Homemade granola is a great alternative to packaged cereal as far as both price and healthful ingredients are concerned. When I read the ingredients list on the average box of cereal flakes, puffs or crunches and calculate the number of servings per box, I wonder why anyone would want to buy it. Of course, you would figure that a person of my age and background would be inclined that way: They don’t call us “granolas” for nothing.
You can, of course, buy granola at health food stores and specialty markets, but some of them are pretty lush and costly, too. Then there is the super-sweet crunchy stuff that comes in boxes in the cereal section. However, depending on where you shop for ingredients, granola is so easy to make that you can toss together a batch in very little time and for a low cost.
The main thing is to use old-fashioned noninstant rolled oats. Quick-cooking oats simply don’t crisp up the way the noninstant do, and they turn sawdusty in milk. I merely dump a pile of oats into an ungreased roasting pan, sprinkle on ground flaxseed, wheat germ, sunflower seeds, sometimes pumpkin seeds and a couple of handfuls of raw cashews, a few roasted peanuts, sometimes almonds. I don’t measure a thing. I heat the sweetening and oil together in a small saucepan and dribble it over the dry ingredients, tossing them until the oats have at least bumped into the sweetening and oil.
You can take it very easy on the oil and sweet stuff if you aim for granola with lower fat or fewer calories. Some people add spice such as cinnamon to their granola, but I don’t.
If you find yourself becoming an enthusiastic granola maker, consider trying alternative rolled grains such as rye, barley or wheat.
From time to time, I make granola using a hefty dollop of all-natural peanut butter (that is, the peanut butter with no corn syrup or other fats added) with some brown sugar mixed in and thinned with a little hot water until it can be poured and mixed into the oats.
Then I put the granola into a 300 degree Fahrenheit oven, set the timer for 20 minutes, stir it when the timer goes off, and repeat until the granola is golden brown and crunchy.
You can add more stuff after it is roasted. Raisins, currants, dried cranberries and blueberries, toasted flaked coconut, dried banana chips, dried mango or pineapple, you name it. Or add some of those to your bowl at breakfast.
One mom I know met resistance on the kid front when she began making granola at home instead of buying packaged store granola. She solved the problem by mixing store and homemade, gradually reducing the quantities of the store granola until the kiddies were peacefully eating all homemade. This same mom weaned the youngsters off little prepackaged containers of sweet yogurt by mixing homemade jams into plain yogurt and saved a lot of money into the bargain.
If you can only find your seeds and nuts in little packages, you might be better off buying your granola ready-made. We obtain our ingredients from a store-front co-op. Try looking in natural food stores, online and by way of various mail-order companies.
Measure the ingredients the first time you make this, but observe how the mixture looks. The next time, don’t bother measuring. Just toss together the oats and nuts and experiment with the sweetening until you find a proportion and mixture that you and your family enjoy.
Send queries or answers to Sandy Oliver, 1061 Main Road, Islesboro 04848. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org. For recipes, tell us where they came from. List ingredients, specify number of servings, and do not abbreviate measurements. Include name, address and daytime phone number.
Yields about 1 quart.
3 cups rolled oats
½ cup wheat germ and, optionally, ground flaxseeds
1½ cups mix of your choice: nuts, sunflower or pumpkin seeds, sesame seeds, flaked coconut
1/3 cup sweetening such as maple syrup, honey or brown sugar mixed with very little water
¼ cup vegetable oil
Optional dried fruits such as raisins, cranberries, banana chips, apples, mango, pineapple
Preheat oven to 300 F. Toss oats, wheat germ, nuts and seeds mixture together in 9-by-13-inch roasting or baking pan. Heat sweetening and oil in small pan and add just a little water so mixture can be drizzled. Pour over dry ingredients and toss to distribute wet mixture until there are no obviously damp clumps. Put into oven for 20 minutes, bake, stir it, replace for another 20 minutes. Repeat until granola is golden brown, about 1¼ hours or so. Let cool in pan, then add dried fruits if desired. Store in a container with tight-fitting lid.