Banana Gingerbread Granola for Maniacs

I’m a granola curmudgeon. “Call this granola? It’s all oats. Used to be they put nuts in granola but not these days, nosiree, get maybe two nuts in a bag… mutter mutter…”

There’s only one brand of store bought granola I eat, and there are only two granola recipes I use. I love granola with interesting flavor and texture combinations, but most of the time when I try to look up granola recipes online, I become irate and go back to my two standbys. The recipes either have too many oats, too much sugar, or not enough fat. Or, the recipe author is being condescending/cutesy, which makes me antagonistic towards the granola recipe, even if it’s perfectly good. Or, they’re being condescending/cutesy AND using too much sugar AND using too little fat AND telling me that I will not be able to tell how little fat is in the granola, which is not true because I’m a granola curmudgeon and I can always tell.

Think that’s bad? I’m even worse with yogurt.

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The “this is not a food blog” granola self-portrait.  Yes, self-portrait.

Anyway, one of my two standby granolas is this Pumpkin Spice Granola recipe. I make some changes to it, but it’s a solid recipe on its own. Or it was, anyway, until I became a crazed ginger addict.

I’ve always been a big fan of ginger, but lately it’s gotten out of hand. I would steal your TV and sell it and use the money to buy crystallized ginger on the streets, and I would refer to it as “ging” or “crys,” which would be a little confusing since my name is Kris. The last time I made the Pumpkin Spice Granola, I added powdered ginger, and then quadrupled the ginger.

The fact that it’s now Christmastime only means that it’s socially acceptable for me to eat ginger like a maniac because Christmas is all about gingerbread everything when it isn’t all about peppermint everything or eggnog everything.

Anyway.

Anyway.

Since I am both a granola curmudgeon and a ginger maniac, and I will only use two granola recipes, I had to use the Pumpkin Spice Granola recipe as the template when I decided I needed to make Banana Gingerbread Granola.

So. Here is how to make that.

Preheat the oven to 325 degrees. Make it Fahrenheit, otherwise you’ll be even more grumpy about your granola than I am about most granola. Plus, you’ll have melted off your face.

Throw the following into a large bowl:

3 and 3/4 cups rolled oats
1 cup shredded coconut
1 cup pecans
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon

4 teaspoons gingerbread spice*

A couple pinches of salt

Chop a ton of crystallized ginger. Pack it down tightly into a 1/2 cup, like you would with brown sugar. Mix into the dry ingredients.

Measure and rinse 1/2 cup uncooked quinoa, unless you are positive it’s pre-rinsed. This isn’t like rice. Sometimes people say you have to rinse rice, but that’s a lie. Quinoa contains bitter saponins, and unrinsed quinoa will ruin your granola as surely as if you had set the oven to 617 degrees Fahrenheit, aka 325 Celsius.

Mix the quinoa into the granola.

Mash a couple of very ripe bananas. Mine came to about 3/4 of a cup.

Mix together the mashed banana with the other wet ingredients:
3 tablespoons ground flax

6 tablespoons water
1/4 cup granulated sugar

1/4 cup molasses
1/2 cup coconut oil, melted
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

If you don’t have coconut oil, use some other kind of fat. Just don’t leave it out. You could cut it down to 1/4 cup, because the Pumpkin Spice Granola only uses 1/4 cup. The last time I made the Pumpkin Spice Granola, I accidentally doubled the coconut oil. It came out extra crunchy, which I enjoyed.

Also, I usually measure the hard coconut oil into a 2 cup glass measure, then put it into the oven as it heats. Then I measure the other wet ingredients on top of it. Fewest dishes possible.

Mix the wet ingredients into the dry ones.

Cover a couple baking sheets with parchment paper. Or maybe just grease them. Then spread out the granola onto the sheets. Sometimes I plan my time poorly and end up throwing the granola mixture into the fridge overnight before I actually cook it. Because of this, I learned that granola forms larger clumps more easily when you refrigerate it first.

