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Apricot-Walnut Granola with Orange Blossom, and a new life

I haven’t heard my father’s name spoken so many times in the 12 years since he died as I have in the last week. For the first time I truly understand, and I feel, the power of a namesake. It evokes. It reminds. It says: here is the cycle of life. We are born. We live, and try to live well. Then we do move on to eternal life.

There is a new baby in the family, and his aunt (and of course, his grandmother) came a-running to catch a glimpse of his face and hands and little, tiny feet. It’s stunning what being in the same room with a child who has been here less than a week can do for the soul. Especially for someone who has thought long and hard about her own non-motherhood. There’s a kind of downward pull that dwelling on this facet of my life can have. That is, until I decide (and I can do that, decide how to feel, then proceed as decided. You can too.) to consider the ways in which my particular brand of aunt-hood has given me mothering opportunities I wouldn’t otherwise have.

A conversation I overheard between one of my nieces and one of my nephews, when they were so small, sums it up:

Where’s Maureenie’s baby?

She doesn’t have one.

Well we’ve gotta go GET her one at the STORE.

No, NO. If we do that, she won’t have any time for us.

We’re here in Minnesota taking care, cooking a line-up of foods so long we can’t possibly get to them all. But there will be an indulgence or two (apple pie, braised short ribs) and some good sustenance for a tired mama’s early morning hours (favorite granola, homemade yogurt).

There is a line from a song that keeps going through my head this week. For unto us a child is born. For unto…us. Yes yes, it takes a village and all of that. Beyond that, it takes a grandfather who is not here to see, but who is here in name. And it takes an aunt, deciding that not only is her glass half full, her cup runneth over.

Apricot-Walnut Granola with Orange Blossom Water
A great basic recipe for granola, which can be varied easily. Add almonds and pecans, dried cherries or currants. Vanilla instead of mazaher. Be sure to line the pan with parchment, or the granola will stick. Next to ordering dried apricots from California, Trader Joe’s has the finest around.

3 cups rolled oats (not quick oats)
1 cup coarsely chopped walnuts
1 cup unsweetened coconut chips
1 ½ cups dried apricots, chopped
½ cup butter, coconut oil, or canola oil
¼ cup honey
¼ cup maple syrup
3 teaspoons orange blossom water

Line a rimmed baking sheet with parchment. Preheat the oven to 325 degrees.

Place the oats and walnuts in a large bowl.

In a small saucepan over medium low heat, melt the butter (or warm the oil, if using instead) and add the honey, maple syrup, and orange blossom water. Whisk to thoroughly combine. Pour over the oats and mix with a large spoon until well coated.

Bake for 30-40 minutes, until golden brown, stirring once or twice for even baking. Remove the pan from the oven and sprinkle the chopped dried apricots over the oat mixture, stirring to combine. Allow the granola to cool completely in the pan, then transfer to an airtight container. The granola will keep for two weeks. Makes about 5 cups of granola.

Print this recipe here.


  1. Lynda - TasteFood on January 17, 2013 at 1:27 PM

    Beautiful post, Maureen. And congratulations on your new family addition – and your full cup 🙂

  2. Pamela Christopher on January 17, 2013 at 1:29 PM

    Congratulations, the namesake looks so handsome in the feet and hands anyway. Love the granola and you have a lucky sister. Love your blog.

  3. Peggy Fox on January 17, 2013 at 1:33 PM

    So beautifully written, Maureen. Aunts play a huge role in nieces and nephews lives, and serve a very specific purpose. I’ve had the joy of watching five nieces and nephews grow up, and now the added bonus of my first grand niece. Thank you for reminding me about this great pleasure in life.

  4. Michelle Deiter on January 17, 2013 at 1:35 PM

    Lovely !

  5. Tara Desmond on January 17, 2013 at 1:36 PM

    I can’t see the keyboard through my teary eyes. Amen, Maureenie.

  6. Jodi on January 17, 2013 at 1:36 PM

    Love, love, love this.

  7. Monica on January 17, 2013 at 1:40 PM

    Beautiful, as always. Hope to see you again this year.

  8. Vicky Woeste on January 17, 2013 at 1:41 PM

    Grief and joy are ultimately bound together, aren’t they? I was so thrilled to see the FB post announcing CT’s arrival. What a happy time for your family. Give the new mom and dad and grandma my love. And enjoy your special place in those kids’ lives. I love the exchange about getting you a baby from the store. Aren’t children so wonderfully earnest?

  9. Kamell Abdnour on January 17, 2013 at 1:51 PM

    You touch us with your wisdom and sensitivity.

  10. Jerry Wakeen on January 17, 2013 at 2:02 PM

    I had an attack of gout last night, didn’t sleep well but finally, got medicated and slept till about 9:35am.
    I wonder what Maureen’s excuse is….I see the posting didn’t arrive till 1:19pm, which is late late. 🙂

    Perhaps too much early morning thinking about children and motherhood? Though delightful thoughts, and well written as always, while reading your thoughts I remembered a story that I believe is true:

    I am told that some nuns, upon the onset of menopause often grieve. Grieve because they know then that they will never bear children. Not that it was in their master plan at all, just a realization that, because of their chosen life path, they didn’t and now will never bear a child. Of course many nuns do work with children, in schools and other facilities, and have the opportunity to “mother” in a different way. Much the same point that you make Maureen.

