Wednesday, June 15, 2011

She's Such a Granola

Last week, I was supervising three students while eighty-something of their peers went on an end-of-year field trip. As these three watched a movie, one began helping herself to a bag of granola that belonged to the teacher whose room we were using had broken into. A second student commented, "That stuff is so NASTY. Ugh. How can you eat that?" The first replied, "Well, Mr. [Granola Owner] loves it. He eats it all the time. So." The third kept quiet, but also didn't eat a single clustered oat out of that bag.

I was reminded of similar conversations at my own high school in which we labeled health- and environmentally-conscious students "granolas." I don't think I got labeled a granola, though I not only ate granola, but ate HOMEMADE granola, which is even more granola than eating the store-bought kind.

Years later, I craved my dad's homemade granola, and wanted to change the stigma of granola from Something That Burned-Out Hippies Eat to Something That Martha Stewart Would Make. I called my dad for the recipe, thinking he had invented his, or at least had modified it significantly from its original source. But no, his recipe was lifted directly from some 1970s vegan how-to-get-holy-while-chanting-naked-with-of-all-your-white-hippie-friends cookbook that was probably printed on reclaimed toilet paper and bound with recycled inner tubes. He told me he began making it during his kitchen shifts at sesshin, his Zen Buddhist meditation retreats. While he was fully clothed, I'm sure, this news was not any I intended to spread around my social circles, and would definitely not convince skeptics of the merits of granola.

Mr. Granola Owner Teacher, though, may be just the ally granola and I need. He happens to be in the middle of a health and fitness campaign whereby he has lost over 30 pounds and competed successfully in his first triathlon. All this, of course, is attributable to his love for and liberal use of granola. 

Non-flavored, Non-Naked Granola
adapted from Some Hippie Cookbook

4 cups rolled oats
1/4 to 1/2 cup sunflower seeds
1/2 cup walnuts (sometimes I like to add halved almonds too)
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 cup honey (I use agave)
1/8 cup oil, such as canola
1 tsp vanilla extract
1/2 cup raisins

Preheat oven to 325 degrees.
1. Mix together oats, salt, sunflower seeds, and walnuts. 
2. In a separate bowl, combine oil, honey or agave, and vanilla. 
3. Add wet ingredients to dry, and coat oat mixture evenly. Spread on shallow baking sheet. 
4. Bake for 20-25 minutes, stirring every 8-10 minutes. Mixture will be slightly wet but golden brown. 
5. Add raisins. Store in airtight container.

*The original recipe says to add the walnuts at the end, but I like them toasted, so I include them in the mix to be baked. 
* You can add other goodies to the mix, such as cranberries, dried apple bits, or cherries. Other nuts work well, too. One of my recent batches included unsweetened shredded coconut. Fabulous.

*This recipe is fairly low in sugar, so it doesn't form the clusters that commercial granola does. This is great for those monitoring their sugar intake, but less great for teachers and their students who like to eat granola straight out of the bag. I like eating it as a cereal in the morning with a bit of milk. 

*Fresh fruit is fantastic in the bowl in the morning. Sliced banana and blueberries are my favorites.

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