Homemade: Granola

I never thought I'd be saying this since a) I'm not used to liking breakfast, and b) cereal has always been the least favorite food of my least favorite meal, but.....one of our most beloved breakfasts at home these days is granola with yogurt.  

I'm reading that granola was originally invented in the 1860s by a Dr. Caleb Jackson as a breakfast food for his eponymous spa in Dansville, NY. It was originally made from Graham flour (remember the guy who invented Graham crackers?), was similar to large Grape-nuts (ouch!), and was called Granula (eww).   WikiP says:  "A similar cereal was developed by John Harvey Kellogg. It too was initially known as Granula, but the name was changed to Granola to avoid legal problems with Jackson. The food and name were revived in the 1960s, and fruits and nuts were added to it to make it a health food popular with the hippie movement."  Sheesh, I'm glad they changed the name. 

Maybe we're just returning to our hippy-dippy roots, but I totally love making something for nickels that would cost me some serious change if I bought it in the grocery store. I love not throwing away more cardboard and plastic. And I love knowing exactly what went into my breakfast - I can make it as low-fat or high-fat as I want, and as sweet or un-sweet as I like.  Oh yeah, and it tastes better than anything I've ever bought at the grocery store too.  

I also happen to feel extra energized when I'm starting my day in the Michigan foodshed with my mostly-Michigan version (or maybe that's B.'s high octane espresso every morning?)  In any case, Michigan oats, sunflower seeds, maple syrup, honey, and butter are all pretty easy to find. On a trip to the Eastern Market a few months ago, I found great family size packages of Michigan-grown, certified organic oats and sunflower seeds (plus great beans, bread, and flour) from the 240 acre Hampshire Organic Farm, located over in Kingston in The Thumb.  I wonder if anyone closer to here grows oats?

Whatever you put in it, you can make your own Granula quite expediently and have a week or two of breakfasts in the cupboard. It's easy to add your favorite mix-ins to this simple base recipe - we bought some granola in Germany that had chocolate flakes....  I like making this amount because it fits perfectly on my 2 cookie sheets.  

Maple Nut Granola

5 C. oats
1/2 C. ground flaxseed
1 C. sunflower seeds
1 1/2 C. other nuts (walnuts, pecans, almonds, hazelnuts or combination)
1 t. salt
1 -2 t. cinnamon

1/2 C. maple syrup (or honey)
1/4 C. butter
1 t. vanilla

Stir together the dry ingredients in a large bowl.  Over at the stove, in a small saucepan, melt together the butter and the maple syrup (real maple syrup of course - or honey is good too). After it's melted, add the vanilla.   Pour the warmed mixture over the oat mixture and stir until the oats are well-coated.  

Turn out onto 2 large un-greased cookie sheets and bake at 300º for 15 minutes.  After 15 minutes, stir to make sure that the granola around the edges isn't getting too done. Bake another 10-25 minutes, depending on how crispy or chewy you like your granola (less time=chewy, more time=crispy). Keep checking to make sure the edges are not burning. If they are getting too dark, take out and stir again.   

Cool the granola on the cookie sheets. Stir again after about 3-4 minutes so that the granola won't stick to the cookie sheets. At this point, add dried fruit (raisins, dates, cherries, anyone?) if desired.  Store in air-tight container. Or, previously used, lined coffee bag with a top that folds closed. 

My sister said she wants some of this granola for a Christmas present.  And if I get tired of making granola for breakfast, there's another blogger who is learning to love breakfast with some other good ideas too. 

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