Spiced Coconut Granola

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As promised, here is the tale of our mini-honeymoon, Jonji’s graduation, and our long-awaited move to Palo Alto. I will try to keep it short, but no promises.

Jonji and I left for Oregon the Monday after our wedding weekend, leaving the cats at my parents’ house. The plane ride was a little bumpy, and Jonji grew increasingly exasperated with my unintentional piston-like sounds as I drew in hissing breaths at every sign of turbulence. The transition from the airport to our rental car was smooth, and our first order of business was lunch. At Beeswing (we had a heated argument over the name—bees-wing, or bee-swing?) we each got a delicious breakfast sandwich. Jonji showed signs of Smaug-ing me with his biscuit version, but relented in the end.

From the highly-contentious Beeswing, we soon found ourselves speeding down the scenic highway towards Hood River. We felt rejuvenated just from the sheer amount of trees, and the trip had barely begun.

We checked into our adorable Airbnb first, 15 minutes south of the actual town. The drive from the river is one of the most beautiful I’ve ever witnessed, with Mt. Adams on one end and Mt. Hood on the other, towering above the surrounding land like sleeping, ice-covered giants. Driving down the dirt road towards the cottage, the sun winked at us through shifting leaves, and suddenly the road opened up to reveal a quiet green clearing, upon which sat a small, steepled white cottage. It was warm outside as we explored the area, exclaiming over the hammock, the comfortable interior of the cottage, and the farmhouse sink (that one was mostly me).

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The road to our cottage boasted several orchards, and we soon returned to one that had cider tasting and a renowned food truck. We settled onto a picnic table, each with our own flight of ciders to taste, and ordered food to share. The view of the hills was spectacular. The warmth of the day mingled with the warmth we felt from the quickly draining cider glasses, and soon we moved to lounge on the grass, feeling rather giggly.

We had a leisurely morning the next day, eating a light breakfast and drinking cups of coffee on the sunny cottage porch. After reading of good hikes to go on, we chose to explore Tamanawas Falls. One part of the path wound through a hill that looked like the recent site of a giant landslide, and I unashamedly sprinted through, imagining rocks breaking free from their weak root tethers or Gollum leaping from behind a rocky hiding place. Once at the waterfall, we welcomed the light mist coming off the water as it continued its eternal and relentless campaign against the rocks far below. The view from the trail almost convinced me that we were traveling the same path that the Fellowship took out of Rivendell’s enchanting valley. On the way home we stopped at a small farm, chancing upon a happy family of pygmy goats.

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We started our last day in Hood River early, going to a local CF gym before eating a decadent breakfast out. Meandering along the shops, we caved in to comfort and each bought a pair of Birkenstocks (I have no regrets), before spending a warm day by the (freezing) river. The end of the day was spent in the hammock at our little cottage. Jonji immediately fell asleep, but I stayed awake, watching the swaying plants and lazy bugs float in the scattered rays of the glittering sun.

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We stopped at another waterfall on our drive back to Portland, once again marveling at the abundance of greenery that had been denied us the last few years in LA. Our first stop in the city was Pip’s doughnuts, where we ate the excellent little morsels between gulps of hot chai. We read books at a giant park before going to our Airbnb, then set out for our second cider tasting of the trip. We were pleasantly surprised by the excellent flavors of the different ciders (the lavender one was particularly good), but even more surprised at how affected we were from what was really only one pint each. Once again quite giggly, we made our way to our fancy dinner reservation at Le Pigeon, where we were treated to an intimate five course meal that included some spectacular and artistic dishes, and one that contained actual Pigeon.

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Our last stop before our flight back to San Jose was the Rose Garden, where we meandered among the paths lined with various, lovely roses, feeling rather like courtiers in a castle garden.

The whole trip was a lovely breather, a chance to fully appreciate the transition from the end of our engagement and the all-consuming wedding planning, to the beginning of our life together as as married couple.

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A couple of days later, we were speeding along on our last drive back to LA for the foreseeable future. The week flew by, our packing and cleaning progress feeling close to a crawl, but by the time Friday rolled around we were almost ready to go. Most of Jonji’s family came down for his graduation, so we spent the majority of the last couple of days with them. The ceremony gave us a chance to finally consider the magnitude of the situation—I’ve never seen anyone work as hard and as long as Jonji did throughout his four years at medical school. Though I’m biased, I could see that he was an exceptional student and leader among his peers, and the numerous awards he received were very well-deserved. Atul Gawande’s address was engaging and thoughtful, but Jonji’s short speech, full of emotion and love for his fellow doctors, was my favorite. Dinner and brunch the following day were filled with family, and we went into the last day of packing with more energy.

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Mom and Dad arrived on Saturday afternoon to see boxes piled everywhere. Dad and I went to pick up the U-Haul, which had been upgraded to a giant of a truck that even Dad was a bit hesitant to get into. But years of driving a tiller truck for his fire station steadied his nerves, and soon he and the truck were following me back to our apartment.

