Maybe, let’s say, your usual routine is lettuce with tomatoes and cucumbers. Maybe you’re comfortable with that routine. Maybe that routine happens every week. If you step out beyond this good history to put, all of a sudden, something like granola on top of your greens, you’re breaking tradition. Breaking tradition is scary. Breaking tradition involves risk. Changing things up invites both possibility and disappointment. You’re effectively saying, in spite of all the comfort and security of what was, you’re willing to welcome what could be.
That’s one reason to try making a salad with granola. Because it forces you to look at a new idea and give it a chance. It forces you to move forward, to take a step. This food concept, like so many food concepts before it, holds that same undeniable power that usually accompanies the decision to add one new thing to one ordinary thing and, in the process, fashion something altogether new. It’s the same power that guides and even defines creative life, says Dorothy Sayers, who emphasizes the creation aspect of artistic work.
She writes, “If the common man asks the artist for help in producing moral judgements or practical solutions, the only answer he can get is something like this: you must learn to handle practical situations as I handle the material of my book. You must take them and use them to make a new thing.” Not a normal thing. Not the thing you’ve always done. A new thing. Use them to create something that previously didn’t exist. Move past what’s behind. Step forward.
Last week, like probably every other person in my demographic, I saw the trailer for the new Gilmore Girls revival. It came up in my newsfeeds dozens of times the day it released. One friend said she was crying; another said she couldn’t wait. As someone who came of age in the 2000s, who’s seen all the episodes, I could relate. Lorelai and Rory were the characters who accompanied me on quiet nights after working at the insurance office in Lisle, Illinois where I was employed for $10 per hour straight out of college. They were in my laptop’s DVD player on nights in my twenties when I couldn’t sleep. When I went to New England for the first time, it didn’t feel like a history book; it felt like Stars Hollow. When a friend of mine was stuck on a layover for hours, she didn’t panic; she watched episode after episode alone in a terminal. Still today, every autumn, when I sip a chai and look at the leaves, I wish I had my own local Luke’s.
This happy little show with its happy little dialogues has been a constant throughout my adult life. But when I watched the trailer for the revival, what shocked me most was not that the familiar characters were, now, undeniably almost ten years older, it was how it meant that, if they were, so was I. I had the same reaction watching the sequel to My Big Fat Greek Wedding. There’s the part of the world where I grew up: Chicago. There’s the family she had when she was single, but now she’s a married mom. Everyone’s 14 years older! Life doesn’t stay exactly the same!
Sometimes, I’ll admit it, I want to go back. I’m not interested in reliving high school, no thanks, but there were some parts of college, some parts of my early adulthood, those early days when I’d just met Tim, that were pretty uniquely free and fun. When I’m confronted with how a chunk of those days disappeared before me, with how I can’t watch an old show like the old me, I’m surprised how short the seasons flew. Nostalgia makes me wistful and sometimes sad. But then I read Ecclesiastes.
“Say not ‘Why were the former days better than these?'” it says in chapter 7. “For it is not from wisdom that you ask this.” When I want things to always stay the same, to never change, to keep me young and less responsible and less aware of hard realities in life, it’s not from wisdom. When I want to stay in my ruts and traditions and never question routine, it’s a surefire recipe for disappointment, as this world changes whether I like it or not. Say not the former days were better than these, Solomon says. Treasure them, remember them, but be here, today. Keep moving forward into what will be.
The folks at Purely Elizabeth invited us into new possibility when they approached us recently about sending over some products to try. Our response was an easy yes because, truth is, we love their granola. I’ve actually mentioned it here before, in a Christmas gift ideas roundup back in 2014. Back then, we’d been finding it at Home Goods, where it drew us in with the clean ingredients and won us over with its addictive blueberry hemp flavor. Now, it’s available in many more locations in Nashville, in many more flavors.
The samples we got last month expanded our Purely Elizabeth interests past the granola and into ancient grains instant oatmeal, an easy, nutrient-rich breakfast option we can whip up in minutes for Rocco and for us. More than that, though, it let us top everything from parfait bowls to panna cotta with probiotic granola, a cool option Purely Elizabeth now makes in both chocolate sea salt and maple walnut flavors. The maple walnut, both sweet and savory, just begs to accent a salad bowl. That’s how this recipe for salad with granola was born.
When you’re comfortable in a certain place in life, branching out into a new thing can be daunting, even if it’s just a new food thing. Change invites the unknown.
