Tired of Boiling Oatmeal? Make Granola for a Change.
So many reasons to not make my own granola from scratch. So many store brands and start up brands in the local markets, like Early Bird Granola. Also, because they have those big bins of a variety of granolas in the bulk section of the Park Slope Food Co-op.
My history with granola started in about 1969 or thereabouts. I was a graphic design major at the University of Bridgeport, having switched to graphic design after they closed the painting program. One of my assignments was to make an ad for a product, and I chose “Crunchy Granola”. Life in America was changing. The back to the land movement was big in those days, and I even owned a yellow “country girl” t-shirt at the time. I, and others like me, had never heard of granola, and “Crunchy Granola” put it on the map. So to create my ad for my class assignment, I asked my mom to model for a photograph. For the shoot, she dressed in one of her flowery house dresses. I set the scene in our backyard, where I placed a rocking chair that I had bought at an auction for all of $2.00, and then had refinished. I put a flower wreath around my mother’s head, she sat in the rocking chair out doors in nature, and cradled a big bag of “Crunchy Granola”. I have no recall of what the ad said or what my tag line was, but the colors were high tone and somewhat psychedelic, reflecting that this was the time of social revolution and the season of love in America. And that was my, and America’s introduction to granola. For a full history on granola, see, http://www.irrewarra.com.au/handmade-granola/irrewarra-granola-story/. And for the Urban Dictionary definition of Crunchy Granola, see, http://www.urbandictionary.com/define.php?term=Cruncy+Granola. I think they are spot on.
And so now, why make granola? Because, fresh newly made is so much better. Because I never made any before. Because I do love my granola. Let the adventure begin!
My habit is to pick out recipes to cook during the week, and on a whim I picked one from the internet called Holiday Granola, see: mynewroots.org/site. Given the time of year, I got carried away with the holiday spirit. If I were planning on giving granola as holiday gifts, it would have been perfect. Or, if I had cut down the amounts in the recipe, and made less, that would have been perfect too. Filled with enthusiasm, I forged ahead. The finished product is very good. Although, if cinnamon is not your cup of tea, you might not like it. I did manage to give a large weck jar of it to my son to take for a visit with friends in New Hampshire. They were sharing a house for the holiday week between Christmas and New Years – so lots of good easy breakfast food for them.
There are a lot of nuts and dry fruits in most granola recipes, and I actually found it very relaxing to cut up each ingredient. In the past, I have used a nut chopper device, the Cuisinart, or a rolling pin used by rolling the nuts which are placed between two towels on a cutting board. I found it did not take too much time to cut the nuts with a chefs knife, the pieces were neat and pleasing, and the practice was quite meditative and relaxing. I think that being in the moment is one of the hardest things to do in the kitchen. One is always thinking ahead, coordinating a few parts of a meal at once, trying to get everything on the table together at the same time, or not wanting to be there and in the headspace of rather being elsewhere. I like to step back, take things one step at a time, and just give myself time to really be present in the moment. I think that a daily yoga practice helps to get to that space. Returning to the mat, planting your feet on the mat, is a restoring act, and returns you to that space of not thinking ahead, not being anxious about the past. But I digress dear reader, so back to our main topic.
My favorite way to eat granola is atop yogurt, with some fresh fruit in the bowl as well, most specifically, banana. Sometimes that bowl just doesn’t seem filling enough. However, having a lot of left over puffed brown rice and puffed millet from the Holiday Granola recipe, helps me fill out the bowl, in order to fill my belly.
What I noticed is that there must be a million granola recipes out there. Some blogger, might have adapted a granola recipe from Martha Stewart, who adopted hers from who knows where. The thing about granola is that it could really be anything you want. People are experimenting with roasting grains other than oats. Most importantly, you will always need a binder when preparing your grain to be roasted. I think there is a consensus about using olive oil, and that may be one of the oldest ways, and a classic preferred ingredient to use. So my advice to myself, and you, dear reader, is to surf the web, concoct your own set of favorites to include in your granola bowl, and make a small amount at a time. As they say, variety is the spice of life. Ending here with a shout-out to crunchiness.
- 7 cups rolled oats
- ⅓ cup salted butter
- ⅓ cup pure maple syrup
- zest of 1 large orange
- 2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
- ½ teaspoon ground nutmeg
- 1 cup raw almonds
- ½ cup raw walnuts
- ½ cup raw cashews
- 1 cup raw pumpkin seeds
- 1 cup dried cranberries
- optional: 1 cup puffed brown rice
- optional: 1 cup puffed millet
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
- Wash the orange and zest the entire rind.
- Put the butter in a small saucepan and melt on low heat.
- Add maple syrup, cinnamon, nutmeg and orange zest.
- When all of the ingredients are well combined, pour over the rolled oats and stir well.
- Put oats on 2 baking sheets and bake for 15-20 minutes, remove from oven and stir, bake until golden brown (usually another 15-20 minutes).
- While the oats are baking, roughly chop the almonds, walnuts, cashews and cranberries and set aside.
- Once the oats are toasted and cooled you can combine all the ingredients. If you like, add some puffed cereal grains like brown rice and millet. These bulk up the granola, but are very inexpensive. They serve as a nice contrast against the richness of the other ingredients.
- Notes per this recipe on Mynewroots.org: "I like to put the granola in old mason or jam jars, top with some beautiful vintage fabric, and tie a bow with the recipe attached. That way, your lucky recipients can make it for themselves, so it really is the gift that keeps on giving!"