Cranberry Almond Granola

In the winter, when the snow is high and spirits are low, we head to the mountains to heal. We leave our lives behindour responsibilities, our technology, our connection to the rest of the worldin search of a lungful of fresh, pine-scented air. The long, curved mountain roads guide us towards the peaks, leading us to our home for the weekend.

When the sun stretches toward the heavens, we strap skis to our feet and fly across the landscape until our legs grow unsteady; when the sun falls below the sky, we rest near the fireplace, laughing, holding this feeling of family close. Our fears, our worries, our stubborn doubts fade and we remember, once again, how to become whole.


Packed along with the winter gear, I brought a batch of granola to share among ourselves. The hearty grains were the start we needed in the dawn of the morning hours. During our stay, clouds hung heavy over the sky, releasing large, white flakes by the hour, enclosing the mountain with an opaque fog. The light, however, had a quality of warmth and wildness unknown to me in the Midwest. I could not resist the moment and pulled out my camera to capture the breakfast, the rough wood floor, and the trees blanketed in white.

The mountains teach lessons that cannot be learned from books; the mountains teach lessons that are learned directly through thin, crisp air, tired legs, and eyes full of wonder.


In other (exciting!) news, I am so honored to announce that Pastry Affair has been nominated for Saveur Magazine's 2015 food blog awards in the Best Baking & Desserts Category! It is your endless support that has brought me here, and I want to take a moment to say thank you. It means everything. I feel privileged to be listed among such talented company. 

To vote, head over to Saveur's website, take a moment to register, and select your favorites

Cranberry Almond Granola is textured and hearty, made for early mornings and days that are demanding. Almond butter is sweetened with honey and spices to give the base a full, natural flavor. Coarsely chopped almonds and dried cranberries are thrown in to add character. Serve with a thick yogurt or drown in a swirl of your favorite milk. 

Two Years Ago: Pita Bread, Homemade Pita Chips, and Almond Joy Candy Bars
Three Years Ago: Coconut Pineapple Banana Bread, Sundried Tomato Basil & Brie Spread, Strawberry Balsamic Jam, and Strawberry Honey Oatmeal Bars
Four Years Ago: Cereal & Milk Bars, Vanilla Almond Cupcakes, Banana Pudding, and Devil's Food Cake

Cranberry Almond Granola

Yields 5-6 cups

3 cups (270 grams) old-fashioned oats
1/2 cup (85 grams) quinoa, uncooked
1 cup (140 grams) whole almonds, chopped coarsely
1 tablespoon chia seeds (optional)
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/3 cup (78 ml) coconut oil, melted
1/3 cup (80 grams) almond butter
1/2 cup (170 grams) honey
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 egg white (optional)*
3/4 cup (120 grams) dried cranberries

Preheat oven to 325 degrees F (170 degrees C).

In a large mixing bowl, stir together the oats, quinoa, chopped almonds, chia seeds, cinnamon, and nutmeg. In a separate bowl, whisk together the melted coconut oil, almond butter, honey, vanilla, salt, and egg white until uniform. Pour the liquid ingredients over the dry and stir until evenly coated.

Spread out evenly on a baking sheet and bake for 20-25 minutes, or until golden and fragrant. If the egg white was omitted, stir halfway through baking; if it was added, do not stir the granola and leave it to set while baking. Cool completely before storing. Stir in dried cranberries.

*The egg white binds the granola together for a chunkier texture, allowing you to break it apart into small or large pieces of your choosing. If you prefer a looser granola, omit this ingredient.

Cranberry Orange Muffins

I have a tendency to forget about myself, to push my own needs aside in favor of others. As a novice teacher, I arrive early to school and stay late, long after the last bell rings in the afternoon. I write up dozens of notes for my students on their work, knowing that most will go unread, but still marking the page in case a stray eye happens to catch the blue ink. I fall asleep in front of the computer in the evenings, typing up powerpoint presentations for the new courses I am teaching. I love my job and enjoy my students, but some days I wonder when I can set down the textbooks and pick up something I'd actually like to read.

I wonder when my time will start to become my own. 

I often forget how important it is to set aside time for myself. With a to-do list that never ends, I cross off one item right before starting the next. Owing to the advent of a new year, I am trying to work closer towards a balance. After my first week back in school from the holidays, I woke up late on the weekend. Rubbing the sleep from my eyes, I set out to make muffins. And again and again, just to make sure I got them right. There is a peacefulness in the kitchen, of mixing ingredients and knowing how they will come together. 

The first time I mixed up a batch of these muffins I used clementines, which was a mistake. Clementines are too tart to act as a foil against the cranberries. The second batch was good, but it wasn't sweet enough to make the pockets of cranberry taste pleasant. The last batch, however, was just right. The muffins are bright in flavor, sweet in nature, and the tart cranberries can truly shine. 