For some reason, granola cooking directions never work out for me. Here’s what I do instead of whatever the recipe says:

Cook the granola for 20 minutes, then stir it. You should see steam come up when you stir it. This will not happen when the granola is fully cooked. Keep the granola in the oven at 325 (yes, we’re still using Fahrenheit, good question) until it starts to brown some, checking and stirring every ten minutes at this point.

Once it gets a little browned (it should be slightly dry as well), turn the oven down to 200. Continue to check and stir every ten minutes. At this point, it’s just dehydrating until most of the moisture is gone.

Let it cool on the baking sheets before putting it into a container. Because it has plenty of fat and it’s been well-dehydrated, it will stay good for weeks. If you want to store it long term, throw a dessicant pack into the container.


 

*I get angsty about having to measure out tiny amount of spices, like 1/64 of a teaspoon nutmeg and a micron of cloves. Last year I mixed up a bunch of gingerbread spices from a cookie recipe and put them into an old spice container so I wouldn’t have to deal with it. I think this was 4 tablespoons ginger and 4 teaspoons each of ground nutmeg, cloves, and cinnamon. If you don’t want to do this, reduce appropriately. It doesn’t have to be exact.

Christmas swashbuckler

Today, I am a hero. Both the regular kind of hero, and the Christmas kind.

Actually, hero might be too strong of a word. Is there a word to refer to someone who fights against their normal morning slothfulness to do errands before going to work? Who finally returns DVDs to Big Lots for a refund after they’ve been sitting on the passenger’s seat for a month? Who pretends they don’t have social anxiety and asks people to be job references? I’ve overcome a lot of my lesser tendencies today.

But, I’m also a Christmas hero. Between this paragraph and the last one, I looked up “hero” on thesaurus.com. After all the synonyms meaning “hefty sandwich” was a list of awesome words. So when I say I’m a Christmas Swashbuckler, you know that this is not so much a reality-based or funny story-based title as it is a thesaurus-related whim.

Anyway.

My awesome new apartment has very few downsides, but one of them is that we aren’t allowed to have a real tree. This is due to the landlord’s insurance policy and the fact that dropped needles are a fire hazard. My mom got us a nice little spruce shrub in a pot, but adorable as it is, I’m having a lot of Christmas Jealousy over other people’s trees.DSC02239 My partner and I agreed that it isn’t worth it to buy a fake tree if it’s going to look like it’s made of pipe cleaners and sadness, so we agreed to go clearance fake tree shopping on December 26th after I get out of work and spend the evening decorating our new tree.

Today’s specific timeline of errands and car repairs made me decide to order Chinese food for lunch and dinner. Since I was six minutes away from the restaurant and the food would take fifteen, I pulled into a store that I hoped would have maple sugar candy (another errand, this one Grandma-given), even though I kind of knew it was actually a thrift store now.

The thrift store used to a large gift store, the kind of place that sold maple sugar candy, Yankee candles, and country primitives. Despite my lack of interest in most of their stock, I always liked going there around Christmas because it had that craft store cinnamon smell and was always decorated full-on for Christmas, like it was Santa’s workshop. Basically, depending on mood, it would either warm my heart with Christmas magic, or send me into a crushing depression.

The gift store was now a Christmas Thrift Store, at least for now, and as soon as I walked in, I saw a small grove of artificial firs. One of them was short and full, just like the real trees we always bought, and it had the same kind of realistic branches that I saw on a $400 tree just yesterday. “I am not lucky enough for this tree to be for sale,” I said to myself. “It’s probably a decoration.”

But I was lucky enough, because Christmas Magic.

As it turned out, the timing was even better than I realized. After I pulled up my car to get the tree in, I heard the woman at the store talking to someone on her phone. “Well, we had one you would have liked, but someone’s picking it up now. One is ugly. Yeah, like the Charlie Brown tree. And the other has fake snow on it. It gets everywhere.”

If the morning chain of events had been a couple minutes later, the store could very well have reserved the little tree for the person on the phone.

