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Eating Local, Eating Seasonal

When you’ve moved around a bit to different climates like I have, the idea of seasonal and local eating takes on a whole new meaning. But based on the messages you receive in advertising and online, you'd assume that all of us are ready to don our flannel shirts and head out to the apple orchard for some freshly pressed cider. Of course in the northern states, farmers are nearing the end of their growing season and crops like apples and winter squash are seasonal. But here in tropical Florida, our season for local produce is just beginning to ramp up. Having grown up in Pennsylvania, I understand how strong that sense of seasonality can be. But eating locally really means minimizing the distance between production and consumption. In other words, it’s time to get up close and personal with our local farmers. When we support our local farmers at markets and through purchase agreements (an idea known as Community Supported Agriculture), we vote with our dollars to support businesses in our community. Not to mention the benefits we reap in terms of better quality food. In other words, “eating local” tastes good! Let's embrace the change of seasons, even if for some of us it means forgoing the pleasures of apple pie at the farm market in favor of some fresh "Fall" asparagus.

In the meantime, here's a recipe from my upcoming breakfast cookbook that crosses seasonal boundaries from coast to coast.

Granola Two Ways (from the upcoming Breakfast by Donna Leahy)

Granola recipes often used to include butter and a lot of sugar. I think somewhere along the way (probably right around the time when manufacturers were required to put nutritional information on labels), we figured out this may not be the healthiest way of eating toasted oats and nuts, albeit very tasty. However, there are times when I find that chunky texture is desirable (particularly in parfaits where you want layers to have a contrasting texture). Typically it requires upping the sugar content, even it’s in the form of a “healthy” sugar like maple syrup, to achieve it. In response, I’ve developed a two-step approach that will result in a half of the granola being lower sugar and more crumbly, and the second half being more in the chunky style. Both are delicious. If you prefer all of the granola in the crumbly, lower sugar style, then simply skip the last step.

Makes about 7 cups

2 1/2 cups rolled old fashioned oats

1/2 cup steel cut oats

1 cup large unsweetened coconut flakes

1/2 cup sliced almonds

1 cup pecan halves

1/2 cup coarsely chopped walnuts

1/4 cup pistachios

3 tbsps. chia, flax or pumpkin seed

1 egg white, whipped to soft peaks

2 tbsps. coconut oil or other neutral oil

1/2 tsp. salt

1/4-1/2 cup brown sugar

1/4 cup honey

1/4-1/2 cup maple syrup

1 tsp. vanilla

1/2 tsp. ground cinnamon

1/4 tsp. ground allspice

1/2 cup dried cherries

1/2 cup dried currants or cranberries

Preheat the oven to 300 degrees F (165 degrees C). Line two large baking sheets with parchment or aluminum foil and lightly grease.

Combine the old fashioned oats, steel cut oats, coconut flakes, almonds, pecans, walnuts, pistachios and chia in a large bowl. Fold in the egg white. In a medium saucepan, stir together the coconut oil, salt, 1/4 cup brown sugar, honey, 1/4 maple syrup, cinnamon, all spice and vanilla. Bring to a simmer over medium heat, then pour over the dry ingredients, and stir to coat. Spread the mixture out evenly on the baking sheets.

Bake in the preheated oven for 20 minutes, then stir the mixture so it browns evenly. Continue cooking for 15 minutes longer, until mixture is evenly golden brown and crisp. Remove the pans from the oven and place them on cooling racks. Allow the mixture to cool. If you are not proceeding to the chunky step, toss the mixture with the cherries and currants and store in an airtight container. If you are proceeding below, divide the cherries and currants in half, and toss them with half the mixture. Store this half crumbly mixture in a separate air tight container. Reserve the remaining cherries and currants for the second batch.

If making the chunky granola, leave the oven on. Combine the remaining 1/4 cup brown sugar and 1/4 cup maple syrup over medium heat. Pour the second half of the toasted granola into a large bowl. Toss the mixture with the maple syrup and brown sugar mixture and spread it out on the parchment. Bake for 12-15 minutes longer without stirring, until mixture looks glossy and evenly dark brown but not burnt. The granola will not be crunchy when it’s done baking, but will set and harden as it cools. Cool slightly then break into bits according to your preference. Cool completely and then stir in the cherries and currants before storing in an airtight container.

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