Packing the truck went quickly enough, and we soon realized just how unnecessary the huge upgrade was. We walked to a quick dinner with some of those we would miss most, Todd, Jess, Dan, and Tiff. Mom and Dad got to try out Birds on the way there, looking rather like oversized kids, gleefully riding the large scooters.

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The next day we powered through last minute packing and cleaning, which felt as though it would never end. Dad took off first, all of us watching in trepidation as the gigantic vehicle pulled away. Jonji, Mom, and I cleaned until the very end, then packed poor Babs into the car once again (we had left Kitty at Mom and Dad’s). Before we pulled away, we looked once more upon the little apartment that we’d called home for the last four years. The hydrangea bush was just beginning to bloom, marking the start of another summer that, this time, we wouldn’t watch from inside those windows.

I would miss the afternoon light, falling in huge columns through the large living room windows; the expansive pantry and adorable spice cabinet; the old wainscoting and cracked pink tile; and mostly, the many memories accumulated over the years. We had moved in as a young couple, soon gathering friends and cats and knowledge. Now we left, a married couple, knowing we would miss our friends but greatly looking forward to our next adventure. With that in mind, we said goodbye to our first apartment.

Farewell, little home, and may your next inhabitants fill you once again with love and memories.

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The trip went smoothly, Mom, Babs, and I in one car while Jonji drove his, my little Honda adding another several feet to Dad’s behemoth of a truck. Marni and Andre met us at our new place, and we all heaved boxes up the stairs to our second floor apartment. The new space held the promise of peace, afternoon light gently drifting in through the trees that grew beyond each window. After dinner at Delfina in downtown Palo Alto, we said goodbye to our generous helpers, and soon went to sleep in our new home.

Months have now passed. Jonji is well into his pediatric residency, learning through his new experiences and clearly excited to be seeing patients. My job search took much longer than I had thought, finally bearing fruit at the same place Kelly and Tim work (which is any O’Regan cousin’s dream come true). The cats surprised us all by actually co-existing peacefully in the new place, and even going up to each other to exchange sniffs and the occasional kiss on the top of the head—a perk of the move that has made me happier than I can even say.

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Dad and I built planter boxes for our little garden space, using wood we’d harvested from someone’s old redwood fence. We spent one intense day, finding a rhythm in the precise joining of planks, each with a drill in hand, that finally ended with two frantic runs to fill the back of his truck with dirt before the place closed for the day. I have rarely felt as exhausted and satisfied as I did at the end of that day.

Since then, the garden has flourished. My carefully sketched plans for plant pairings seems to have paid off, herbs doing well together while tomatoes and peppers thrive in the bright sun. Dealing with squirrels is a constant battle, especially when they dig into my tender beet and carrot seedlings. In the golden hours of the afternoon, the garden hums with contentment, and the sweet aroma coming from the explosion of new lemon blossoms beckons to any visitor standing at the small white gate.

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The new kitchen is the heart of our new place—it’s the room in the middle of everything, almost a hallway between two sections. It’s the first room I enter in the morning, the sunlight streaming through the large window beckoning me into a new day, and the last stop before bed each night. The kitchen has been in constant use since the day we arrived—with bread, cookies, salads, and roasts being churned out all the time.

This granola is a constant inhabitant of our new shelves, wonderfully spiced with a hearty helping of nuts and coconut. It’s a perfect between-meal snack, and also functions well as a light dessert for those needing to satisfy a sweet tooth. It’s also delicious in a bowl with milk, a cereal for adults who have given up its more sugary predecessors. The baking granola will perfume any home, old or new, with its comforting spice.

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Spiced Coconut Granola
makes about 2 1/2 quarts

3 cups rolled oats
1 cup raw pumpkin seeds
3/4 cup raw almonds, roughly chopped
1 1/2 cups coconut flakes
1/3 cup sesame seeds
1 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp ground turmeric
1 tsp salt

1/2 cup coconut oil, melted
1/2 cup maple syrup
2–3 tbsp honey

1/2 cup dried cherries (optional)

Preheat your oven to 300°F.

In a large bowl, combine the oats, pumpkin seeds, almonds, coconut flakes, sesame seeds, cinnamon, turmeric, and salt. Stir, then add the coconut oil, maple syrup, and honey, and mix until everything is evenly coated.

Spread the granola in an even layer on a large rimmed baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Bake for 40 minutes, taking the granola out to stir it every 15 minutes.

Let cool completely before adding the dried cherries, if using. Store in large jars or air tight containers. The granola will keep for a few weeks. Enjoy!

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2 thoughts on “Spiced Coconut Granola

  1. Hana!! I love your blog, you write so beautifully! Love your story and hope to make a family dinner together soon! xo Karyn

    Sent from my iPhone

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