chameleon granola

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

Mix together:

-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.

8 thoughts on “chameleon granola

  1. Judi
    February 6, 2008 at 4:34 pm

    Good Morning Jen…I know I am going to love this Blog of yours. I may not like cooking but I love reading about eating! Your breakfast blog has brough back a wonderful memeory for me. In the 50’s,my Dad would join us at the lake on weekends and not only did he bring the gas for the boat but he always made Sunday breakfast. He learned to cook at the Sals in the early 40’s. You can see his picture at the Sals in Headingly. He made bacon and eggs with fresh tomatoes and then horror of horrors, he fried the bread in the bacon fat. He would make it all into a “ship wrecked sailor on a raft” (an egg and tomatoe on top of a toast) complete with a toothpick flag. Ahhh..sweet memories. He is 90 now and still loves his bacon and eggs and tomatoes but no more fried bread.

  2. dekpe
    February 7, 2008 at 2:13 am

    Hi Judi, thanks for your lovely comment. It’s wonderful hearing about the memories that food evokes. I think that’s what makes it so powerful–something we organize our lives around, really. It can bring us so much joy, and waves of nostalgia. That’s great that you like reading about eating…there will be something here for everyone!

  3. Katie
    February 18, 2008 at 11:13 pm

    Hey Jenn,
    Love the granola recipe! I want to try it, but I am on a sugar-free diet right now. Do you have any ideas for substituting the honey/molasses/and maple syrup? Maybe just almond butter would work? what do you think. I love your blog.

  4. Jen
    February 19, 2008 at 1:41 am

    Hi Katie. This granola could EASILY be made sugar-free. That’s the beauty of the flexible recipe. Almond butter would definitely work. You could even thin it out with some skim milk. Can you have fruit? Then you could use fruit purees like applesauce, too. Basically you just want enough of a liquidy component to turn the dry ingredients into something resembling a crumbly dough. Have you heard of stevia? It’s a naturally sweet herb (leaf) that is crushed to make a powder and it’s remarkably sweet. Thanks for the comment!

  5. Jordan
    February 23, 2008 at 2:15 am

    Finally made this tonight, Jenn. Totally delicious. Made it with: old fashioned rolled oats, oatbran, wheatbran, flaxmeal, sunflower seeds, millet, honey, molasses, maple syrup, applesauce, vanilla, cinnamon, nutmeg. Thanks a tonne!

    Also, I randomly saw in a store window today a recipe book that shared the ‘homage to Manitoban food’ theme of your Red River Muffins post. A whole book devoted to Manitobans cooking/baking Manitoban things. Not sure what to make of the fact that it was a rather thin book.

  6. Jen
    February 23, 2008 at 9:41 am

    Jordan, hopefully you’ll see this…I’m so glad it turned out for you! It really is so flexible. I think I’ve seen that cookbook…a chef I know is in there, he’s linked on my side bar. Yum yum eat up!

  7. Ed
    March 6, 2009 at 3:29 pm

    try Wake Robin cream on top yogurt. It is excellent, and is made on a family farm in Elbridge, which is a lot closer to Syracuse than is Interlaken.

  8. renbeth
    June 29, 2009 at 9:13 am

    We finally, finally tried making our own granola this past weekend using your recipe . . . I can already tell it is going to change my life. Thank you for your granola inspiration & guidance!