, with a piece of fabric screwed under the lid.

During my many trips to Goodwill and Value Village since, I've picked up various sizes of mason jars as I came across them.  The fabric scraps were graciously given to me by my sister Holly, who made a holiday pennant garland out of the fabric.  The tags are from Avery, and I found them at Bartells.

For the granola, I modified this recipe, which I found originally on my friend Lauren's blog.  If you like granola at all, I highly recommend making your own--it's super easy (this was my first time), can be modified to suit your tastes (cranberries vs/ cherries, for example), and tastes amazing hot out of the oven (although you might burn your fingers).  The only challenging part was stirring every 10 minutes or so while baking to make sure it didn't stick to the pan--I had to be careful not to push it over the sides.

Maple Cranberry Pecan Granola

3 c. rolled old-fashioned oats
1 c. raw pecans, broken in half
3/4 c. chopped walnuts
1/2 c. pumpkin seeds, raw not roasted
1/2 c. unsweetened coconut (found this brand at Whole Foods)
1/4 c. sesame seeds
1/4 c. flax seeds
1 tsp. kosher salt
1 tsp. cinnamon
1/2 tsp. cardamom
1/2 tsp. vanilla
1/2 c. olive oil
3/4 c. real maple syrup
3/4 c. dried cranberries

Preheat oven to 300 F.  Mix oats through seeds in a big bowl.  Mix salt and spices in a small bowl, then add to big bowl.  Add vanilla, olive oil, and syrup, and stir well to coat all the dry ingredients.

Spread onto a rimmed cookie sheet in an even layer.  Mine is non-stick, but you could use parchment paper or Silpats if you need to.  Bake for 45-50 minutes, stirring every 10-15 minutes so granola doesn't stick.  It will be done when golden brown and well toasted.

Remove from oven and stir in the dried cranberries; let cool completely.  Store in a sealed container.

Makes 8-9 cups.

Monday, December 24, 2012

sharing the love

For the second year in a row, my landlord has graciously given all the tenants in my building $100 off rent for the month of December.  His note said "I'm sure everyone could use a little extra money at this time of year."

{panel from a mural the kids at my school created}

I was trying to figure out if I should do something special with the money when I read three different stories in the newspaper over the course of a week that made me so happy.  So I decided to donate $25 to each of the organizations in the respective stories, and the last $25 to the Fund for the Needy, which the Seattle Times sponsors every year (more on that below).

{another panel from the mural}

Story #1
A program was started in the Monroe Correctional Complex (a prison in Monroe, which is north of Seattle) for the inmates to repair bikes to donate to kids who need them.  This is such an amazing program--not only do the inmates learn skills and get responsibility, but the bikes get repaired and stay out of the landfill, and also children who can't afford bikes get to have one.

{photo from Seattle Times}

Story #2
Two veterans from Washington walked from Kennewick (way over in south central WA, close to the Oregon border) to Seattle to raise money for a foundation they started.  It's called Shadow 6 Foundation and its goal is to build a sanctuary for returning soldiers in Ellensburg, in eastern WA, with a farm and housing and counseling services.  What a wonderful idea!
{photo from Seattle Times}

Story #3
The Soup Ladies started making hot meals for emergency response workers in Washington.  They get a call and head out to feed the exhausted, hungry firefighters, police men, medics, and search and rescue folks.  Recently the Soup Ladies headed east to make hot meals for those helping with Hurricane Sandy.  I love their motto: "Warming the world, one bowl at a time."
{photo from Seattle Times}

The Fund for the Needy
Every year since 1979, the Seattle Times sponsors the Fund for the Needy.  They cover administrative costs of the fund so that all the donations can go to the 12 local organizations they've selected.  Over the last couple weeks they've been profiling each one in the newspaper.  I've enjoyed reading about homeless children getting educational and behavioral support at Wellspring, a 9-year-old and 25-year-old teaming up through Big Brothers Big Sisters of Puget Sound, and Youth Eastside Services helping a teenager from Lake Washington High School (my alma mater and where my mom works).  That last one might make you tear up.

{lovely writing on the window of a hat shop in Vancouver, BC}

Merry Christmas all!  One of my favorite columnists in the paper wrote this essay on the mystery of Christmas.  How crazy is it that God would send his son into the world as a baby, and not just any baby but one born in a stable to a young, poor couple far from home!  Baby Jesus grew up to hang out with and support the marginalized people of the world (as Pastor Tom would say, the least, the last, and the lost), and calls us to do the same today.  It is in that spirit that I made my four donations.  May that spirit fill you too!