Cocoa Granola

True confession:  this recipe came about because I ran out of cinnamon.  This culinary constraint propelled me to create a new granola flavor — and it worked beautifully.

Cocoa Granola

Cocoa Granola

When you let this granola sit with milk for a minute or two in your bowl, the chocolate milk result is delightful — just like back in the day with Coco Puffs.  But this one is gonna be good for you with sustained, balanced energy, awesome fiber, serious crunch, AND chocolatey flavor.  Enjoy!

Cocoa Granola

8 cups (28 oz) rolled whole oats
3 cups (11oz) sliced raw almonds
1 cup (3 oz) unsweetened cocoa powder
3 TB vanilla extract
3/4 tsp. sea salt
1/2 cup (3 1/2 oz) avocado oil
1 cup plus 1 TB (13 oz) honey
1 cup coconut flakes (optional)

Preheat oven to 300.  Heat honey in saucepan or in microwave until it is warmed through and is runny.

In a large bowl, mix together the oats, almonds, cocoa powder, and salt.  Add warm honey, vanilla extract, and oil, and blend until combined.

Line two large, rimmed baking sheets with parchment paper.  Spread the granola mixture evenly onto the two parchment lined baking sheets.  Lightly tamp down the granola into the pans into even layers.  Bake for 17 minutes.  At the 17 minute mark, rotate the pans so that the pan that was on the top rack is now on the bottom and vice versa.

Bake for 17 more minutes.  You want the granola to be chocolate brown and lightly toasty, but not too dark.  Use your nose as a guide – if it smells toasty, then the granola is likely just right.  The granola will become crisp and clumpy after it is cooled.  Don’t worry if it’s a little soft when it’s hot out of the oven.  Allow to cool until room temperature before disturbing the granola to get some nice clumps.  Store airtight.

This granola is only very lightly sweet tasting without milk, and is best with dairy or non-dairy milk.

Venus Thistle Cocktail

A cocktail is an impression of a greater experience –  evoking something beautiful, mysterious, tender, dramatic.  My Venus Thistle Cocktail is an impression of the stunning wildflowers and rocky crags of Pinnacles National Park.

Venus Thistle Cocktail

Venus Thistle Cocktail

Its namesake wildflower, The Venus Thistle, blooms bright and fresh in a harsh and dry landscape.

Venus Thistle

Venus Thistle

Scotch was the natural choice to represent a thistle.  My favorite mixer, St. Germain, lends a gentle and well rounded floral sweetness to this drink.  Muddled white thyme from my garden evokes the fragrant, resinous vegetation of the Pinnacles.  Serve in a small, chilled cocktail glass.  Enjoy!

The Venus Thistle
(serves one)

1 1/2 oz good quality scotch
1/2 oz St. Germain
2 sprigs fresh thyme
ice

Gently muddle one spring thyme in the base of your cocktail mixing glass.  Pour in scotch and St. Germain, then add four cubes of ice.  Stir for a minute to thoroughly chill the cocktail.  Strain into a coupe and garnish with a sprig of thyme.