The conversation during our three days together backpacking the Mount Rogers National Recreation Area this past Easter weekend always seemed to come back to nutrition. Grace, Lois and Alan had carted in enough fresh produce to start a farmer’s market at our Rhododendron Gap campsite. Conservatively, I’d guess they had 45 pounds of food between them. I was relying heavily on prepackaged, come-to-life-with-boiling-water dehydrated food, from instant oatmeal in the morning to cook-in-bag meals at night. Foodwise, I couldn’t have been carrying 5 pounds, if that.
In terms of taste, the 45-pound-toting fresh-foodies get the advantage. The rice noodles with fresh-cut orange bell peppers, onion, garlic and basil I talked my way into Saturday night was superb. My 13-minute Backpacker’s Pantry red beans and rice from the night before was tasty, but not memorable. (A film canister or two of spices would liven it up some.) On the other hand, my clean-up was done with my last spoonful (after a day on the trail, you hardly notice you’re eating out of a bag). And, again, there’s the weight issue. (Grace alone toted in a three-pound bag of apples and assorted oranges and lemons.) I’m still leaning toward my approach, but I’m not entirely convinced I’ll stick with it.
What I am convinced of, though, is that I have found the holy grail of granola. “I’ve been experimenting with this for three years,” Grace told us as we took a break and devoured her baggie of seed-and-nut ambrosia. (“Don’t worry,” she told us as we hesitated over thirds, “I brought a three-pound bag.”)
Rather than let my untrained, inarticulate taste buds (remember, I eat dinner out of a bag) attempt to describe Grace’s Granola, she graciously shared her recipe. Read it, close your eyes, image. Then preheat the oven to 200 and start cookin’.
* * *
- 3 cups whole rolled oats
- 1/3 cup sunflower seeds
- 1/3 cup pumpkin seeds
- 1/3 cup coconut (shredded)
- 1/2 – 1/3 cup each of almonds, cashews, walnuts
- 1/2 cup canola oil
- 1/2 cup sorghum
- Mix together. Spread in Texas sheet pan (a cookie sheet rimmed with inch-or-so high walls).
- Drizzle 1/4 cup 100 percent real maple syrup over top.
- Sprinkle cinnamon over top.
- Bake in oven @ 280 degrees for 30 minutes.
- Take from oven and let sit. Add dried fruit if you like.
- Lift from pan in chunks.
Photo: Alan and Grace sample her work.