As a young mom I stumbled upon a discovery that practically ruined childhood for the Leigh tribe (or so they say); breakfast cereal is not only a fake food, it’s downright unhealthy. This was a bummer, as Cheerios were practically a staple for our mornings- and who doesn’t love a sloppy bowl of Golden Grahams or Lucky Charms? (I still love cereal and once in a blue moon I’ll buy a box for dessert- figure it’s probably about the same as eating cake. I also bought each child one box every Christmas, so they can’t really claim I ruined their lives!) When I read how the grains were processed with high heat and incredible pressure, to the point of making them anti nutrients, and the amount of food processing leftovers that went into the breakfast cereal market, we quit cold turkey. I switched to cooking a large pot of oatmeal (and later learned to soak it ahead of time to make it even more digestible) for most mornings, and when I had time we’d enjoy pancakes (would usually make big batches and freeze some for easy breakfasts later in the week) or waffles. Sandy’s baked oatmeal recipe quickly became a breakfast staple along with crustless, vegetable packed quiches; both could be baked in a 9×13 pan and we’d have several mornings of food already made.
These breakfast foods were much more nourishing, simple to make, not too time consuming (especially when making big batches) and we saved a lot of grocery money!
But the biggest treat of all was granola! Truth is, it’s even better than cold cereal.
If you’ve spent any time in the kitchen with me, you know I can’t stick to a recipe- I always need to substitute or add or multiply. In my opinion, a good recipe is one with lots of flex, so the cook can use what is actually in season or on hand. That’s why I make granola to a formula rather than a recipe.
This formula/recipe is rather low sugar compared to other granola recipes (some of them are worse than Captain Crunch!). You are free add more honey or brown sugar or monk fruit or whatever sweetener you like.
I’ve always loved chunky, crunchy granola. After years of experimenting, I discovered what makes those delicious, crispy globs of granola. It’s the fat. Figures. The great news is there are several good, nourishing fats and they play perfectly in granola! (If there were only five bits of nutrition advice I was allowed to give, on that list would be the necessity of throwing away all the mass produced “healthy” vegetable oils and switching to cold pressed oils- preferably olive, coconut and avocado oil.) We use olive most of the time in our general cooking, and coconut when higher heats are involved or the flavor is preferred. And of course real butter- there is always a place for good butter!! When it comes to granola, I prefer coconut oil for the flavor.
Granola time!! This recipe is a “normal” size- but I’ve never made less than a double batch. When all the kids were home I quadrupled it, and even then it had to be rationed or it would be gone within a week.
My formula has three parts- the dry and wet ingredients plus unbaked add ins at the finish
All you have to do is mix the dry together in a BIG bowl, warm all the wet ingredients in a pot (just enough to dissolve the fats and honey) and then mix together and bake. Pretty easy (but not necessarily tidy-at least not in my kitchen. But then, what’s new?)
-4 cups old fashioned rolled oats. Quick oats are the same as old fashioned, the oat groat has just been rolled thinner in order to cook faster. I prefer the thicker roll of old fashioned. If you want to go thinner, there will be a bit more surface area and you many need to increase your honey and oil ration. You can also use other rolled grains; our grain co-op used to carry a rolled nine grain mix we liked for granola. Be my guest and tweak this to your every granola whimJ
-1 cup flaked coconut. I prefer the coconut toasted, but if you like it soft, then just add it with the dried fruit after the granola has baked. If you don’t like coconut, skip this completely- no other adjustments necessary.
-4 cups of nuts and seeds. This is where the fun begins; it’s also why every batch is different- I use whatever we have on hand at the moment. The main idea is equal nuts and seeds to oatmeal. Most recipes use much less, but I find granola a great way to sneak in flax seed and other healthy things my kids may not otherwise munch on. Here’s a list of my usual suspects
flax seeds (I always grind them so we can get the oil- if you eat them whole you only get the fiber benefit, the body cannot break them down and access the oil)
chia seeds (don’t have to grind, but they tend to stick in your teeth when whole)
almonds (chopped or slivered)
cashews (chopped or whole)
walnuts (chopped or whole)
pecans (chopped or whole)
mac nuts (if you are so lucky to have them!)
Note: if you are using raw or sprouted nuts and seeds and want to keep their nutritional content, then add them at the very end with the dried fruit after baking the oats.
¼-1/2 tsp salt (if you are using salted nuts, then skip the salt)
2 Tablespoons of cinnamon (you can use less, of course, but it’s good for you so I load up) can also add ginger or any other spices you like
1-2 cups dried fruit (add after granola is baked) cherries, cranberries, raisins, chopped prunes, figs, apricots, blueberries, apples, mango, pineapple- whatever you can find or dry yourself!
2/3 cup honey or maple syrup -raw is preferred.
2/3 cup oil. Many options here. We usually use cold pressed extra virgin coconut oil- it tastes so good! You can also use butter or cold pressed extra virgin olive oil. Some olive oils are strong in flavor, but the nutrition is hard to beat, so going half and half can be a great compromise. If you want clumpier, crunchier granola, bump the oil up to 1 cup. Experiment. No one will complain about multiple batches of granola!!
Opt- 2 tsp vanilla
Mix all the dry ingredients except for the fruit (and coconut, seeds and nuts if you prefer them raw)
Melt the wet ingredients together in a pot on as low heat as possible (just want to make it easy to stir in)
Pour melted wet ingredients over the dry ingredients and stir well
Spread granola mix onto 2 cookie sheets
Bake at 325 for 20-25 minutes, stirring every 5 minutes or so and making sure it doesn’t get too brown
Cool on cookie sheets
Pour back into large mixing bowl, add the fruit and any other ingredients you wanted raw and mix well
Store in airtight jars or Ziplocs. Freeze whatever you don’t plan to eat within a week.
Try not to eat so much you get a belly ache.