I often call it my favourite meal of the day. I love that delightful first crunch of that says “hello world.” I love cracking the shell of a boiled egg, exposing its warm, opaque flesh. I confess that I often fall asleep thinking about breakfast.
For some, breakfast is just fuel for the day. For others, it can be a reason to get up.
When I cycle-toured around Vancouver Island in the spring of 2006, breakfast was the only meal I’d eat out. I’d ride around a new town for an hour, looking for the perfect nook. I was often rewarded, like when I found these cinnamon buns at a rustic bakery, hidden away in cottage country forest, brushed inside with the slightest hint of raspberry.
It was so good, I didn’t even notice the plastic.
Breakfast with friends is a vulnerable meal to share; each rubs sleep from his or her eyes and dips into the first morsels of a day full of senses. I have so many cozy memories of breakfasting: my grandfather’s porridge, fancy sweet potato pancakes at Fresh (a fantastic Winnipeg restaurant), a plate heaping with goodies at a greasy spoon, my friend Krista’s rum and banana crepes, poori bhaji in India.
Among all the ways to break a fast, granola holds its own. (Hey, I did live in Winnipeg’s ‘Granola Belt’ for 4 years.) It is a constant friend, showing up in our house at least every two weeks with new displays of taste and texture. This is the perfect recipe-in-flux, forgiving and even flourishing under the brashest of adjustments and tweaks. I think that trying to find new combinations of texture, chunkiness, sweetness, and health might just be one of my lifelong quests.
You can find much more straightforward granola recipes out there (like this one), but believe me, in terms of this morning delight I’ve played the explorer and the scientist. I can’t tell you how you’ll like it best, but I can tell you what to try. As the Chinese Proverb so goes, “Give a man a fish and he will eat for a day. Teach him how to fish and he will eat for a lifetime.”
Here’s to a lifetime of granola.
Chameleon Granola, or, Granola with Excessive Notes
serves a small army, everything underlined can be substituted
-At least 4 cups of old-fashioned rolled oats, toasted first on cookie sheets in a 350 degree oven for 10 minutes. Add to the oats 1 cup of the following: wheatgerm, oatbran, flaxmeal, whole wheat flour. You’ll find out what combo you like best. Basically anything in the grain family can go in here, such as different types of flour, rolled barley or quinoa flakes. Be creative! I sometimes use 1/2 cup of millet for extra crunch.
-1 cup seeds, made up of coconut, roasted pumpkin, sunflower, or chia seeds (I usually don’t have all of these on hand!)
-1 cup coarsely chopped nuts (I usually use pecans or walnuts, occasionally almonds)
-1 tsp sea salt
Stir together in separate bowl:
At least 1.5 cups of liquid binders, such as honey, molasses, maple syrup, corn syrup, or brown rice syrup. Go up to 2 cups if you want it even sweeter. A few T’s of brown sugar will make it extra sweet. If you don’t care much about fat, throw in 1/4 – 1/3 cup canola oil, which will give you a golden flakiness. I often add some kind of fruit puree: applesauce (buy the snack pack ones so it doesn’t go bad in the back of the fridge), mashed bananas, or pumpkin. This adds flavour and moisture without the fat. Heck, feel free to add some softened peanut butter. I’ve also seen recipes that call for one or two egg whites, which gives the end product a nice sheen and extra protein. Add vanilla or almond extract, throw in some cinnamon, nutmeg, or ginger. Lastly, add a splash of milk. (The more liquid in your mix, the more the granola will tend to clump. Basically you just want a mixture that looks a bit like cookie dough, but much more crumbly.) Stir the wet mixture into the dry until the dry ingredients are well-coated.
Spread on a lightly greased roasting pan (that allows for messy stirring) or on cookie sheets (you’ll have to be gentler with these) and place on middle racks of oven. Bake at 325 degrees for 30-40 minutes. Stir every 15 minutes. The math: longer= more crunch, shorter= more chew. Take your pick. The granola will crisp up a bit as it cools. Stir more often during baking for more “pourable” cereal, less often for clumpy. Another trick to good clumping is to leave the final product undisturbed on the baking sheets until it cools completely, and then break into clusters and chunks. Add raisins, craisins, dried or fresh fruit just before serving, and douse with Plain Silk Soy Milk (adds a nice, thick sweetness) or on top of some kick-ass yogurt: My favourite is the one my friend Susan and I discovered at the Saturday farmer’s market (pictured above), from the good folks at Meadow Creek Farm in Interlaken, NY (under 100 miles from us!) This stuff is liquid-y enough that you don’t miss the milk, and it’s oh so tasty.
If you plan on storing it for more than a week, pop in the refrigerator. Proceed to laugh at the tiny 7$ bags of granola at the grocery store. Snicker frequently. Crunch loudly.