People have always made their own cereals and breakfast grain dishes (oatmeal, wheat cereal, muesli). Then big companies came 'round and said, "oh, let us do that for you!" Lots of innovations and time saving convenience foods came about, to help women (mostly) in the kitchen find more time to do more things. Unfortunately, as we know, faster and easier is not always better. Not better for you, nutritionally or spiritually. (And yes, I find a lot of spirituality in the kitchen. There's something primarily satisfying and just plain right about nurturing your children and your spouse. And your friends. Feeding the hungry is a big deal for me). I am so pleased about the slow food movement taking place in this country. Slowing down, cooking at home, breaking bread together. It's good stuff, on such a deep level.
It's easy to grab a fast food breakfast sandwich or a bowl of over sugared chemicalized cereal. But you don't have to. I have a recipe here for a healthy hearty nutritious granola that makes a gallon at a time. I would roughly estimate the cost of it at around five dollars. Yep, you heard right. $5 for a gallon. I didn't think that was so hot, until I went into the cereal aisle at the grocery store. Do you know what they charge for a small box of cereal? I nearly fainted. And that's not for healthy, organic good-for-you food either.
I started making granola back in the early '70s. I have an old yellowed barely legible recipe card in my box from my first attempts at making it, and it was very primitive and simple. I've gussied it up a lot since then. You can make it as fancy or as plain as you like. Naturally, everyone thought I was crazy making my own cereal (not much has changed). I do it today for some of the same reasons I did it back then. And for a few other reasons as well. The bottom line, as it always is with me, is that I want to know what is in the food I eat. If I make it myself, then there's no mystery. No ingredients I can't pronounce. No chemicals I don't want to ingest. Nothing I can't afford. And gosh darn it! It tastes good!
So, I make this granola all the time. Here we go:
• 8 cups organic rolled oats
• 1/2 cup dark brown sugar
• 1 cup coconut oil (or any vegetable oil will do)
• 3/4 cup to 1 cup Honey
• 1 tsp sea salt
• 1 tbsp cinnamon
• 1 tbsp vanilla
• 1 cup nuts of your choice (sometimes I use a combination)
• 1 cup flaked or chips coconut
• 1 cup dried fruit of your choice (raisins, dried apples, dried cherries, dried cranberries, whatever)
• Your choice of sesame seeds, sunflower seeds, chia seeds or roasted pumpkin seeds.
Like most of my recipes, there is a level of ambiguity here. I don't measure lots of things, for instance I'll sprinkle sunflower seeds, sesame seeds and flax seeds into the bowl. I use whatever dried fruit I have a lot of, so there's often dried peaches, apples or cherries (from our trees). And sometimes, I only use raisins. The recipes that I post are pretty flexible.
1. Sometimes I toast the oats in a dry pan in the oven at about 350 degrees. Only takes about 15 minutes, stirring often so it doesn't scorch. It gives the cereal a depth of flavor that you won't have if you skip this. That said, I often skip this step since the finished product gets toasted anyway.
2. In a medium saucepan, combine the oil, honey, brown sugar and salt. Bring to a boil and then simmer for about 5 minutes.
3. In a large bowl, put the oats, coconut, all the nuts and seeds. Do not add the dried fruits at this time.
4. After the liquid mixture has simmered a bit, pour over the dry ingredients and mix well. You want all the stuff coated as well as you possible can.
5. When it's well coated, put it into a high sided baking dish and put into a 250 to 300 degree oven. You'll want to toast this about an hour and a half, stopping and stirring it well about every 15-20 minutes.
6. After it's all toasted as much as you like, remove from the oven and let cool. Stirring every now and again is a good idea, as it will get crispier as it cools and stick to the pan. Now is the time to add whatever dried fruit you decided on. Mix it in well. Once the entire batch is cooled, pour it into an airtight gallon sized container.
7. Eat as is, with either a milk of your choice or yogurt. We don't do much dairy here, so it's usually Rice Dream or Almond Milk. You can even make it a hot cereal for cold winter mornings by either heating the milk or sticking the bowl of granola, milk and all into your microwave (if you have one)for under a minute. It makes a great snack, right out of the jar. This is economical, healthy and good. Even my hardworking Irishman can only eat about a cup of it for breakfast, with rice milk. That is too much for me. It's a good combination of grains, proteins, fruits and fats.
I share this mix with friends and family at holiday times...a pint or a quart jar, tied up with pretty ribbon, with the recipe on a card taped to the front of the jar. Home made goodness is one of the gifts I love receiving and most of my friends feel the same. And you know that old proverb "Give a man a fish and he'll eat for a day, but TEACH a man to fish and he'll never go hungry." I try to share my recipes and my love of good healthy food wherever I can. Gatherings and parties at my house always revolve around the dinner table and food. Our families gather at major holidays and share meals, lives, love and laughter. I think it's really important that we never lose this.
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