Granola: A Sweet Start to the Day

by Sarah Henry on January 8, 2010 · 32 comments

in baking,recipes,whole grains

Fresh starts. New adventures. The whole unexplored landscape that is the year ahead. I welcome January, when anything seems possible.

Except, of course, when there’s transition week. Anyone else having a transition week? Come on, you know you are.

I can see it in my son as he struggles to get back in synch with the school schedule. (And not just him; it was tough to return to the early morning, make breakfast, pack lunch, check homework hustle). I can see it in other kids at school as they squirm in their seats during reading or space out during lessons.

I can feel it in myself as I scramble to set up work systems for the year, finish writing projects that didn’t quite get squared away before the holidays, and pitch new stories for 2010.  All in a week when the Los Angeles Times reports that the freelance writer’s life is in dire straits.

But right now, just for today, I refuse to give in to doom, gloom, and ennui. It’s a new year. Ripe with potential. Let’s begin at the beginning.

And where else to start but breakfast, that first meal of the day? I’m a big fan of brekkie, though I’ve yet to embrace the au courant trend of eating lunch or dinner foods first thing in the morning.

Good luck to all those folks who chow down on pho, pizza, or korean barbecue for breakfast, that stuff leaves me cold when I’m still shuffling around in my slippers. For my money, granola makes a great early morning, gotta-hightail-it-out of the house breakfast.

Discovering granola after growing up with sawdusty muesli ranks high on my list of culinary discoveries in my move from Sydney to San Francisco. Some sniff that granola is just a fat-, calorie-, sugar-laden treat, but it’s got serious hippie pedigree: old-fashioned oats, nuts, and dried fruit, along with maple syrup or honey and oil or butter.

Of the grocery store granola offerings, I’m partial to local, handmade, unfussy Cafe Fanny Granola, and Partners Gourmet Multigrain Granola, which comes in toasty chunks of nutty-grainy goodness.

My boy likes the Arrowhead Mills Breadshop Organic Vermont Maple Granola and, ever since I attended a granola tasting hosted by 18 Reasons, he’s become obsessed with the exxy and excellent 18 Rabbits Gracious Granola with pecans, coconut, and pumpkin seeds. (It was one of his fav stocking stuffers.) He likes to fix a bowl for dessert.

In our house, we prefer our granola served with yogurt; it makes for a pretty parfait, layered in a long glass with berries adding visual zing along with vitamins. And while some cafes serve their granola sprinkled on top of a generous mound of yogurt, we like to layer granola, yogurt, and fruit in equal measures. How ’bout you?

Everyone’s got an opinion about the best tasting granola on the market; for a comparison of other commercial brands check out this Serious Eats review. And feel free to let me know yours.

Truth is, though, it’s easy and cheaper to make your own granola and custom it to suit your palate. You can often significantly lower the amount of sweetener in recipes, I’ve found, without sacrificing flavor.

When I’m not feeling lazy, I make the Crunchy Fruity Granola from Mollie Katzen‘s Salad People cookbook, a simple, satisfying recipe popular with kids in the cooking classes I’ve taught.

Recently, I sampled a delicious batch of granola, recipe to follow.

But first, the back story.

I am fortunate to have a good friend, also a fellow freelancer, who covers the travel beat. Specifically, healthy, eco-travel on her blog Health * Conscious * Travel, mostly geographically centered in the Wine Country.

To do her job, my pal Melanie Haiken has the tiresome task of checking out high-end spas and resorts which she then writes about for her readers. Someone has to do it, right?

She visits said spas and resorts as a perk of the profession, and she’s often invited to bring a guest, known in the biz as a “plus one”. Do you know how delightful it is to be the plus-one person? You enjoy all the facilities without having to take the hard-hat tours or copious notes. And, if you’re lucky, you might eat some very good granola.

That’s exactly what happened recently when we stayed at the ultra-sleek Hotel Healdsburg, where we enjoyed a room with a super groovy green-tiled bathroom and — full disclosure coming — a comped breakfast that included granola that made us both happy.

It’s concocted by the chefs at the Dry Creek Kitchen, adjacent to the hotel. They graciously agreed to give me their recipe so I’m sharing the swag with my readers.

