Back in the eighties, my sister, Linda, and my brother-in-law, Mike were doing a lot of long distance running, mountain climbing, and camping. (And the whole time, Linda was also teaching school and working on her first book. Yes, I still feel like a slouch just thinking about it.) Linda and Mike were the coolest people I knew – hip (before hip was a thing), fun, outdoorsy and granola-y (in the good way). They ate the healthiest I’d ever seen. And they loved cereal. Whenever I was with them early in the morning, it seemed like they were eating a bowl of some sort of cereal. Never like any cereal I was eating – the stuff that came out of cartoon-covered boxes and made your hair stand on end for an hour – but bowls of oats and nuts and fresh fruit. As a kid, I equated being cool with eating granola.
As I have lamented time and time again, I am not a big cereal fan. Well, that’s not entirely true – I do love some Cap’n Crunch or Cocoa Krispies at two a.m. if I can’t sleep (both go well with reruns of the Nanny). But some days, especially before long runs, I want something quick that will stay with me for the hours it takes to cover twenty to thirty miles, or more.
For awhile, I stuck with the traditional runner’s meal: oatmeal. Then the gag reflex kicked in and I could no longer stomach a big bowl of gloop before I ran. Just thinking about it now makes me feel sort of ugghhh. So, I switched over to store bought “healthy” cereals. Nope. Too sweet, too processed, too…just no. Same with “energy bars”. I just couldn’t.
And then I went to visit Linda and Mike in Manhattan. Both are still super fit and super cool – and still eat bowls of oats and nuts with fruit. Hmmm… Maybe it was time to revisit this whole granola-is-cool thing. I came home and started mixing different kinds of oats, nuts and fruit, and realized you really can’t go wrong. What’s in your pantry? Almonds and prunes? Throw ‘em in. How about pecans and maple syrup? Yup, that works, too.
Now, obviously granola is neither new, nor rocket science. We all know about mixing oats, nuts, cinnamon and some sort of sweetener, toasting it to golden goodness, and ending up with a crunchy, healthy potpourri. But I thought we all might need a gentle reminder about just how easy, delicious, and versatile homemade granola can be. And how cool.
This is a base recipe. Feel free to add, subtract and substitute any ingredients that tickle your fancy. Some suggestions: ground flax seed, sesame seeds, pecans, pistachios, cashews, shredded coconut, dried fruit (cranberries, apricots, dates, prunes), and various spices (cayenne pepper, ground ginger, ground cloves, nutmeg).
2 tablespoons coconut oil, olive oil or butter (unsalted)
3 cups whole oats (not instant)
½ cup slivered almonds
½ cup walnuts
½ cup pumpkin seeds
1 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons cinnamon
2 tablespoons honey
2 tablespoons brown sugar or maple syrup
Preheat oven to 300 degrees. Put coconut oil or butter on a large baking sheet and put it in the oven to melt.
Mix all ingredients. Taste for seasoning. Add more salt, sugar, or spice as desired.
Spread mixture onto sheet pan making sure it is a single layer so all ingredients get evenly toasted.
Gently bake for 10 minutes. Remove from oven and stir. Return to oven for another 10 to 15 minutes, or until golden brown. Be careful not to burn it.
Serve plain, with your favorite milk (dairy, flax, coconut, almond, soy, cashew), or over Greek yogurt.