So here is what I did. I started with an idea: salad with granola. I had this vague memory of a salad with granola I ate somewhere at a restaurant once. I don’t know where or when. I do remember I loved it. Also, I read something in Bon Appetit about how granola in salad is a new restaurant trend. Or, at least, it was a new restaurant trend, two years ago, when that article was first released. (I’ve never been a trendsetter.) Tim and I talked about ideas. I browsed lettuces at the store. I picked up some things that looked good. We talked about ideas some more.
What evolved, farther and farther removed from our usual salad routine, was a combination of organic lettuces, goat cheese, pomegranate seeds, mandarin oranges and Purely Elizabeth maple walnut granola clusters. It’s a salad we’ve now had three times in the last week. It’s a salad that looks nothing like our usual salads. It’s a salad that, launched with one small change of putting granola inside, changed and changed and changed again until it became something completely its own, virtually unrecognizable, a “new thing.”
I remember a post I wrote here in 2009 about change. Or, really, it was about the lack of change I was then experiencing in my life. From that season of stability, I found it was newness I longed for instead of old times. “Everywhere around me, people are rushing for things—new places and careers, new relationships, new life, even—and I am watching them,” I wrote. I didn’t know then that the very act of writing those words was a step that would usher in change after change in the years to come. Nor did I know six months later, Tim would email me, or that, two years later, I’d be living in another state. But that’s the way change comes, isn’t it? One small thing and one small thing and, woah, how did I get to this new place?
I was telling someone Sunday about how I’ve lived in Nashville more than five years. Five years! It still surprises me that what started with a simple email exchange and months of phone calls led to becoming a freelancer and moving to Music City and making this place my new life. But the reality is we’re, all of us, always changing. None of us is fully static. Even when we feel like we’re stuck, our days are going by.
Adding granola to a salad may not be as pivotal as noticing someone new or as inspiring as starting a creative project. Mixing up a salad routine may not be as transformative as a geographic relocation or a job change. But, because pushing away from the expected moves towards possibility, into newness, into what could be, it’s always, undeniably, a step.
That’s why, making salad with granola may not change your life, but, then again, it may. Trying something new in the kitchen may be another detail of your day, or it may be the first link in a long chain of change. Who can resist it when you think of it this way? Who, alive to possibility, wouldn’t want to push the door ahead of you open just a little wider, just a little braver, if only to see what it brings?
Special thanks to Purely Elizabeth for sending us over some products to try. As always, all opinions expressed in this post are our own.
Lemony Greens Salad with Granola, Pomegranate Seeds, Mandarin Oranges and Goat Cheese
Serves four alongside a meal
Think of granola in a salad as crunchy, nutty croutons, an easy, foolproof way to add nuts and grains. In this salad, they add texture and maple flavor, a welcome complement to the dressed greens and creamy goat cheese.
Since I’m not a person who usually measures salad dressing ingredients, all I can tell you here is to drizzle a little olive oil and balsamic, toss, taste and adjust. In my personal experience, less is more, so take your time getting it to the level you like. Also, it’s probably obvious, but the beauty of salads like this is you can raise or lower any ingredient’s proportion to fit what you like. Enjoy! If you make it, we’d love to hear what you think.
1 (5 ounce) bag of Trader Joe’s organic lemony greens (arugula, dock, spinach, red oak lettuce)
A handful or two of Purely Elizabeth maple walnut probiotic granola (or your favorite granola)
2.5 to 3 ounces pomegranate seeds
2.5 ounces creamy goat cheese
2 to 3 mandarin oranges, peeled and separated into pieces
Olive oil and balsamic vinegar, to taste
Salt and pepper, to taste
Rinse and dry greens thoroughly. Toss with light amounts of olive oil and balsamic vinegar, to taste. Add granola, pomegranate seeds, goat cheese and oranges. Toss. Salt and pepper. Adjust everything to taste.
ALTERNATIVES: Any light greens would work here (think yes microgreens, no Romaine). You could use dried cranberries or raisins instead of pomegranate seeds. You could go with feta instead of goat cheese. Instead of mandarin oranges, you could used sliced or segmented regular oranges. Or to avoid citrus altogether, why not strawberries or peaches?
SIMILAR SALAD RECIPES: If you love this salad idea, you might like this triple berry salad with sauteed shallots, walnuts and a cayenne honey vinaigrette or this leafy sprouts salad with a sorghum chili vinaigrette. Or, if you’re reading this in winter, try our winter lettuce salad with roasted peppers and feta.
MORE GRANOLA IDEAS: One of my most memorable moments in Austin, Texas was a panna cotta topped by granola. Have you tried this minimalist granola recipe yet? Or if you want a super simple grain-free granola, try this version we posted in 2014!