If you’ve been following Daily Ciabatta, you’ve probably heard me mention my friend, Katie. She’s a cofounder of our cooking club and the one who helped me clean out my closet last week. This is the story of how we met and why I spent 5 years unable to stomach granola.
I was introduced to Katie years ago when I was in college on a trip to Colorado. She was part of a bible study that was led by the father a good friend of mine. When my friend became ill with a brain injury, his dad organized a fundraising trip with this bible study to climb Pike’s Peak and raise money for brain injury research and invited anyone else who wanted to join the cause.
Despite not having any real hiking experience and no clue what I was getting myself into, I immediately signed up and at the tail end of that summer found myself on a plane bound for Denver.
I spent a majority of the summer training, knowing full well I was not the athletic type. Cardio was really the main hurdle I needed to tackle so I ran just about every day and rejoiced the first time I made it 4 miles without stopping. I was still not iron-man material, but I felt a little more prepared for the 13 mile trek up the mountain.
On the days leading up to the trip, I stocked up on all the food I thought I would need to make it up the mountain including beef jerky, Cliff Bars in every flavor, and granola. I also purchased powdered Gatorade packets for an extra electrolyte lift.
Not knowing anyone else on the trip besides my friend’s dad, I was a little apprehensive when I arrived at the airport but Katie immediately introduced herself and we connected almost instantly. She, too, had spent all summer training and even though we wouldn’t be climbing partners we both looked forward to celebrating our victory at the top of Pike’s Peak.
Our hike was scheduled the following day of our arrival. The morning of the hike we woke up at 4:30 to get an early start. In a daze, I chugged a bottle of water and threw a handful of dry granola in my mouth. As we started our hike I took turns sipping my water and munching on the crunchy, sweet maple flavored oat concoction.
My climbing partner and I were making excellent time and I was feeling pretty good so around lunch time I pulled out my jerky and a cliff bar and washed them down with more water. But the higher we got, the more labored my breath came. Pretty soon, I was wheezing and dizzy but at the second to last check station my oxygen levels were in good enough shape to keep going. We made it past the tree line but I had to stop every couple minutes to catch my breath. My partner was also feeling ill, but I think I had the worst of it. She encouraged me to keep my strength up with granola and more water.
By the time we arrived at the last check station, about 2 miles from the top, I was pretty sure they were going to be removing my body from the mountain in a bag via helicopter. A park ranger named Tom administered oxygen and told me the only way to get down was to keep going and make it to the top then take one of the busses that was waiting for down the mountain.
My feet felt like lead with each step but somehow I managed to make it with the help of a couple other people, including some kind strangers who were also part of the fundraising climb. I immediately ran to the bathroom because once you pass the tree line on a mountain you’re SOL for finding any kind of cover. My stomach could no longer handle the jerky, energy bars, and granola that I trusted to sustain me.
After getting violently ill and laying on the floor of the stall for a few minutes, I felt much better. We boarded a bus bound for base of the mountain. It was only after getting back to our motel that we learned the what happened to Katie.
She had made it 3/4 of the way and was forced to turn around and hike back because her oxygen levels were so low. She ended up hiking an additional 6.5 miles compared to the rest of us who made it to the top and took the bus down. She spent the rest of the night laid up in her room. Despite how hard we trained, our bodies could not acclimate to being that much higher than sea level in such little time and the result was a serious case of altitude sickness.
To this day, I cannot look at a Cliff Bar without a sense of distain coursing through me. It took a solid 5 years before I could try granola again. At first, cautiously and just a sprinkle on top of yogurt. By slowly introducing it back into my system and remembering how much I loved it before my misadventure, I can now eat it with (almost) reckless abandon.
I’m going to apologize for starting this post by relaying the story of how sick I was after eating granola and following it with a recipe, but I can’t look at granola and not think about that adventure. Plus, this granola is seriously tops. Nutty tahini and sweet honey act as my binders and are so perfect together. The bulk of the granola is made with buckwheat groats and rolled oats and I add chopped dates, walnuts, and pumpkin seeds. You could use the tahini-honey-buckwheat-oat base and add whatever you like, too.
I season this granola so simply with just a little cinnamon for added sweetness and salt to balance the flavors out.
If you don’t have tahini, you could swap out peanut butter, but I find myself doing the opposite more and more with each recipe I try. I love the nutty rich taste tahini adds and it’s so versatile that it works really well in sweet and savory recipes.
Tahini Buckwheat Granola with Honey and Dates
- 6 Tbsp Honey
- 6 Tbsp Tahini
- 1 Cup Buckwheat
- 1 Cup Rolled Oats
- 1/2 Cup Walnuts
- 1/2 Cup Pumpkin Seeds
- 1/2 Cup Chopped Dates
- 1 Tsp Salt
- 1 Tsp Cinnamon
Preheat the oven to 300 and line a baking sheet with parchment paper. In a large bowl, combine the buckwheat, oats, walnuts, pumpkin seeds, dates, salt and cinnamon.
Place a medium pot on the stove top and add the honey and tahini. Bring to a boil and allow to cook for 2 minutes, stirring constantly and being careful not to burn. Add the mixture to the bowl with the dry ingredients and stir to combine everything. Scoop the mixture onto the parchment paper and bake for 30 minutes, stirring the granola every 10 minutes.
Let cool before breaking up the granola and store in an airtight container.