On Busyness. Maple Granola.

My first instinct was to spell busyness like this: business. Then I realized that’s an entirely different word. This post is about business, the business of my life for the past few months, but business sounds very coat and tie and heels, and, well, I’ve been busy, but I haven’t been business. I’ll never be business.

Being busy. That’s where I’ve been. Busy living my life and not telling you about it. Busy testing cupcake and salad recipes for bridal showers. Busy being an editor again while being busy being a marketing director by day. Yeah, that’s right, marketing director by day, editor by night. I am a super hero. Busy running my brains out, racking up the miles, looking to 26.2 miles in November. Busy making pasta with fresh peas from my garden and drinking bourbon ginger ales. Busy cooking brats over an open flame.

Busy exploring my city like I’ve never lived here before. Busy following the signs. Busy drinking good beer, listening to good music, and watching fireworks explode in the night sky.

Busy doing all this with this guy who keeps me busy every day with thinking how lucky I am to have bumped into him in this busy sea.

Busy. Have to remember to stop and take a breath sometimes.

Take a breath and look up at the stars and the moon, dip your feet into a lake, watch relationships being built.

Enjoy a cup of coffee, or three, with the person you love while the sun shines down. Take a breath and remind yourself why you’re doing all these things that keep you so busy. This relationship, even though it requires some driving, is inspiring and makes me believe in so much again. That second job surrounds me with people who are strong and courageous in a way I am certain I could never be. They are my heroes.

The busy is worth it. Every second.

So maybe you’re busy, too. Summer can be like that. It’s a funny season. The air is hot and thick, and the days are longer. Everything points to slowing down, yet summer always seems to be full of activities, of trying to cram as much into these warm, lazy days as possible.

This summer I’ve discovered the best food: homemade granola. It’s not crunchy and granola as in you’ll be a hippy making your own granola in your oven. It is crunchy and granola as in it bakes up into clumps of sweet, oaty goodness that wants to be covered in almond milk, yogurt, fresh summer berries, and really eaten right from a jar.

Did you know that granola is ridiculously easy to make? It is, and I feel someone really mean and selfish has been withholding this beautiful knowledge from me. Granola takes one bowl, one spoon, a measuring spoon, and one baking sheet to make. It doesn’t even take measuring cups if you have a kitchen scale (and I say, get a kitchen scale, because it’ll make you love cooking even more than you already do, and it’ll make all your measurements so much more accurate. Deb convinced me with her cookbook full of ingredients in weights finally.) This granola unassumingly sits in your oven, filling your house with a cinnamon maple smell.

The hardest part will probably be finding unsweetened coconut flakes. (I found mine at Whole Foods in the baking section.) The second hardest part will be believing that you made granola that sticks together in lovely clumps. The secret is the egg white (or 3 tablespoons of water + 1 tablespoon of flaxseed if you’re the vegan type).

In between all of the rushing around I’ve been doing, I manage to always make batches of this granola. My big glass jar is always full of it. Trust me on this one.

I would like to give credit where credit is due. The food styling in these granola, yogurt, and blueberry photos was all done by my boyfriend, Karl. I got a ridiculous amount of pleasure watching him lean over the bowls and carefully sprinkle granola over yogurt and place berries on top without any guidance from me.

Crunchy Maple Granola
Straight from The Smitten Kitchen Cookbook

Ingredients
3 cups (240 grams) old-fashioned rolled oats
1 cup (50 grams) unsweetened shredded or flaked coconut
1 cup (100 grams) walnuts (or other nut of your choice), coarsely chopped
1/2 cup (25 grams) toasted wheat germ
2 tablespoons (30 ml) olive oil
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup (120 ml) maple syrup
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 large egg white
1 1/2 cups (215 grams) dried cherries, cranberries, or other dried fruit, diced into large pieces

Preheat your oven to 300°.

Combine all ingredients but egg white and dried fruit in a large bowl, tossing to coat evenly. Whisk the egg white in a small bowl until frothy. Stir into the granola mixture, distributing it throughout.

Spread granola mixture in a single layer onto a parchment paper-lined baking sheet. (If you don’t have parchment paper, don’t line the baking sheet with anything. You’ll just have to do some scraping of granola bits when you wash the baking sheet.)

Bake for 45 to 55 minutes. About halfway through the baking time, use a large spatula to turn over sections of the granola as carefully as you can. (I break the big chunks up accidentally often and sometimes lose track of what I’ve flipped. It’s OK. Flip the majority as best you can.) Rotate the pan.

When the granola is evenly browned and feels dry to the touch, transfer the pan from the oven to a cooling rack. Cool completely.

Once it’s completely cool, break up granola into whatever size clusters delight you. Sprinkle in dried fruit.

This granola will keep at room temperature in an airtight container for 2 weeks. It keeps even longer in the freezer.

Days 17, 18, 19, & 20 a.k.a. I am behind

Creativity is hard to document!

I have also been a bit of a slacker lately. Probably at least half of my creative endeavors have involved cooking, something I do on a regular basis. The whole idea of this month was to stretch my wings and let some creative juices flow. So I’m pacting to do stretch and flow more the second half of this month.

Day 17 

Mira attended a picnic at 100 Acres at the Indianapolis Museum of Art with Michael and me. The summer sun and extensive playing and exploring wore the pup out and she stole some drinks…many drinks…from Michael’s plastic cup. Luckily I had my water bottle with us, too.

Day 18

Homemade bread requires some planning to make. It’s certainly not difficult, but between hours of multiple risings and baking, the whole thing must be planned into the day. Due to bad planning on my part, we had no bread in the house on Saturday morning, and all I wanted for breakfast was some runny eggs with bread. So I made biscuits from Smitten Kitchen. They’re quick and fairly easy. My tips are these: the dough is quite sticky. Add maybe 1/2 cup extra flour. Make sure to bake them until they are truly golden. Slightly underbaked biscuits are not as delicious as fully baked ones. Breakfast was consumed too fast for photos.

Day 19

Happy Father’s Day! I have a…weird…awesome…hilarious…inappropriate dad. He dresses up in drag to raise money for Alzheimer’s, he tells me he needs a classy place for his whores to host more high-profile customers (my father is not a pimp), and he misses my mom when she leaves town for multiple weeks. So, on Sunday, my brother, his girlfriend, Michael, and I made dinner for him: Salads and stuffed shells from 101 Cookbooks.

The secret to these stuffed shells? Lemon zest. It’s mixed into the ricotta filling and spread across the bottom of the baking dish. Trust me, it really adds a unique flavor to the whole meal.

The beauty of this pasta is that you can make it in advance. This would be a great dish to make on a Sunday afternoon, freeze, and then make during the week after work. Scroll down to find the recipe after the jump!

I also went up to Zionsville for the annual pet parade and took a few photos for Robert Goodman Jewelers’ Facebook page. My favorite

Day 20

I hung my shelf in the living room! Finally the photos that have been tucked away all hidden on my bookshelf have a real home. And now I have a place to put flowers that is Lolacat-proof! The white roses are from my parents in honor of Oma.

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