I wasn't particularly planning on writing to you, you were just rolling along being yourself, I'd just written to your sister and I didn't want to bore everyone. But then you hurt your claw (that was partly my fault for not trimming the damn thing. For that, I'm sorry. Promise.) and I changed my mind, but that's not the only reason why. I've been thinking about you since we put up the Christmas tree .
You came, little tail wagging. Sticking that velvety muzzle into all the boxes, sneezing in the glitter and pine needles. You look at life through fresh eyes, don't you? You're not like your sister, not like Prune who is the cynic, she knows what she wants. You're like that little amber bauble in the box of decorations. There are lots of similar ones, many are bigger, maybe more shiny, maybe a perfect sphere. You'd be slightly dusty, maybe chipped, slightly forgotten. But then I'd pull you out and dust you off and you shine. There's no face that I want to grab and cuddle more than yours. It may not be an elegant face, your paws may be too big for your body, you may bark too much but the real problem is that you have too much to give. You expect nothing from anyone, you're surprised when we talk to you, when we call Suzi over just for a cuddle. You want to give it all to us- joy, love, whatever, expecting nothing in return.
In some ways I think I see myself in you, Prune too, but sometimes with you it's so obvious I have to laugh. There was that day we went to the vet's, we'd lined up on the ramp, the receptionist came to open up. And there's Prune, all tail wags, friendly licks, instantly loved, lots of hugs, a roomful of new friends. And you? You stand in the background, alone, and you even bark. It takes a long time for people to realise how sweet you are - I'm nowhere near as sweet as you, but I'd be the one waiting at the back (I don't bark yet, but people don't ever take to me straight away, so I might as well). It takes you a long time to trust people, you'll do with your own company, but when you do start to trust, you'd do anything for them, you show them in your own suzi-like ways. You have so much love to give. The way you always bark at strange men, the way you climb onto my bed sometimes, how you curl your whole body around our legs and sleep like a little bean.
And before this season of giving, you've taught me so much about true generosity, patience. How do you manage, even if you're worried and scared, even though you've been hurt, to make us all smile and love us so much? I've learnt to give you time to warm to us, time to calm down when you're nervous, and it's been worth it, for the tic tac of your paws running to meet me when I'm up in the morning, for your snuggles and how you rest your whole face on my lap. So to you, the little forgotten bauble, just know for me you're the shiniest of the bunch. You can be the angel on the highest branch. Thank you, suzi, for teaching me that in our own way, we all know how to give. And thanks for giving me something every day, all year. You could teach Santa a thing or two.
I think I mentioned giving in my last post? To me the nicest things to gift are homemade, and I this granola would fit the role perfectly. It's pretty adaptable and looks cute + rustic in a glass jar with a little pine sprig, and granola keeps forever too - so make the whole batch and gift some. In case you were wondering what this had to do with Suzi, the answer is not much, but she simply doesn't ask for anything or expect anything - and that's just so rare. I expect and ask for my Christmas granola to be really tasty, warmly spiced and distinctly festive, and this recipe ticks all those boxes. The orange juice & zest in the syrup with a hint of molasses and ginger puts a Christmas candle in your breakfast (or snack)(I've never eaten a candle before though) + cranberries & oranges are made for each other. At other times of year, I switch the molasses for honey and tone down the ginger, which makes for a really bright and refreshing taste, so this recipe is a keeper for the whole year. In the notes under the recipe I give some switches for making the granola gluten-free and pantry friendly, so I really hope you try this one out. Try to make some time in the craziness for homemade gifts and cherishing the less-shiny baubles, whatever form they come in. The cheer is upon us. Happy holidays xo
ORANGE & CRANBERRY (HOLIDAY) GRANOLA
//gluten free option + vegan // makes about 8 cups/ 2l
1 1/3 cup (320ml) unsweetened orange juice, freshly squeezed or pure fresh bottled juice
1 tablespoon (15ml) unsulphured molasses*
1 tablespoon + 1 teaspoon (40ml) extra virgin coconut oil (room temperature)
1 tablespoon pure vanilla extract
1 teaspoon cinnamon
2 teaspoons ground ginger
1 teaspoon ground nutmeg
finely grated zest of one orange, optional
2 cups (200g) rolled oats
2 cups (200g) rolled rye/rye flakes**
2/3 cup (94g) pumpkin seeds
2/3cup (86g) sunflower seeds
1/2 cup (50g) walnuts, coarsely chopped
1/2 cup (75g) almonds, coarsely chopped
2 tablespoons (20g) flax seeds
2/3 cup (100g) unsweetened dried cranberries
preheat the oven to 180’C or 350’F. line a large, rimmed baking tray with parchment paper.
