New Zealand. New Zealand. The name rolls off my tongue because I have been there two times, so far. I’m going back for certain, hopefully sooner than later. Our first trip, which I call “New Zealand 101: The Introduction” took place in October 2006. As usual, when my husband and I take a long trip, we travel during the “off season” or low tourist time. Happily we were able to use our free mileage on this trip. Understand that I am willing to sit in “economy” seats – I’ll cram myself anywhere in an uncomfortable place for a long plane flight to explore the world. I even put my belongings in a small carry-on bag (never checked) for overseas flights. And you know from my previous post that I always bring my own food. Obviously, I’m quite a low maintenance traveler!
Seasons are flipped in New Zealand so fall in Seattle equals spring in New Zealand. As usual, we only made hotel reservations for the first two nights where our trip began – Auckland, the country’s largest city and its commercial core.
After touring this beautiful place and outlying areas, we claimed our rental car and decided we wanted to get a basic overview of this amazing country so we headed up North and then headed to the South section as well. Cars drive on the left side of the road, and the driver sits on the right side of the car – exactly opposite of how we drive in the U.S. Thankfully, my fearless, confident husband drove. He also managed most of the navigation because I am, admittedly, map-reading-challenged. I was excellent company, though!
Armed with two basic guide books and a decent map, we drove north through Kauri tree forests and took a ferry across to the sunny beach town of Nelson. We then drove back south, stopping at small wineries, restaurants and museums. Most of the places where we dined were actually attached to wineries, and the food everywhere was beyond wonderful. For most of our trip we primarily stayed in bed and breakfast establishments, deciding at the last minute where we would end our day and phoning ahead to see if there was space for us. The final destination for the North Island was Wellington, the national capital. The city has so many excellent museums, parks, and activities that we stayed two nights at my favorite B&B of the trip – Thorndon House. Located in a central part of Wellington, our room was spacious and über clean, and the owners knew so much about the city and where to go!
Imagine waking up that first morning to the aroma of fresh brewed coffee, ambling down the curved stairway and sitting down at a small white kitchen table. Sun filled the modern kitchen, and we were presented with a huge array of eggs any style, hot and cold cereals, yogurts, homemade breads – a veritable feast. Part of my chosen meal included the most wonderful, toasted granola I had ever had, and Gabby, the charming proprietress of Thorndon House B & B, made a copy of her recipe for me.
My version of her granola formula always fills a container in my kitchen with back up in the freezer, and I have had numerous requests for the exact recipe. It is adopted from Gabby’s printed recipe. I reduced both the oil and honey from the original recipe and sometimes I change out the type of nuts I use. Lately I have been adding about a cup of shredded coconut and ½ cup of sesame seeds to the “basic” recipe. This is a ubiquitous go-to snack and condiment in our family.
And, this is one of my favorite uses of parchment paper so there are no messy, sticky cookie sheets. This recipe makes a large quantity but I often freeze it and take out a few cups at a time. I top my morning oatmeal with a tablespoon or two of granola and chopped fresh fruit, or create an instant dessert with grilled or roasted pineapple or peaches, vanilla yogurt and a bit of this wonderful concoction. Just the other day I layered, plain thick Greek yogurt with this granola and chopped apples…YUM!
I know many people make their own, favorite granola, but I am telling you that this one is a basic, no nonsense, easy to make recipe that can be used as an accompaniment for many foods. It has a distinctive crunchy and chewy texture and, unlike many of the store bought versions, it’s not too sweet.
Be forewarned that you need to buy UNSALTED, UNROASTED pumpkin seeds and sunflower seeds and nuts – this really makes a difference. Store nuts in the fridge or freezer, not on the shelf as they can become rancid.
My Global Granola (Never before published or revealed to anyone besides family)
(Makes about 20 cups)
- ¾ cup grapeseed or canola oil (measure first so honey will come out when you measure it in the same liquid measuring cup)
- ½ cup honey
- 18 oz of regular (old fashioned) oatmeal or same weight kamut flakes or a mixture of oats and kamut
- Heaping cup of raw pumpkin seeds (NOT salted or roasted)
- Heaping cup of raw sunflower seeds
- Heaping cup coarsely chopped raw almonds, pecans or walnuts
- 2 tsp ground cinnamon
Preheat the oven to 350 and put racks near the middle.
Mix the oil and honey in a saucepan over medium & gently heat it to combine for about 2 minutes; do not let it boil.
Mix the dry ingredients in a huge mixing bowl. Then add oil/honey mixture until everything is moist. I put on disposable gloves to thoroughly mix the honey/oil mixture into the dry ingredients. Do this for at least 3 minutes so everything is evenly coated.
Divide onto 2 cookie sheets (lined w/ parchment) and form into rectangles so mixture is the same thickness. Bake for about 25-35 minutes – rotating cookie sheets halfway through. The mixture should be golden, and the room will smell like heaven.
Let it cool on the cookie sheets for about 1 hour (it might stick together but will come apart). Then dump it back into the large mixing bowl and break apart. (I wear disposable gloves for this part too)
Let granola cool another hour once broken up so it is 100% cooled off.
- Pecans and walnuts are softer nuts and easier to chop than almonds, but I seem to end up using almonds most of the time
- Freeze in zip locks or sealed containers for up to four months.
- Doubling the recipe makes 3 cookie sheets worth…bake 25 minutes or until it looks finished.
- I have a plastic bench scraper that is great for this recipe. It is rounded on one side (great for scraping dough out of a bowl) and straight on the other side (for evening up edges and cutting soft dough).