Ever since I can remember, I liked to learn about foods and their origins.

While my friends were reading Nancy Drew books I was reading food and etiquette books. I remember my grandmother Bessie would quiz me on where the dessert spoon was supposed to be placed all while educating me on the meat source of the highly processed Kam luncheon meat and explaining to me the difference between Dutch processed cocoa powder and regular cocoa powder. She had a wealth of food, etiquette, and cooking knowledge.

Speaking of cocoa powder, I just recently returned from a tropical vacation where I had the honour of visiting an organic area where cocao (yes, this is different from cocoa), coffee, coconut oil, and vanilla were grown and processed. They were so strict about remaining organic that we were not allowed to wear sunscreen or insect repellent during our tour. I have to say as a lover of food I had the utmost respect and admiration for their efforts to be organic and the agricultural process from beginning to end product.

You tend to respect your food much more when you know and understand its origins.

My brain was in overdrive the whole time as I was trying to absorb and retain as much as I could about this experience as I had no idea when I may get the chance to do it again. I was in awe as we drove up the Anamuya Mountains where coffee trees, vanilla orchids, cocao pods, and coconut trees were being pointed out. They were all growing in the same vicinity and my husband, who is a lover of chocolate and coffee together, says, “look, what grows together goes together”. I think he is on to something.

There is too much information to include in a short article but a few things I learned was that the vanilla orchid grows, sinks their roots into and feeds off the sap of trees and sometimes to the point it negatively affects them so they are sometimes destroyed by land owners who want to maintain their landscape of trees. I learned about the many health benefits of the cacao bean and why they call it a super food. The difference and short version explanation between “cacao” is that it is true to its natural organic self and “cocoa” is a much more processed, usually at a much higher temperature, form where it loses many of its benefits. Coconut oil is a natural insect repellent and if it is in a liquid form and stays that way then it is most likely not a true healthy organic version.

One of the more exciting experiences was watching the guides take coffee beans, which are the pit of a fruit, showing us how to dry, husk and roast them and then grinding already roasted beans to make us a fresh sample of hot organic coffee. This really was an eye and taste bud opener and I am truly grateful to have had the chance to experience it.

I was thinking how I could share this with my readers where they could experience all the individual qualities of some or all of the foods we experienced in a recipe and I came up with granola. It has individual components that merry well together. Enjoy!

Chocolate Cherry Granola

Preheat oven to 325º and line a cookie sheet with parchment paper. In a large bowl combine 3 cups of rolled oats (not the quick cook variety), ½ cup of crushed almonds, and ½ cup of raw pistachios. In a small sauce pan add ¼ of raw honey, 2 tbsp of organic coconut oil, ½ tsp of organic vanilla (use regular if you can’t find this), ½ tsp cinnamon, ¼ tsp each of nutmeg and ground ginger, and ½ tsp salt. Heat until the oil is melted then pour over oat and nut mixture and stir until well combined. Spread evenly onto the prepared cookie sheet and bake for 20 minutes until crunchy and golden.

Let cool completely then add ½ cup of dried cherries and about 2-3 tbsp of grated or peeled organic chocolate. This actually tastes like black forest cake! Enjoy over yogurt with fruit, add to your pancake batter to add a little crunch and texture, top your muffins with it prior to baking or just enjoy on its own as a snack.