start by making the ‘syrup’. in a medium saucepan over high heat, add the orange juice and molasses. you’re essentially making a reduction, so let the mix boil, uncovered, till reduced by about half: you want about 2/3 cup (160ml) liquid. after about 10 minutes of scarily rapid boiling, steam etc, carefully (this is real hot stuff) pour into a measure and check. if there’s too much liquid, boil longer and check, if there is too little, don’t panic. you can top it up with extra juice.
while the liquid is still hot, pour it back into the pan, stir in the coconut oil till it melts through; add the spices and vanilla and set aside to cool/infuse.
while the oj mix is cooling, find a very large bowl. add all the dry ingredients to the bowl and stir them to combine (I use my hands, less messy)
retrieve the cooled wet mix. drizzle it over the oat-nut mix and stir well, so the grains are just moistened without being wet. toss it well so that the bottom of the bowl doesn’t stay dry.
dump the bowl out onto the prepared baking tray – there will be a lot, use a wooden spoon/spatula to spread it evenly over the tray. put the tray in the oven for 10 minutes.
after 10 minutes, open the oven and stir the granola around on the tray, bringing the granola from the edges into the middle and the middle towards the edges – this is important or the edges will burn/brown much faster. rotate the tray.
bake for around 40 minutes, stirring/moving edges and rotating every 10-15 minutes. This granola is best with the grains nice and separate, not the clumpy kind; the frequent stirring ensures this.
40 minutes leaves the grains and nuts deeply toasted, which I love, but if this is not your thing, you can check on it after about 35 minutes.
Allow the granola to cool in the pan, then toss through the cranberries. Once fully cooled, use the parchment paper as a funnel (do this over a baking tray, it helps) to pour the ‘nola into a sealable glass jar, where it will keep a month or so. You can of course also put into small jars, paper bags etc. for gifting.
*health foodies actually swear by blackstrap molasses, but it’s very sharp/spicy – I just used a natural variety that adds huge depth without the sharpness or being overly sweet, but remember, this and the juice are the only real sweeteners here. Your call. Also, if you’re in Belgium or Holland, I think appelstroop (apple syrup – can you find it elsewhere?) would work really well.
** to make this gluten free, switch the rolled rye for more gf certified rolled oats. I use it here because I like the contrast in color and shape to the very pale rolled oats, so you could try another gf rolled grain like rolled millet or quinoa. It adds nice variety
As a general note, you can keep things in the same volume and use what you have – 1 cup (around 150-160g) total of nuts, for example. And as I said, for something less in-your-face holiday, I switch molasses for honey and sometimes the cranberries for unsulphured dried apricots, blueberries or raisins. Granola just lives to make your breakfasts easy.
ps. This blog has been in existence almost 2 months now... I just want to say a huge thank you to the small handful of loyal readers who visit my little corner of the net often. Every comment, email, just you reading means the world to me. As a heads up, I might be changing the URL of the blog because after 'settling in' to the blog, I'm not sure how fitting it is. I will send an email to my subscribers when a change happens and I'll try to set up some kind of redirect. Thanks for all your support, if I could bake you all a cookie, I would.
suzi, the littlest one
more holiday breakfasts