It’s very moreish. As in you’ll want to eat more of it. Trust me.

Let me know if you agree — or if you have your own granola recipe you want to add to the mix. Enjoy.

Dry Creek Kitchen Granola

Ingredients:

6    cups    oatmeal
2    cups    sliced almonds
½    cup    pecan pieces
½    cup    walnut pieces
½    cup    peanuts
½    cup    shredded coconut
1    tbl        ground cinnamon
1 ½ tsp     salt

¼   cup   brown sugar

½   cup   honey

4    oz       butter

½  cup    maple syrup

Method:

1. Combine first 8 ingredients in a bowl.

2. Melt brown sugar, honey, butter & maple syrup in a pot.

3. Mix until well combined.

4. Pour over dry ingredients and toss until everything is coated.

5. Spray a sheet tray with non-stick coating.

6. Spread granola evenly on sheet tray.

7. Bake at 300 degrees F for approximately 30 min.

8. Toss granola every 10 min.

9. Bake until golden brown and all moisture has evaporated.

10. Continue to toss granola as it cools to avoid large clumps.

Photo: Courtesy Dry Creek Kitchen

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{ 31 comments… read them below or add one }

Tara Mataraza Desmond January 8, 2010 at 10:22 am

A friend and I have been talking at length about good granola. He’s on a quest to find some decent store-bought and after several failed attempts recently resolved to make his own. I just stumbled on a recipe the other day for him, and will now forward this one. I am fully faithful that what comes out of the Hotel Healdsburg will be delightful.

(And Amen to your mention of this: “All in a week when the Los Angeles Times reports that the freelance writer’s life is in dire straits”. After reading that article, I’ll take my granola spiked with moonshine, thanks.)

Reply

Sarah Henry January 8, 2010 at 2:01 pm

Granola spiked with moonshine for us freelance writers, love that thought, Tara.

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MP January 9, 2010 at 4:01 pm

Ever since I started making my own granola, I can’t eat the store-bought variety — too sweet. What I like about making my own is that I can put in what I want and omit what I don’t like (those weird extruded dates in some of the bulk granola — or maybe it’s the muesli — kind of remind me of animal poop … but I digress).

Mine is very simple: oats, slivered almonds, sunflower seeds, rice crispies (the generic kind you get in the bulk bins), dried cranberries, a dash of cinnamon and nutmeg, some butter (I usually put in a lot less that the recipes call for) and honey. Oh, and I like it when the granola has clumps.

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Sarah Henry January 9, 2010 at 5:55 pm

Yes, exactly, MP, you can custom your granola to your personal tastes and experiment with less sugar and fat as you do so. I like the sound of your clumpy, extruded-date free kind.

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Meredith Resnick - The Writer's [Inner] Journey January 9, 2010 at 8:34 pm

These recipes for granola…yum! And I love the title of your blog, too.

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Sarah Henry January 10, 2010 at 2:28 pm

Thanks, Meredith. And happy snacking!

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Kristen J. Gough January 9, 2010 at 9:22 pm

MMMmmm, this sounds like my kind of granola–not too sweet and packed with nuts and coconut. The only ingredient I think I’d tweak would be the cinnamon. For some reason every granola recipe seems steeped in cinnamon. While I don’t mind a little, I’d rather taste more of the other ingredients.

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Sarah Henry January 10, 2010 at 2:29 pm

Hi Kristen,

I know what you mean about cinnamon, a little can go a long way. Feel free to modify as your taste buds see fit.

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Lisa January 9, 2010 at 10:06 pm

I like the thought of granola, the crunchy texture playing against the smooth creamy yogurt – but as we have a nut free house, it is really difficult to do. Any ideas?

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Sarah Henry January 10, 2010 at 2:44 pm

Hi Lisa,

Yes, try this recipe from Two Peas & Their Pod:
http://twopeasandtheirpod.com/honey-cinnamon-granola/

And don’t be shy about customizing to suit on the dried fruit front.

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Alexandra January 10, 2010 at 5:39 am

I’ve been making organic granola for the guests at my green B&B on Cape Cod for five years now. We serve it with homemade yogurt and fresh organic fruit. Guests often leave with the recipe, which is quite similar to yours. If everyone knew how easy it is to make, the store-bought variety would become merely a convenience item.