    We men can’t really understand all that in proper depth but we can sympathize and try to. My first marriage finally drifted toward two adoptions because my first wife very much wanted to have children. The second child, now deceased, was handed over to us at a convent where the servicing nun had an apron on and was obviously enjoying the care taking of what was soon to be our daughter. I have never forgotten how with joy, but also sorrow, she handed over the baby to us, never to see it again. There is a lot more to that story than there is room for here but, again, your thoughts took me back.

    I often wonder as I observe dementia descending upon my mother in law (and they say the oldest memories are still there while recent ones are lost) if that is happening to me. The adoption above was in 1964 which is almost 50 years ago. Still, a good memory. I am sure you have good ones too. Thanks for your thoughts.
    Recipes are nice too!
    best, Jerry

  11. Anne Marie Lasher on January 17, 2013 at 2:19 PM

    Love it Maureen! Saw some pics last night – He’s so cute!

  12. nancy on January 17, 2013 at 2:30 PM

    passing on the granola, loving the baby feet. thanks

  13. Bill B on January 17, 2013 at 2:33 PM

    That is one lucky newborn to have such a wonderful aunt.

  14. Gregory Jarous, Lawrenceville GA on January 17, 2013 at 2:44 PM

    Beautifully written, every child would be lucky to have an Aunt Maureen in their life. Good receipe to.

  15. Tom on January 17, 2013 at 3:29 PM

    Yes, oh what a lucky boy to have Maureenie for an aunt. Thank you for the reminder (I’m a slow learner and a fast forgetter) that one can decide how to respond to life as it unfolds before us. It’s clear to anyone who reads your blog posts or views your photos that you know and enjoy life abundant. And you help us all to do the same. Congratulations to the whole village and welcome to the well-named young man. May you be as wise and as strong and as generous of heart as your namesake.

  16. Rosemary on January 17, 2013 at 3:33 PM

    When I saw the “Welcome Camille Thomas!” posts I was thinking the same as you, Maureen: What a special tribute to a wonderful man! Hugs to everyone.

    Question on the recipe: When do you add the coconut?

    • Maureen Abood on January 17, 2013 at 4:39 PM

      Thanks Rosemary–recipe reflects that now, see above!

  17. Cindy on January 17, 2013 at 3:51 PM

    What a beautiful message. And oh, what happy news!

  18. Amee on January 17, 2013 at 4:15 PM

    Great introduction to the new baby! Thanks Maureen. How nice that you are there to prepare such wonderful nourishment for the new family at a most needed time. And what a fresh perspective! I love the aunt in you. As a mother, I never felt that I fully appreciated those first precious moments until they were gone.
    I’m happy you are enjoying each moment as an aunt and probably allowing the mother to do the same for a little while…..

  19. Christine Walker on January 17, 2013 at 4:30 PM

    I remember your father and his friendship with my old friend, now gone too — Bill Kritselis.
    And, I opened this after passing it by a couple of times during my day. As a childless Auntie of 64, I know the blessings of those special connections and your words and those other postings here really enriched my day Welcome Baby Camille (and special gratitude to you, Maureen!

  20. Yes Maureen, being ‘Auntie’ is truly the best job in the whole wide universe. I hold that special special
    position having two nieces, one nephew, and now, four grand-nephews to whom I get to be ‘Nana’ by request. Love the pics!

  21. marcellina on January 17, 2013 at 9:00 PM

    I am at present baking and blogging my way through “A Baker’s Odyssey” by Greg Patent and have just baked Talami! By chance, I happened upon your blog which is so beautiful and delicious! I don’t know if the Talami I made was with the “secret” recipe but wow it is so good. I love your food and the stories you tell. Happy to become a follower! Marcellina

    • Maureen Abood on January 18, 2013 at 7:40 AM

      How great, Marcellina, thank you! And fun to see you bake my za’atar talami on your site!

  22. Uncle Dick on January 18, 2013 at 10:42 AM

    Blessings to all the Aboods in your brother’s home in Minnesota and congratulations on the gift of Camille Thomas Abood to our entire family. A special and wonderful moment for us all. Love, Uncle Dick

  23. Lana on January 18, 2013 at 12:42 PM

    What a great post! it made me tear up. I am a mother, but my sister is an auntie, just like you. And my brother’s kids, as well as mine, could not ask for a better Aunt:)
    Congratulations! I wish your newest nephew all the luck in the world!

  24. Jody Namey Atty on January 18, 2013 at 2:46 PM

    What an absolutely beautiful post, wonderful Aunt Maureen!!!

  25. Betsy on January 18, 2013 at 4:31 PM

    Congratulations Auntie -He’s beautiful!!!!!

  26. Cheryl on January 18, 2013 at 4:58 PM

    Gorgeous, in every conceivable way.

  27. Pat Abood on January 20, 2013 at 3:47 PM

    Beautiful baby Camille, and lovely writing, Auntie Maureen! My love to all, Aunt Pat

  28. Michele on January 22, 2013 at 4:58 PM

    Beautiful post Maureen….you are always teaching me wonderful things…how to cook of course and how to enjoy the life I am blessed to have!! Congratulations on the birth of your beautiful nephew! xo

  29. Anne Abowd on January 24, 2013 at 9:39 PM

    Thanks dear Maureen, for the moving sentiments and pictures of Camille Thomas. We talked to Maryalice
    today, and heard the news–we don’t check the internet much. We shared some good stories about Camille and how he must be watching over all of his wonderful family and now his namesake. We’re so thrilled for them! Love you, Anne and Tom

  30. Geralyn Lasher on January 25, 2013 at 1:45 PM

    Just beautiful!!!!!

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