Ever since I read The Omnivore's Dilemma by Michael Pollan, my view on what I eat has changed. I've become more aware of not only the quality of food but its source (which, alas, is not to say that I don't still consume my fair share of junk food--but I'm working on it). The book inspired me to at least try to replace over-processed garbage with real food whenever I can. I thought a good place to start would be cutting out breakfast cereals. I'm a fan of a number of them but if I stop to think about it I have to wonder if most of them even really qualify as food. They're sugary, starchy, salty (which I discovered when I had some after a few weeks of avoiding them--suddenly the sodium levels were shockingly noticeable), and pumped full of additives, preservatives, flavourings and vitamins (to make them "healthy," I guess). The fact that you can't make them yourself in your own kitchen is a good sign (as far as I'm concerned) that they are indeed over-processed (seriously, how the heck is cereal made?) Is this really the best choice for the most important meal of the day? I'm thinking not so much. But since I like milk in the morning (and not just a plain glass of it) I decided the best alternative to cereal was to start making my own granola.
And what do you know--it turns out granola is super easy to make (not to mention delicious and--I suspect--cheaper than the store-bought kind, although I haven't done the math). The best part is you can customize it the way you like it. Don't like raisins? Skip them. Love coconut? Go crazy. The recipe I originally started with was meant to be low fat, but I've decided I don't mind fat as much as I mind sugar so I've changed the proportions of the ingredients. You can experiment too, but here's the way I make it...
|This is what I like in my granola but you can go with whatever you prefer.|
|Oats and nuts: the basis of all good granola (although nuts are optional)|
|The honey needs to be gently heated to make it runnier and easier to mix into the oats. I've also started adding coconut oil to the honey, not only because it's good for you but also because I'm trying to get the granola a little crunchier.|
|The oats and nuts after the honey mixture has been stirred in evenly|
|Pour onto a baking sheet...|
|And press into an even layer. This is strangely satisfying.|
|Toasty and golden brown out of the oven|
|Now you get to mix in whatever other goodies you like|
|Ready to eat|
6 cups large-flake rolled oats (you don't need to use large-flake oats but I find they result in a great texture)
1/2 cup slivered, blanched almonds
1/2 cup organic and/or local honey (don't skimp on this) or maple syrup (or a combination)
1/3 cup good-quality coconut oil
1 cup raisins (I like Thompson)
1/2 cup dried cranberries
1/2 cup shredded/desiccated unsweetened coconut
cinnamon (a teaspoon or more, to taste)
Heat honey/maple syrup and coconut oil in a small saucepan over low heat until oil is melted and honey/maple syrup is runny and no longer thick (should only take a few minutes). Meanwhile place oats and almonds in a large bowl. When honey/syrup mixture is ready, pour over oats as you stir to coat evenly.
Preheat oven to 350F.
While oven is preheating, line a large baking sheet with tin foil (don't skip the foil--trust me). Grease foil. Turn oat mixture out onto baking sheet and press into an even layer with the back of a spoon. Bake for 15 to 17 minutes in the preheated oven.
Remove baking sheet from oven and let cool. When cool enough to handle, carefully pull up edges of tin foil so that the granola is more or less contained in the centre. Getting the granola off the baking sheet is the worst part of the granola-making process--pulling up the foil like this helps keep granola from ending up all over your kitchen. Carefully lift foil and pour granola into a large bowl (don't re-use the bowl from before). Add raisins, cranberries, and coconut to the oat mixture in the bowl. Sprinkle with cinnamon to taste. I've found the easiest way to mix the granola is to use a measuring cup to scoop up the mixture and pour it into a storage container. You can store in the granola in any airtight container but I particularly like the Tupperware-type containers that are made for cereal (they have a lid with a pouring spout). That's it! Way easier than I've probably made it sound and you have a nice supply of tasty granola to serve with milk or yogurt or to snack on plain.
Makes about 9 cups of granola.