When my sister and I arrived at the fitness resort Rancho La Puerta for the first time a few years ago, the first thing we learned was that it is endearlingly referred to as "the ranch." At first this seemed odd, as it's anything but. It's set just over the border from San Diego, in the mountains of Tecate, Mexico. With its beautifully landscaped yet natural, lush greenery, rich Mexican art, and charming casitas, it exudes a peace and tranquility far from a rowdy cowboy hangout. All of which is bound together by the groups of women who come to decompress from cell phones, kids, work, and carpools. They do yoga, take fitness classes, cooking classes, hike and . . . eat.
The food is a highlight, with most of it made from ingredients from the neighboring organic garden, Les Estrellas. We started everyday with a bowl of hot creamy oatmeal (made with cinnamon and vanilla) ladled with hot milk. The granola was just as good, and since my sister and I were going on a 7-mile hike, we ate both. The granola, which was super-browned and full of almonds, had just the right crunch and sweetness. We ate it with milk and the tart yogurt.
Rancho La Puerta Granola
8 cups old-fashioned oats
1 teaspoon ground ginger
2 tablespoons ground cinnamon
2 cups sunflower seeds
2 cups whole or slivered almonds
1/4 cup vanilla extract
1/2 cup olive or vegetable oil
1 cup honey
1. In a large sheet pan or roasting pan, combine oats, ginger, cinnamon, sunflower seeds and almonds. Combine the vanilla, oil and honey; stir well. Pour over the oat mixture and toss well. Spread on a large shallow sheet pan, and bake at 350 for 30 minutes, or until browned, stirring occasionally.