Reply

Sarah Henry January 10, 2010 at 2:30 pm

Well said, Alexandra. A green B&B on Cape Cod…sounds divine…do tell me more.

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marthaandme January 10, 2010 at 6:59 am

This looks like a great recipe. I’ve been buying some from a local producer but it is ridiculously expensive.

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Sarah Henry January 10, 2010 at 7:34 pm

I know what you mean, marthaandme, granola has definitely become a gourmet item in recent years.

Making your own is not only simple and tasty, you can save some money as well.

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Sheryl January 10, 2010 at 7:44 am

There’s nothing better than good granola! Lucky you, to be the extra tag-along on the exhaustive (?) spa trips. I spent some time in Healdsburg last June and fell in love with it. Gotta try this recipe – thanks!

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Sarah Henry January 10, 2010 at 2:31 pm

Healdsburg is lovely, isn’t it, Sheryl? Hope you enjoy the recipe.

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Susan January 10, 2010 at 7:55 am

Love, love, love granola! I’ll have to try making my own, since the store bought kind can get expensive.

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Sarah Henry January 10, 2010 at 2:32 pm

I think you’ll find, Susan, that making your own is pretty easy. Give it a go and see what you think.

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judy stock January 10, 2010 at 3:09 pm

Sarah-
Loved your post. And, big fan of granola. My favorite is Cafe Fanny Granola. And, printed out your suggestion for granola from Yoga Journal. Must try it. Like your style!

judy

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Sarah Henry January 10, 2010 at 3:41 pm

Thanks, Judy. Glad to hear you’re going to give Mollie Katzen’s granola a try. Since you’re a fan of Cafe Fanny Granola I think you’ll like this version too. Enjoy.

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Alisa Bowman January 10, 2010 at 4:23 pm

I’m in search of a granola that is nut free, as I have an allergy to tree nuts. So I won’t be able to sample this recipe, but I enjoyed reading the story behind it.

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Sarah Henry January 10, 2010 at 6:07 pm

Hi Alisa,

You’re not alone! See my reply to Lisa above for a nut-free granola recipe.

The cool thing about a granola recipe is you can modify to suit your dietary needs.

Reply

Almost Slowfood January 10, 2010 at 4:59 pm

How funny that you’re writing about granola this week as I just made granola for the first time this week! I tried Karen Demasco’s recipe and loved it!!

Will have to try this one too.

Lovely blog!! Can’t wait to see more.

Reply

Sarah Henry January 10, 2010 at 6:19 pm

I’m curious, Almost Slowfood, is the Karen Demasco granola recipe from her book The Art of Baking? Do tell.

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anonymous January 10, 2010 at 7:46 pm

I love granola especially with yogurt and raspberry mush.

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Sarah Henry January 11, 2010 at 7:23 am

Sounds delicious, anonymous.

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Jennifer Margulis January 10, 2010 at 10:25 pm

I’ve started making my own granola from scratch and I’ve been surprised by how easy it is. Whenever I’m baking anyway, I throw a new batch of granola in the oven. My recipe is not too different from this one but it has a lot less sweetener. I usually just put a little agave on it and that’s all.

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Sarah Henry January 11, 2010 at 7:27 am

Love the idea of making a batch of granola when the oven’s on anyway.

And I agree on the sweetener front, I find you can often use much less than a recipe calls for without sacrificing taste.

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Donna Hull January 17, 2010 at 5:47 pm

You’ve just inspired me to make granola.

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Kris January 17, 2010 at 6:28 pm

I may have to try this. I have my favorite stand-by granola recipe, but sometimes a change is nice!

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Sarah Henry January 31, 2010 at 2:05 pm

Everywhere I look people are talking about granola.

Today’s San Francisco Chronicle, my local paper, includes a feature “Granola gets a makeover,” by Amanda Gold, which includes five different recipes for this breakfast cereal.

There’s also a comparison of some commercial brands, which you can read here: http://www.sfchroniclemarketplace.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?f=/c/a/2010/01/31/FDTI1BOP4F.DTL

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