Lemon-Ginger Skillet Granola
with Almonds, Coconut & Blueberries
It seems frivolous writing about granola at this moment in time but I also realize that for some of you—maybe many of you, the news on every front is such an assault, that perhaps reading about something as quaint and calming as making a batch of granola might just be the break you need for the next few minutes.
My first experience with granola was a few decades ago when I was a sitter for a family in Manhattan. During high school, a teacher had recommended me to one of the guidance counselors looking for help with childcare. They lived in Chelsea, within walking distance from school, and the timing worked out great with my class schedule.
Until that point in my life, most of my experience was taking care of adults, so I figured kids would be a welcome relief. Working for the Hildreth’s was my first experience with what wealth looked like. They weren’t swimming in dollars, it was more wealth with a lowercase “w” but still impressive for a Brooklyn kid who shopped at K-Mart for back to school clothes. They owned a loft in a five story building, with an old freight-like elevator that opened right into their apartment, on 17th Street across from the original Barney’s.
For the next five years I spent the rest of my high school and part of my college afternoons picking Alyson up from elementary school, and bringing her to auditions for commercials and TV shows, go-sees (the modeling equivalent to auditions) and various shoots. She was the poster child for The Children’s Place, literally, and graced the cover of Vogue Bambini a few times. On one occasion I remember an agent asking if I had my headshots, not realizing I was the sitter. The high of anyone thinking I could’ve been a model stayed with me for quite a few days.
It was during those afternoons when I’d bring Alyson home that I’d occasionally find her dad making granola. Van was a very hippie, health focused straight shooter from Kentucky who made his way to New York for college. Now that I’m thinking about it, Van was also the first person to introduce me to smoothies. Both he and Jessica, Alyson’s mom, were everything I imagined good, responsible parents should be, and the complete opposite of what I’d grown up with.
When Van set about making granola it was always in big batches, with sheet pans lining the custom kitchen counters he’d built. I always eyed the granola suspiciously, wondering if something healthy could taste that good. Other than oats, raisins and nuts, I can’t remember the ingredients of his granola, but it was a very basic combination.
A few years into my time as a sitter, I met Michael, and granola would become an even bigger part of my life. Mikey loved granola, and next to Van, he was the only other hippie, health-oriented person I’d ever met when it came to food.
Years passed, Alyson went on to middle and high school, no longer needing a sitter. I graduated college, and the Hildreth’s hosted my graduation party at their loft. And then, as often happens in sitter situations, you lose touch, even after spending so many years together. Granola is the one part of that relationship that continued to grow, both my love for it and the various combinations I’d come to make as the years passed.
I could never quite keep up with Michael’s appetite for granola. He’d easily eat half a tray before it was even cooled. While recipes abound for it, including one in my cookbook, granola is always something I feel like you should make with what you have around but I did buy something a few weeks ago that inspired this current flavor combination.
While shopping at Accord Market, a box of candied ginger caught my eye, and I began thinking about making a lemon-ginger granola. The morning I finally got around to doing so, I remembered the bag of freeze-dried blueberries in the basement, and so this new granola recipe was born. I’ve previously only used dried fruit in granola, but the crunch of the freeze-dried blueberries is so fun and a nice surprise—I’ll definitely be leaning into freeze-dried fruits more often.
Admittedly, this granola is a tad sweeter than my usual batches. I wanted to make sure there was enough balance with the ginger. As with any recipe, you should tweak the flavors to suit your own tastes, though my advice is to always make a recipe as-is once first so you know how to adjust going forward. You may decide to pull back the syrup for a less sweet granola, or maybe you want to punch up the ginger more, and increase that measurement. Same goes for the lemon. I was aiming for a very subtle whisper of lemon, as the flavors all blend together while it sits in the jar, some mellowing and some becoming more prominent.
Oh, one more thing I forgot to mention at the outset, some may say burying the lede! This granola is made in a skillet on the stovetop, making it perfect for warmer months when you may want to avoid turning on the oven.
Hope the week is bringing you all some moments of peace. Be kind and be well. –xo, j.
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