Instead, I now have a tree in the back of my car. Here is a Christmas tip from me to you: if you have a compact car (say, a 2001 Chevy Prizm) get a 5’ Christmas tree. It will fit in your backseat, even though your eyesight will tell you that this cannot happen.

Later, when my partner is asleep, I will sneak the fortuitous tree into our living room and decorate with the sneakiness of an elf and the daring of a swashbuckler.

Seven reasons why Kevin McAllister is my role model

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Behold the vengeance in Kevin’s face. As we will see, Kevin does not let Buzz go unpunished for eating all the cheese pizza.

It should go without saying that anyone who grew up in the 90s wanted to be Kevin McAllister, hero of the only two Home Alone movies that count. Who doesn’t want to sled down the stairs on a toboggan or zipline into a tree house? For me, it goes way beyond the desire to have a huge house all to myself and the awesome trap-making skills to defend it. After over two decades of watching Home Alone 1 at Christmastime, the ways of Kevin have had an indelible effect on my psyche that I’m only now starting to realize.

Kevin taught me how to best utilize my time when I have the house to myself.

If I’m home alone, it’s almost guaranteed that there will be ice cream, cookies, and TV. Normally, I’m not even a couch potato. Eating junk and watching rubbish? Yes, please.

Kevin makes a mean diagram.

I’m a great lover of diagrams, but even on a computer, I can’t make as good a diagram as Kevin does. Putting colored pencils to their best use possible, Kevin creates the true diagram’s diagram, complete with spatially inaccurate maps of all his traps, unnecessary, colorful illustrations that take up a ton of space, and arrows with colored-in tips, that extra little detail that shows how much care he puts into his diagrams.

Kevin is the Sun Tzu/ Grand Admiral Thrawn of the elementary school set.

He manipulates Harry and Marv’s attempted entries into the house, somehow knowing that after Marv tried the basement and lost his shoes and socks, he would then try the window and step on stabby-crunchy glass ornaments. Of course the traps are impressive, but the subtle psychological manipulation is even more so.

Kevin is self-educated.

I didn’t know how to do laundry until I was 16. But when Kevin is left home at the age of 8, he quickly masters the skill, even conquering his fear of the furnace to do so. Between Home Alone 1 and Home Alone 2, it’s obvious that Kevin upgrades his skills at making elaborate, painful traps. He goes from Micro Machines and glue ‘n’ feather traps, to setting up an arc welder to electrocute a sink. Who taught him how to do that? School? Please.  And there’s no way his parents taught him how to do that stuff. Especially not his dad, who is the only member of his immediate family that isn’t a jerk to him the night before they leave him home alone.

Kevin is a master of fire.

C’mon. When I was eight, I couldn’t even light a match. Still can’t, actually, unless it’s the light-on-box kind. Fireworks are the least of it. This is a kid who makes a blow torch trap and a fire-lightbulb trap, while strategically deploying volatile chemicals.

Kevin knows how to improvise.

Despite his extensive plans, Kevin never sticks to them rigidly. He grabs Buzz’s tarantula and throws it at the bad guys when he needs to get away. Earlier in the movie, he escapes Harry and Marv by hiding in a nativity scene, which also shows a keen instinct for disguise that we don’t see much of.

Kevin is a fair arbiter of justice.

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Always clean up your traps before you put out milk and cookies for Santa.

After the bad guys are carted off in a cop car, Kevin cleans the entire house. The tree is decorated, the laundry is clean, and there’s fresh milk in the fridge. When the family arrives home, the only signs that anything happened are a single gold tooth on the floor, and Buzz’s entire room. I suspect that Kevin is capable of rebuilding Buzz’s shelf, if he wanted to. But he doesn’t, and that’s because Buzz is an asshole.


The camera ate my color

This gallery contains 4 photos.

