Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Mint Chocolate Chip Granola // The Great Transition (Week 14)

Black Friday is an exceptionally strange day, no? Sure, there is all that crazed shopping nonsense (the chef and I opt out of it completely, instead choosing to sleep late and drink mid afternoon coffees in our living room). However, the strange part for me is how this day marks the official pivot away from autumn and toward the winter holidays. Still in a mild Thanksgiving-induced food coma, my mind becomes consumed with thoughts of Christmas recipes. Over the span of one night, pumpkin puree suddenly feels out of season and cranberries begin to feel a bit trite. It is the unofficial day to raid the pantry and swap out the cinnamon sticks for bricks of chocolate and peppermint candies. But mostly, it is a day for daydreaming about recipes -- about those that are part of your family's holiday canon, and those newbies you're anxious to test out in the hopes that they'll become part of your yearly tradition.

This year, Black Friday was an especially strange day for us. For the first time since we opened our doors in August, the shop remained closed. There was a striking silence in our house on Friday morning: no alarms buzzing, no phones ringing with frantic employees desperate to reach us on the other end. Everything was quiet.

At the risk of sounding pretty corny, our minds were quiet too. It was the first time in a long time that we were able to turn our minds off from the constant to-do lists that normally scroll through them and focus on the present instead.

Now that this calendar year's pop-up markets are officially closed, it feels like there might be a little more time this month for focusing on the present. There will be more time to consider how to streamline the way the shop has been running these past three months, more time to expand our menu (we're rolling out a few new cozy, comforting additions next week), more time to finish the renovations we never got to back in August (our new awning finally arrives this month), and more time to enjoy away from the shop with our family and our friends...

Which is why, these past few days, I've had edible gifts on my mind. Although it might seem a tad old fashioned, this time of year I love to have small homemade treats on hand to offer to visiting guests when they leave our home -- a little taste of something savory or sweet to (hopefully) remind them of our time together. Likewise, when visiting someone else's home for a holiday gathering, I love having something homemade to offer that we can all enjoy together during our visit. It's a small gesture in this world of big box stores and holiday madness, but it is one I almost always find is warmly welcomed (except for when my sugar cookies suck, which, unfortunately, has happened more than once).

While lounging around our apartment this Black Friday morning, I had a hankering for something sweet, which is when the idea for this mint chocolate chip granola first came to me. While cocoa has something of a bad wrap in the world of baking (it is the lazy man's chocolate, no?), here it provides just the right amount of a rich, sweet coating, while still allowing one to taste the oats, the chopped almonds, the shredded coconut, and all the other granola-esque elements that make up the base of this recipe. When all is said and done and you pull the baking sheet of peppermint-scented, chocolatey granola from the oven, this recipe then shrugs its shoulders at its modest nature and requests that you toss a generous scoopful of roughly chopped chocolate -- the real stuff -- in with the granola and give it a good mix while everything is still steaming hot because, well, it's the holidays and you can. After the chocolate melts, creating decadent oat clusters, pour as much of this stuff as you're willing to give away into your favorite jar, add a bit of festive ribbon or twine and seal it with a big old mistletoe-worthy kiss before presenting it to someone special on your holiday gift list. Enjoy.

Mint Chocolate Chip Granola

- 3 cups old-fashioned oats
- 1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
- 1 large egg white
- 1/3 cup honey
- 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
- 2 tablespoons light brown sugar
- 1 1/2 teaspoon coarse salt
- 1/2 cup unsweetened shredded coconut
- 1/2 cup almonds, roughly chopped
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 1 teaspoon peppermint extract
- 1/3 cup chocolate chips, roughly chopped

Preheat oven to 300 degrees. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Set aside.

Combine all ingredients except for the chocolate chips in a large bowl. Toss to combine. Evenly spread the mixture on the parchment-lined baking sheet.

Bake the granola, stirring every 10 minutes, until golden brown, about 40 minutes. Remove from the oven and transfer the granola to a large bowl. Immediately add in the chopped chocolate chips and toss to combine. Spread the mixture back onto the parchment-lined baking sheet and allow to cool completely before transferring to an air-tight container.

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