If these muffins can master this balance between extremes, perhaps there is hope for me too.


Cranberry orange muffins are a play on sweet and tart, and they perform this harmony so well. The batter is infused with orange zest and freshly squeezed orange juice to give it a vibrant citrus flavor. The cranberries add a tartness, but it is a relief against the rest of the muffin. I enjoyed these muffins with a mug of black tea and an old episode of Friends. I encourage you to find a way to sit down, relax, and savor them as well.

One Year Ago: Double Chocolate Brownies
Two Years Ago: Lemon Poppy Seed Rolls, Rosemary Sandwich Bread, and Cranberry Flaxseed Muffins
Three Years Ago: How to Make Cake Flour, Cinnamon Sugar Cake, and Vanilla Bean Pudding
Four Years Ago:Fleur de Sel Caramels, Chocolate Salted Caramel Cookies, and Chocolate Marbled Banana Bread

Cranberry Orange Muffins

Yields 1 dozen muffins

3/4 cup (150 grams) granulated sugar, plus extra for sprinkling
Zest from 1 orange
1 large egg
1/2 cup (113 grams) butter, melted
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
3/4 cup (95 grams) all purpose flour
3/4 cup (90 grams) whole wheat flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup (180 ml) freshly squeezed orange juice (about 2 oranges)
1 cup (110 grams) fresh or frozen cranberries

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (180 degrees C). Grease a muffin pan or line with baking cups.

In a large mixing bowl, rub the zest and sugar between your fingers for several minutes to release the oils. The sugar should become fragrant. Beat in the egg, melted butter, and vanilla until smooth. Gradually fold in the flours, baking powder, and salt. Stir in the orange juice until uniform.  Mix in the cranberries.

Divide batter evenly between baking cups and sprinkle the tops with granulated sugar. Bake for 18-22 minutes, or until lightly browned and a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. 

Cranberry Upside Down Cake

Cranberry Upside Down Cake

Cranberry Upside Down Cake

Each year, just before the turn of the new year, marks the anniversary of the day I quit graduate school in physics. Though it has only been three years, it feels like a lifetime ago. I feel so much older than that bright eyed girl with high hopes and soaring dreams. The hopes are no less great, but a touch of experience has tethered me a little closer to earth. I feel as if it is difficult to keep track of all the changes since then, all the emotions—positive and negative, exciting and disappointing—that I have passed through. I’m older. Not just three years, but what feels like a decade in life and stress and growing.

I’m not the same person I was then, but I wouldn’t want to change the person I’ve become.

Cranberry Upside Down Cake Cranberry Upside Down Cake

The past year has been exhausting. I feel as if I have been running forward, so eager to get on my path, to find where I am supposed to be, that I’ve forgotten to stop and just breathe. I have been trying to do too much, a phrase which has become my unwanted motto for many, many months. Some lessons take longer to learn than others. Since I stopped baking professionally over a year ago, I went back to grad school for a masters in education, with the goal of becoming a high school physics teacher.

When I stopped pursuing physics, I swore up and down (and left and right) that I would never stray towards science again. I had convinced myself so thoroughly of this that I threw away every physics notebook I had kept all the way back to high school in a ceremonial sweep (a sin that I have since regretted).

Cranberry Upside Down Cake Cranberry Upside Down Cake

In August, I took on my first teaching job—you can call me Ms. Rosenau now. Teaching for the first time is a whirlwind. I feel as if I should have been a little more forewarned of the adventure ahead. Teaching is more overwhelming and challenging than I could have imagined, consuming all of my time and energy to create entire curriculums from scratch. Teaching is also extraordinarily rewarding. There truly is never a dull moment when surrounded by 80 sixteen and seventeen year olds both eager to learn and hungry to distract.

If you had told me three years ago that this is where I would have ended up, I may have very well laughed in your face. Life, I found, keeps me on my toes. Once I am certain I have everything figured out, it throws another curve in my path and sends me in a new direction. Even so, right now this is where I feel like I am meant to be. I just hope that life waits a few more years before sending me around the next bend.

Cranberry Upside Down Cake Cranberry Upside Down Cake

Cranberry Upside Down Cake is tart, textured, and colorful enough to impress your holiday guests. The cranberries are cooked on the stove until they "pop" and release their juices. Mixed with raspberries and a bit of orange zest, it forms the bottom (or "top") of the cake. A quick cake batter is mixed up, which is made with brown sugar and sliced almonds for a bit of texture and greater depth of flavor. The cake itself is on the tarter side, but will not make you wish for more sugar. Share with family and friends to bring out the holiday spirit.

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