Perception and memory interest me. I took the first photo at the community garden where my partner has a plot, and it looks much duller than I remembered. This became even more obvious when I sliced off the top to use for my website’s header. Part of the blame for… Continue reading

NaNoWriMo Retrospective

This November had so many issues that if it were a person, it would be waist-deep in therapy, hopped up on dubious psych meds, and answering a lot of kind-yet-probing questions from well-meaning-yet-irritating family and friends.  Despite this, I managed to pull out a National Novel Writing Month win by writing 12,000 words this past weekend while also finishing moving out of my old apartment.

Here are some of my NaNoWriMo highlights:

Accidentally naming a character “Feta.”

Yes, like the cheese. This came of fiddling around with random syllables to name characters in my fantasy world. It worked out in my favor because writing her name “Feta” eventually made something click in my head and I thought, “Ooh, what if she isn’t using her real name?” Thus, a sinister plotline was born.

BTW, in 2010, I accidentally named a character Sean Astin. Yes, like the actor.

Successfully writing a jump rope rhyme

Poetry ain’t my thing. Saying “ain’t” ain’t my thing either, because that felt awkward and self-conscious. I’ve always envied fantasy with Tolkien-esque rhymes and songs, so penning a creepy little jump rope rhyme for my fantasy world was a milestone for me.

The Coffee Crawl and Writing Marathon

Not only do I participate in the online aspect of NaNoWriMo, I also co-run events for my local region. This was our 4th annual writing marathon, a 12-hour event that we spend hopping between coffee shops and writing all the way in a state of gleeful, caffeinated madness.

Writing in my new office

November was also the month I moved to a bigger apartment. I now have an office, which was probably meant to be a mud room.

Soap opera conflict

For all the faults of soap operas, I can’t help but enjoy gloriously convoluted soap opera plots. Like: Stanley is marrying Nancy but he slept with her twin sister Valerie, only it was actually Nancy pretending to be Valerie because Sasha blackmailed her and meanwhile Dirk is embezzling money from Stanley’s brother, Cal, who has a secret in his lake house that Dr. Van Shrubbery discovers when he pays a house call to Nancy who only called him to make sure he wasn’t home so Barbette could search his files for evidence of Sasha’s secret younger brother who was adopted by a family in France and is looking for money but only so he can use it for revenge on Valerie, who went to France once and broke his heart.

I didn’t manage anywhere close to that level of soap opera conflict, but the much smaller dose I added to my novel was a lot of fun.

Paper, flip phones, and anvils

If someone prefers physical books to ebooks, don’t make them justify it.

If someone doesn’t have a smartphone, don’t make them justify it.

If someone doesn’t have internet access at home, don’t make them justify it.

If someone doesn’t have GPS and, to all appearances doesn’t need it, don’t make them justify it.

It doesn’t matter if they are poor, or old, or technologically illiterate, or made a choice that you don’t understand and don’t give a shit about. Don’t make them justify that they don’t own an item, just like you wouldn’t make them justify not owning designer jeans or not owning a home aquarium or not owning a BMW*.

Not having those things doesn’t mean someone doesn’t understand what they are or what they do. It doesn’t mean someone hates them. You don’t have to explain. You don’t have to evangelize. You don’t have to lay out the logic.

If someone enjoys activities in the physical world, things like:

writing andDSC02354

drawing and

painting and

games and

cooking and

running and swimming and climbing and popping bubble wrap and walking through their town and brewing beer and singing and short wave radio and collecting cool rocks and moonwalking in their socks and making puns and roasting coffee beans and inventing sentient toasters and blacksmithing and exploring and scrunching their toes in their wool socks.

Don’t tell them they have too much stuff, because real hobbies in the real world take up physical space and use stuff, and that stuff can’t be stored on a harddrive. Creating real things with real value in the real world uses stuff. Don’t make someone justify a love for tangible things. There’s nothing wrong with enjoying tactile sensations, and there’s nothing wrong with a screen either.

And especially don’t make them justify owning the stuff that facilitates the activities they love if you’re also going to make them justify not owning the technology you do. Because that’s making them justify not being you.


 

*Unless you do those things too. In which case, congratulations on being an odious caricature of a rich asshat.