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The Season of Traditions | Savory Granola

Savory Granola | Delightful Crumb

It’s Christmastime, the season of traditions! Like all other aspects of the holiday, traditions bring with them all kinds of baggage, the good kind and the bad. But in this dichotomy, I think what’s often missed about tradition is the fact that we create it—actively, in the present tense, in small, everyday ways. We think most of the traditions that were created by others, or by our past selves, but the truth is that we’re making our own traditions all the time.

When Ben and I moved to the Bay Area over six years ago, we weren’t running away from anything—not the Midwest or even its snowy winters, and certainly not our families or friends. Rather, we were running to something—possibility, a future we could build ourselves, something fresh and bright and new. That’s honestly what I wanted most: a glimpse of what else might be possible. I understand now that other exciting things would have happened if I’d stayed where I was, but back then it didn’t feel possible to passively wait. I needed to leap, to respond to what I felt deep in my bones. And we needed it—to do this thing, together.

What we got out of this move was what we hoped for and far more—good and bad, easy and hard. But one unexpected gift we’ve ended up with is our own set of fairly robust traditions. We go back every year for Christmas with our families, criss-crossing the state to see everyone, but we don’t leave for Michigan until close to the holiday and often return on New Year’s Eve. We’ve never made it back for Thanksgiving or Easter or any other holiday on the calendar. We also don’t have kids, which I know can be a prompt to make traditions—particularly when children proclaim that something, done once or perhaps twice, is now what we do.

However, what Ben and I do have is me, and I have a profound belief in tradition and celebration. And so, forced by distance and said belief, we have built our own traditions. We’ve carried on traditions we inherited, too, but mixed in are some of our own: the late-December purchase of a big wedge of Brillat Savarin, the Oakland Interfaith Gospel Choir Concert, trying some new cookie recipe I’ve found. We always go out for a nice dinner, a quiet, festive moment before we jump on a plane. We’ve found holiday albums and movies that weren’t in either of our childhood repertoires but hold an important place in ours. Several times now, we’ve come home on New Year’s Eve in the interest of cheap flights, arriving within an hour of midnight. We’ve taken to putting a bottle of Champagne and cheese that won’t expire in the fridge before we go and arrive with just enough time to shower and pop some popcorn before landing on the couch to watch the ball drop and quietly ring in the new year, hours after it started back in Michigan, our other home. I’ve found such contentment in that moment—realizing, with some surprise, that we have a home and a life and traditions, built over time with a great deal of thought and also, somehow, none at all.

Traditions mean so many different things. They are a rhythm, a drumbeat to the year. They are a reminder of who we are or where we come from, and sometimes both. They tie us to what matters—faith, family, friends. And they cut through the noise. Because there is so much noise these days, is there not? Stillness and quiet feel elusive, and at times so do joy and gratitude. When I sit by the Christmas tree to wrap presents for people I love or put away my work so that I can have a special dinner with my husband or come up with a recipe to make with my nieces and nephews once we’re back in Michigan (we did it once, and now this is what we do—and let’s be real, I couldn’t be more delighted), some of that noise fades away.

This season, I have on repeat a song by Over the Rhine, from their Christmas album “Blood Oranges in the Snow.” Ben and I went to see them earlier this month. We’d each seen them perform in the past, separately, and it felt significant to see them together. It was festive and beautiful, and when they started singing this song, it hit me in a new way and has stayed with me all season.

Have you been trying too hard
Have you been holding too tight
Have you been worrying too much lately
All night
Whatever we’ve lost
I think we’re gonna let it go
Let it fall
Like snow

‘Cause rain and leaves
And snow and tears and stars
And that’s not all, my friend
They all fall with confidence and grace
So let it fall, let it fall

May we let what needs to fall go ahead and fall this season, my friends, and may we find grace in the space that remains.

And if among your traditions is making a homemade gift or two, I have a recipe here from Alison Roman that you could mix up in these next couple of days for whomever is lingering on your list, or for the host of the next party on the calendar. Alternately, serve this as a unique breakfast for family or friends, or throw it on salad or soup for a surprising crunch. More serving ideas are included with the recipe.

Wishing a joyful season to you and yours.

Savory Granola | Delightful Crumb

Savory Granola

Lightly adapted from Alison Roman’s Dining In

This savory granola is delicious on yogurt for breakfast (serving ideas below) and on top of salads and soups for an alternative to croutons or plain old seeds. It’s great for gifting and a nice savory snack to have on hand if you’re feeling overwhelmed by Christmas cookies and hot chocolate.

Makes about 5 cups of granola

1 1/2 cups rolled oats

1 cup raw sunflower seeds

1 cup raw pumpkin seeds

1 cup raw buckwheat groats (if unavailable, swap in more sunflower or pumpkin seeds)

1/2 cup flaxseeds

1/2 cup black or white sesame seeds

1/4 cup nigella seed (if unavailable, use more black or white sesame seeds)

3 large egg whites

1/3 cup olive oil

1/4 cup maple syrup

1/4 cup caraway or fennel seed

2 tablespoons Aleppo pepper (optional)

2 tablespoons soy sauce

2 teaspoons kosher salt

Freshly ground black pepper

Preheat the oven to 325 degrees Farenheit. Line a 9×13 rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper.

Give the egg whites a quick whisk to loosen them. In a large bowl, combine the oats, sunflower seeds, pumpkin seeds, buckwheat, flaxseeds, sesame seeds, nigella seed, egg whites, oil, maple syrup, caraway or fennel seed, Aleppo pepper (if using), soy sauce and salt. Toss until the mixture is well combined. Season generously with black pepper.

Spread the granola onto the prepared baking sheet and bake, stirring every 15 minutes or so, until everything is golden brown and well toasted, about 45 to 55 minutes. Let cool completely and break up any large clumps into smaller pieces. Store in glass jars or ziplock bags.

Savory Granola | Delightful Crumb

With Citrus

Slice or supreme or otherwise separate a variety of citrus—oranges, blood oranges, mandarins, pomelo, etc.

Arrange in a bowl with Greek (or other) plan yogurt. Top with a drizzle of olive oil, a big handful of savory granola and flaky sea salt.

Savory Granola | Delightful Crumb

With Cucumbers

Also adapted from Alison Roman’s Dining In

Grate fresh garlic into plain Greek yogurt. Squeeze in some lemon juice, and season with salt and pepper.

In a ziplock bag, smash (using a rolling pin or the bottom of a pan) thick slices of cucumbers and thinly sliced scallions, seasoned with more lemon juice, salt and pepper.

Serve the yogurt, cucumbers and savory granola with more sliced scallions, a drizzle of olive oil and flaky sea salt.

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