According to the Urban Dictionary I easily fit into the description of someone granola — “people who are environmentally aware (flower child, tree-hugger) open-minded, left-winged, socially aware, concerned about wasting resources, usually only buy fair-trade goods and refrain from buying from large corporations, dresses like a hippy, eats natural foods, is usually liberal, but in all other ways is a typical middle class white person.” Or how about ” a middle age/late age white man or woman that values natural things. A granola person can usually found in nature.” Sounds about right.
My first introduction to granola was in 1969 in the form of muesli – a packaged raw rolled oat and dried fruit cereal developed by Swiss physician Maximilian Bircher-Benner. By 1972, granola cereal was packaged and sold by several of the major food corporations and after that we all know what happened. It morphed from a healthy breakfast cereal to one that was loaded with sugar – although no one seemed to notice until the 1990 Nutrition Labeling and Education Act. Call me granola but I’m suspicious of any cereal that comes in a box, especially when one of the first ingredients on the list is some form of sugar. By now, we all know that the best way to know what’s in the food you eat is to make it yourself.
I have to admit that I’ve been somewhat motivated by money as well. Even in bulk, granola isn’t the cheap food I consumed in large quantities in college. Convinced that I could do better by buying bulk ingredients, I kept close tabs on the price. I already had the walnuts, which are by far the most expensive ingredient. Not counting the nuts, pound for pound, my homemade was almost exactly the same price as bulk (that has nuts in it). If you add in the cost of nuts, you’re talking more in the range of one of the packaged artisan-made that seem to be popping up all over the place. So much so that there was an article last week in the NY Times about granola as a new high-end growth industry.
Despite the price, I still think homemade is the way to go. Seeds are generally much less expensive than nuts so if cost is a concern, that could be a good way to go. I’m not willing to compromise on using organic ingredients but I might be able to find less expensive sources. Like many granola folks you may have been making your own for years and don’t need a recipe but rather than just leaving everything in the oven and potentially burning some of these precious ingredients while under-cooking others, I used a variation on Sarah Britton’s recipe from one of my favorite natural foods blogs, My New Roots.
Homemade Granola Recipe
Ingredients: 5 cups old-fashioned rolled oats (not instant)/ 1 cup raw walnuts, chopped/ 1.5 cups flaked coconut/ 1 cup pumpkin seeds/ 3/4 cup raisins/ 1/3 cup maple syrup ( or honey, agave)/ 4 T unsalted butter (or coconut oil, ghee)/ 1/4 t sea salt.
Directions: Preheat oven to 350/ In a small saucepan over medium low heat, melt butter and whisk in maple syrup/ In a large bowl combine all the dry ingredients except the raisins/ Pour maple syrup and butter mixture over dry ingredients and mix well to coat/ Place on a cookie sheet and bake for 10 minutes, remove from oven and stir/ Put back in the oven but remove and stir every 5 minutes or so until golden brown ( approx. 25-30 minutes total), adding the raisins for the final 5 or 10 minutes.
It may sound like a lot of work to pull it out every 5 minutes but really it’s only 4 or 5 times and it’s a great way to work with ingredients that brown at different rates. Personally, I don’t like raisins hard so I add them at the end. If you like the oats more toasted, you could coat only those with the butter/maple syrup cook them for the first ten minutes or so and then add the nuts, seeds and coconut. And speaking of adding ingredients, it’s up to you — add whatever you like and let go of the rest. You know, like a true granola.
If you prefer to go sugar and gluten-free, try Sally’s Great Granola, No Gluten recipe. And if you eat cereal but granola isn’t your thing, this Homemade Breakfast Cereal has become wildly popular among some of our more nutritionally conscious readers.