It's been nearly three weeks, and I am slowly adjusting to my new life as a graduate student in Champaign, Illinois. As I write this, a magnificent Midwestern thunderstorm is rolling over the prairie and into town, reminding me that there is much more to this great state than I often acknowledge, and that I am lucky to be able to experience it. I feel sad about the life I left behind in Chicago, disappointed that I am behind on personal projects as the summer nears an end, and apprehensive about finding my place in this new town alone. At the same time, it is exciting that the unfamiliar faces I met two weeks ago are becoming classmates, colleagues and – slowly – friends. My courses and my assistantship are interesting, and I have enthusiasm for the projects I will be working on this year.
As I explore my neighborhood, I've been astonished at the number of apple trees and patches of wild lavender I've found. I am adapting to the infrequent public transit and I've happily found some wonderful Asian food markets and an adequate generic grocery store within easy walking distance. I live in an actual house for the first time since I left my parent's home ten years ago and my roommates are lovely. A series of weddings and family reunions has had me traveling every weekend recently, but I am looking forward to a Saturday trip to Mirabelle Bakery and the farmers market next weekend.
During times of transition, a good meal can provide great comfort. The first thing I baked in my new home was a batch of this simple granola. Paired with thick yogurt and a pinch of coarse sea salt for breakfast, my mornings feel a bit calmer.
Pumpkin Spice Granola Recipe
3 C old-fashioned rolled oats
3/4 C roasted pumpkin seeds
¼ C ground flax seed
¾ C maple syrup
½ C extra virgin olive oil
½ C packed brown sugar
1 tsp kosher salt
1 tsp pumpkin pie spice*
¾ C raisins
Preheat oven to 300F. Mix all ingredients in a large bowl, except the raisins. Pour mixture onto a heavy baking sheet in an even layer and bake for 45 minutes, stirring every 10 minutes. Stir just enough to ensure the granola won’t burn.
When well-toasted and fragrant, remove from the oven and allow to cool. Mix in the raisins and store in an air-tight container.
(*To make your own, combine 1 Tbl cinnamon, ¾ tsp allspice, ½ tsp ground cloves, and 1½ tsp ground ginger. Be sure to measure out only 1 tsp for this recipe.)