Follow by Email

Saturday, October 23, 2010

A Staycation

I remember when I first heard the term "stay-cation".  It was not long after the markets crashed a couple years ago.  The news was full of stories of families staying put and economizing by skipping the expensive 'travel' vacation and pitching tents in their backyards, visiting local museums and playing mini-golf in their hometowns.

You have to admit...there is something very appealing about staying put.
No packing a full wardrobe into a regulation size wheelie bag.
No airplanes, airports or awful security lines.
No need to stop the paper or board the dog and you water your own plants.
And you sleep in your own bed!  
I could go on and on... 

After last year's Sicilian extravaganza we thought...why not give stay-cationing a try?
So we spent a week at home last month and I'm happy to report, it was an absolute delight!

Now, granted...we live in a city that is truly lovely.  People from all over the world come to visit
San Francisco and there was no shortage of things to do on our stay-cation.

There was a day trip to Santa Cruz...  (Funny how all oceanside towns are, umm, the same...)
...and an afternoon at SFMOMA ogling the vast art collection accumulated by the Gap founders.  (Why buy one Calder when you can buy 23?)

We breezed in to Bi-Rite Creamery on a Tuesday afternoon and enjoyed our favorite local ice cream.  (And there was no line to wait in!!  Seriously.  NO line!!)

There was a tasty mid-week lunch at Tyler Florence's new restaurant and then... a nap.
(That's what we get for having fried chicken and steak-and-eggs at noon!)

We walked our dog.

We had one of the best meals ever at Ubuntu, a Michelin starred vegetarian restaurant in Napa. (If you live here or visit the area I beg you to go.  It will rock your world.)
We even hiked Angel Island, the small state park in the Bay with gorgeous 360-views.  Something we've always wanted to do.  (Anything that includes a ferry ride is a-okay in my book!)

It was a splendid week, but that's not really what I'm here to tell you.

What I discovered was that the true beauty of a stay-cation is it allows you time to putter.  And that, a glorious thing.  Who has time to just putter around any more?  And I mean really putter.  To spend a lazy morning, sipping (not slurping or slamming) your coffee, flipping through a magazine (yes...a magazine...printed on laptop required!), listening to music while something bakes in the oven?!  Oh, it's the stuff dreams are made of, I tell you!

So during this stay-cation I spent an hour or so one morning puttering...while making a batch of granola.  Yes...homemade granola.

Now you could say this is one of those things that is fine to just buy pre-made, in boxes at your local supermarket.
And I would tell you that you are wrong.

Homemade granola is an entirely different and much, much more delicious thing.  Sprinkled into yogurt or over pancakes...even eaten out of hand, it is fantastic.
It's like...if there is a choice between pre-made-boxed granola and, well...nothing...
I would choose nothing.
Because homemade granola is totally in-another-stratosphere in comparison.

But let me reassure's not something that you need a stay-cation in order to make.  No, no...not at all.  I'm just saying should you have a weekend morning free or you just want to cheer yourself up some evening after dinner.  The warm, toasty aromas of nuts and oats browning in the oven...wafting through your kitchen as you read a novel or watch a movie or catch up with a friend on the phone. 

It's the perfect way to create a stay-cation frame of mind.

*          *           *
The great thing about homemade granola is that it can be customized to taste with your favorite combination of dried fruits and nuts.  Mine is dried blueberries, golden raisins and almonds, but the possibilities are endless.  Just go and stand in the dried fruit and nut aisle at Trader Joe's and let your imagination run wild.

If I haven't said it before...thank heavens for my SILPAT mats.  The silicone baking sheet liners make things easy when you stir the granola.

Homemade Granola
adapted from Baked
(makes approx. 1 pound)

2 cups rolled oats
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 teaspoon salt
3 tablespoons vegetable oil
1/4 cup honey
1/4 cup firmly packed light brown sugar
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1/3 cup whole almonds
1/3 cup sliced almonds
1/3 cup dried blueberries
1/3 cup golden raisins

Preheat the oven to 325 degrees.

Toss the oats with the cinnamon and salt in a large bowl where everything will end up.
Using a medium bowl, whisk the oil, honey, brown sugar and vanilla until thoroughly combined.

Pour the honey mixture over the oats and using your hands or a plastic spatula or scraper mix everything together until well coated.
(If you like your granola a bit clumpy, squish the mixture into clumps with your hands and make a fist before letting go.)

Pour everything onto your baking sheet.  (If you don't use silicone mats line your baking sheet with parchment paper.  You'll thank me come clean-up time.  Granola is a bit sticky.)

Bake for 10 minutes then stir and turn the granola before adding the nuts -- sprinkle those on top.
Return to bake for another 5 to 10 minutes.
Remove from the oven and add your dried fruit before stirring again.

Cool the granola on the baking sheet completely before transferring to an airtight container.
should last for a week...theoretically...but, it's gone in two days around here.