Tart Cherry + Fig Granola


A few weeks ago, I volunteered at a fun run organized by a student association on campus. It was the lowest-key race I’ve helped or taken part in and there were only a handful of runners participating. On the course, I stood amidst a bunch of trees in the park, pointing the way for runners and offering my cheers.


I am the lamest of cheerleaders. I feel inadequate at motivating and lifting up. The words that come easily in print are the hardest to voice.

The course was three laps so I watched the runners progress through each mile. Because there were so few participants I got to know each of their fun-running styles, and consequently felt the need to up my cheering game each time they came around, from the first confident runner to the last couple walk/jogging together.


At the end of the evening, one of the runners thanked me for being encouraging. You were really helpful; you motivated me to keep going, she said.

I swiveled around dramatically, making sure there was no one else she could be talking to before answering, Really!?!?

I was astonished.


I spent the better part of winter reading Matthew Kelly’s book. In it he shares about figuring out how best to reach people. At the end of the day, it really is quite simple:  People need to be encouraged, he says.

I had underlined, ear-marked, and post-it noted that section, thinking how I wanted to practice encouragement in the ensuing months.

The funny thing about that runner thanking me for my invisible pompoms is that her words were equally encouraging.

Lifting each other up is a little gift that simply keeps on giving.


Tart Cherry + Fig Granola

This granola is a little gift too. I don’t make granola often because I find the sweet flavors and crunchy textures mildly addicting and if I don’t practice some restraint, the whole batch will be eaten in one go. Numerous studies have shown that tart cherries are good for runners because they aid in reducing inflammation and increasing muscle recovery. While the amount of tart cherries in this granola are no where near the amount necessary to show real results, I am firm believer in the “every bit helps” philosophy, plus they taste good. We have a local business just up the road, Oregon Cherry Country, that grows and processes their own cherries and I usually purchase from them. Realistically, all the nuts, seeds, fruit, and even spices can be interchanged here. I really like the balance of the puffed cereal (like arrowhead mills or nature’s path brands, not rice krispies) with the oats, and the seeds, nuts, and fruits showcased here are among my favorites–change them up based on what you like or have! 

2 cups thick-rolled oats, gluten-free if necessary

2 cups puffed rice cereal

1/2 cup toasted hazelnuts, chopped

1/2 cup raw almonds, chopped

1/4 cup raw sunflower seeds

1/4 cup raw pumpkin seeds

3/4 tsp. salt

1/2 tsp. cinnamon

1/4 tsp. ground ginger

1/16 tsp. (a large pinch) cardamom

1/16 tsp. (a large pinch) cloves

1/16 tsp. (a large pinch) nutmeg

1/3 cup dried tart cherries

1/3 cup dried figs, chopped

1/4 cup coconut oil, melted

1/4 cup maple syrup

  • Preheat oven to 325 degrees F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
  • Combine the dry ingredients, save the fruit, in a large bowl. Pour the liquids over the dry and use your hands to coat them all evenly. Spread the granola mixture on the baking sheet, press down gently, and roast in the oven for 25-30 minutes, rotating pan halfway through.
  • Remove from the oven and leave to cool before adding the dried fruit.

Rhubarb Granola & Vanilla-Orange Rhubarb Sauce


I did not grow up in a family of cooks.  My favorite cooking memory with my grandma involved making pumpkin pie with the recipe from the back of the Libby’s can.  She advised me to cut the spices in half.  When I didn’t, she told me it was the best pumpkin pie she’d ever had and wondered what magical thing I had done.


My mom, bless her, taught me how to cook and then promptly let me loose in the kitchen to continue making years of dinner onward, up until I moved away.  Whenever I’m home for a visit, the status quo is accepted without question.  Perhaps out of survival, or because I’m an odd duck in this family of ranchers, I’ve been fascinated with food since before I was taught how to use a measuring cup.  Knife skills were a self-educating adventure, and only when I come home am I reminded that I had no idea what I’d been missing out on all those years.


Sharp knives have never had a place in my mom’s kitchen.  I ventured to stock her kitchen with one or two nice knives a few years back, though they’ve not been sharpened since.  The rest of the knife drawer includes a random collection that couldn’t have cost more than five bucks a piece.  Now that I know the wonders of a good knife, I shudder at slicing and dicing in my mother’s kitchen.


I am home with my parents and W for a few days, in between life ventures and to help celebrate my sister’s wedding.  As much as I complain and paint an unfortunate picture, I love being home.  I get to wake up to noise from family afoot.  I get to sit in a sunny yellow room with windows on every wall, opening to a ranch scene of cows and pasture and rail fence and my favorite old barn, the one that is leaning a fair bit.  I get to drink my tea in this room and enjoy breakfast with others.  I can sit out on the front porch in the Adirondack chair and watch the day go by (more of the same scenery).  I can do the same on the back patio.  My favorite running route begins at this farmhouse.  My old 4-H horse will run my direction for a rub when I call her from the edge of the pasture.  I can bake sweets every day, knowing they won’t go to waste and I can start again with something new the next.  I can be as adventurous as I like because if it has sugar in it, my dad will eat it.  I can wander to the garden, and harvest what I want to eat.


My mother is an avid gardener, and there is always fresh produce in this season.  Perhaps in part because I steal rhubarb every time I visit in the spring, my mom planted several more plants.  She is a veritable rhubarb farmer now, as there is an excess that only someone who loves to spend time in the kitchen can begin to use up.  That’s what I’m here for.  Chopping thick stalks of rhubarb with a dull knife.  Making rhubarb sauce and rhubarb granola.


There is nothing I love more than rhubarb and oats.  Except perhaps the rhubarb yogurt pairing found in Ireland.  Make sauce with honey and orange and vanilla.  I’ve been making it all spring and dishing it up atop anything and everything.  I like my sauce a touch on the tart side, but add as much honey as you like.  The sauce is perfectly poised to take part in this lovely crunchy, chunky granola, which come to think of it, I may or may not share, because my dad, who also loves rhubarb, will have gone before I can blink!


Vanilla-Orange Rhubarb Sauce
a pot full of rhubarb, cleaned and chopped (approximately 8 big stalks)
1 Tbs. pure vanilla extract (or a vanilla bean if one can be sourced)
zest from one whole orange
3-4 Tbs. raw honey (or to taste)

Chop rhubarb and throw in a large pot.  Add honey, orange zest, vanilla, and a touch of water for moisture. Bring to a low boil, and then simmer until the rhubarb has cooked down until thick and creamy. Take off the heat and let cool.

Rhubarb Granola
3 cups old-fashioned oats
1 1/2 tsp. pure vanilla extract
1/2 cup raw almonds, lightly toasted and chopped
1/2 cup raw Hazelnuts, lightly toasted and chopped
3 Tbs. extra virgin olive oil
3 Tbs. raw honey
about 3/4 cup Rhubarb Sauce

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.  In a sauté pan, lightly toast almonds and Hazelnuts and then take off heat to cool slightly.  Measure out three cups oats and pour into a mixing bowl.  Measure out vanilla, honey, oil and rhubarb sauce.  Mix until combined and then pour into oats.  Add toasted nuts and mix until combined.  Add more sauce as needed until the mixture is at the desired consistency.  Spoon into a baking sheet and bake for about 15-20 minutes, stirring half way through.