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Homemade Granola: Eat a Better Breakfast …

My mother – who was not kitchen-friendly – never prepared such delightful breakfast treats as pancakes, waffles or French toast. Even so, she was ahead of her time when it came to making healthy, simple breakfasts. She served things like broiled grapefruit, stewed prunes, soft-boiled eggs on toast, and oatmeal with a pat of butter in it, which caused floating yellow circles inside the bowl after the milk was added.

I was not a fan.

The only dried cereals we were allowed were Wheaties, Special K or Raisin Bran.  No matter how much my sisters and I begged for Pop Tarts or sweet cereals, my mother never gave in. Instead, she set down before us our mushy stewed prunes, and a small egg-shaped glass cup that held its wiggly, unappealing egg. As a response to our lack of enthusiasm, she often repeated a phrase that I later passed onto my children, and now my grandchildren.

Eat a better breakfast, feel better all day. 

I recently discovered an understated but delicious little breakfast that would have lived up to my mother’s mantra. It’s prepared in less than five minutes and contains only apple, plain yogurt and granola. Before I tell more about this healthy breakfast, let’s talk about granola.

Granola and I have not always been best breakfast buddies, because, frankly, I’ve been critical. Prepared, store-bought granolas are often too sweet, and contain a lot of preservatives, or they’re flavorless clumps of dryness that resemble something found in the bottom of a pet store cage.

But then, there are sometimes issues with homemade granolas, too. Some go rancid (from the oil) if they’re not used right away. Or the fruits – apricots, raisins, craisins, dried figs, cherries, blueberries, whatever – tend to harden inside the granola over time. It’s as if the dried oats, seeds and nuts just suck the living moisture right out of those juicy little fruits. So sad. So tough to chew.

However, my views about granola changed recently when I went out to breakfast at a coffee place in Santa Rosa with my daughter. (The name of the place escapes me.) I ordered a latte and a breakfast sandwich.

My daughter, who happens to teach yoga, and is the vision of youth, beauty, health and vitality, ordered tea, and a parfait glass displayed in the cold case, layered with yogurt and diced apples, topped with granola.

You know how, when you go out to eat with someone and you both share your food, and you discover after one bite of yours and one bite of your dining companion’s that you like the other dish way more than yours? That’s how I felt about Sarah’s yogurt, apple, granola parfait.

I loved the parfait for its layers of tart, sweet, spiced taste and its varied textures – crunchy granola, creamy plain yogurt, crisp apple. Clearly, the granola was the star of the parfait show. It really made that little parfait sing. If the granola contained dried fruit, it wasn’t memorable. What I do remember is that the granola was absolutely looooaded with cinnamon, which is so good for us, right? Its base, like most granola, was oats, followed by lots of sunflower seeds and various nuts. And all that luscious cinnamon.

I was so inspired by the parfait that one of the first things I did after I got home was create my own granola so I could have that healthy breakfast parfait whenever I felt like it, which has been pretty much been every morning since.

A couple of things about my granola. First, it’s not very sweet, so I compensate by stirring a small spoonful of my orange-ginger-vanilla bean marmalade into the plain yogurt before I start the layers.

Second, it’s probably a bit on the dry side, because I don’t add oil. If you think you’ll be using your granola quickly, like within a week or so, then feel free to add a little coconut oil, if you want a more moist granola.

For my ingredients, I bought from bulk containers for things like oats, sunflower seeds and nuts. It’s less costly that way. Once the granola is made, I divide it into bags, for myself, and gifts to accompany my marmalade.

Finally, I added bran buds to my granola, just to take that granola to another, more beneficial level. It totally works.

Below is a guideline for my granola. The measurements are approximate. Feel free to personalize your granola. Add something you like, omit something you don’t. Heck, you can add dried fruits if you want. It will be just fine.

And, of course, you don’t have to use your granola as I have, in this adorable breakfast parfait. But if you do, I can almost guarantee you’ll feel better all day. Or at least until lunch.

Doni’s Feel Better All Day Granola

6 cups old-fashioned rolled oats
4 cups mixed, rough-chopped nuts/seeds of your choice (roasted cashews,  sunflower seeds, sliced or slivered almonds, walnuts, pecans, etc.)
3 cups Bran Buds-type packaged cereal
2 cups shredded coconut (I like Moore’s Flour Mill’s coconut flakes)
1 teaspoon sea salt
2 tablespoons cinnamon (that’s right … tablespoons)
1/2 cup raw (or brown) sugar
1/2 cup honey, warmed until it’s a thinned liquid
3 teaspoons vanilla
1/2 cup boiling water

Preheat oven to 300 degrees.

In your biggest bowl mix the oats, coconut, Bran Buds and nuts. Using your clean hands, toss everything until it’s evenly distributed.  Set aside.

In a medium-sized bowl, place the salt, cinnamon, raw sugar, honey and vanilla. Pour the boiling water over those ingredients, and stir well to combine.

Immediately pour the hot mixture over the dried ingredients, using a spatula to turn and fold the wet mixture into the dry. Move quickly so the liquid isn’t too absorbed in one place. As it cools down, use your hands to toss the mixture.

Place the mixture on cookie sheets in a shallow layer. Place in the oven to bake for about 20- 25  minutes, opening the oven about every 5-7 minutes to check on the granola and stir to ensure even distribution and browning. You want a light brown granola, watching for signs of burning from the coconut in particular.

Makes a lot. Store the cooled granola in air-tight bags or containers.

Doni Chamberlain

Independent online journalist Doni Chamberlain founded what’s now known as anewscafe.com in 2007 with her son, Joe Domke. Chamberlain is an award-winning newspaper opinion columnist, feature and food writer recognized by the Associated Press, the California Newspaper Publishers Association and E.W. Scripps. She lives in Redding, California.

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