by Nicole Freire
Hey Internet, hey Edhat readers. Guess how I've been spending my weekends? Besides the sleeping in and the 9 loads of laundry, I've been making my own granola.
God, that sounds incredibly boring. You know what's boring? The dream I had last night. I dreamt that someone changed all the presets on my car radio.
I think that both Freud and Jung would agree with me that on the boredom scale, that rates a 7.5.
By the way, there is nothing more excruciating than having to listen to someone else's dreams. When people say to me, "Hey, I had the weirdest dream last night" I internally cringe. Because what can I say? Listening to you recounting your dream makes me want to poke my eyes out with boredom? Of course not. The polite response is "Really?" -- thereby giving them permission to tell a long strange story that has nothing to do with you.
I've been in the kitchen making granola. I know! It's been a while, hasn't it? I think I was making spaghetti sauce last time. I'm making granola because store-bought granola is so expensive. I realize this makes me seem unbearably hippy crunchy granola (hah!) that you'd think I was making my own patchouli oil too.
I'm not that big into making everything myself. I don't sew my own clothes or plant vegetables in my garden, but hey, gas is getting expensive and my children are growing out of clothes like they have stock in cotton t-shirts and denim and are trying to drive the prices up.
So, I'm making granola. We call this recipe OMG Granola! at Chez Freire because it's so good that one has to say, "Oh my God, this is so good! Take a bite! No really, it tastes fantastic. Please? One bite?" and then force your coworkers to accept Ziploc baggies full of it, despite them not asking explicitly for any homemade health food.
This is how you do it. First of all, you have to go Trader Joe's. I'm not shilling for Trader Joe's by the way; I receive no kickbacks of any sort. I recommend Trader Joe's because they have all the ingredients and if you run into someone you know, you can put the granola ingredients on top of your many bags of orange chicken and containers of double chocolate chip shortbread cookies, the five bottles of syrah and still feel virtuous. And if they say, "Hey, what's all that?" You can return with "Oh, I'm making my own granola!" and then the conversation will end fairly quickly. They'll probably assume that you want to tell them your meaningful dreams next.
Oh, and the "bake in the pan" brownies? Those are good enough to qualify for an OMG designation too, but probably not as healthy for you to eat all day as the granola.
Preheat your oven to 300. Combine the following ingredients in a large bowl:
4 cups of regular oats
4 teaspoons ground cinnamon
2/3 cups ground flaxseed
1/2 cup slivered almonds
1/2 cup sunflower seeds (you can use some other nuts if you like; we use sunflower seeds because the flowers are pretty. Also, there are some high maintenance Freire family members who are allergic to nuts like walnuts and pecans and accidently eating them entails trips to the emergency room. Feel free to choose your own nuts.)
Mix it up.
In a small saucepan, combine:
2/3 cup orange juice
2/3 cup honey
½ cup packed brown sugar.
Cook over medium heat just until the sugar dissolves, stirring frequently. Remove from heat and stir in:
4 teaspoons canola oil
2 teaspoons vanilla extract (the real thing, not the fake, chemical kind, even though it's cheaper.)
Pour the honey mixture over the dry ingredients and stir it up some more until everything looks fully coated. Spread the whole bowl of granola goodness in a thin layer onto a large cookie sheet, or jelly roll pan, or whatever you have in your cupboard that looks like it will fit into your oven. Make sure to spray the pan with oil because if you forget that step you'll be hacking chunks of granola off the pan with a butter knife and cursing under your breath.
Bake at 300 for 10 to 15 minutes, stir well. Put pan back into oven and cook for another 10 to 15 minutes. Open the oven door and poke at it with a wooden spoon. It doesn't feel crunchy. Your oven temperature is off a little bit, isn't it? Poke at it again and bake for another 10 minutes. Open oven door again and stir it up a little bit. Does that seem done to you? Call over a family member and make them look at your granola. Do they think it's done? What about 5 more minutes? Okay then. Bake for 7 minutes longer, panic that kitchen timer didn't go off, take out the pan of granola and sigh with relief. It looks ok.
Obviously, every oven will be different. I recommend trying 10 minutes at a time and poking it with a wooden spoon every so often. You'll be able to tell if it's crunchy or soft enough, whichever consistency you want.
When you've taken the pan out of the oven and obsessed over its texture long enough, pour it all back into the bowl and add 2/3 cup dried cranberries. Mix it up. Again, you can use whatever dried fruit you wish. We use cranberries because the last time we were at Trader Joe's they asked us at the checkout if we "had found everything you needed?" and we said, "Uh, do you have dried cranberries?" and they brought us two bags. Turns out that the dried cranberries are right next to the slivered almonds.
Cool completely. This makes enough OMG Granola! that you should be able to fill 10 to 14 snack size baggies. It's great mixed in with yogurt, great with milk, and great eating it straight out of the baggie with your fingers.
If you have an aversion to using all those plastic baggies, by all means, put it in an airtight container and store at room temperature. I'd recommend some type of plastic bowls but right now all the lids for my plastic ware don't match with the bottoms and I got all cranky trying to find a set that would work and they spilled all over the pantry floor and I had to leave them and curse loudly.
If you don't want all that granola lying around, just halve the recipe.
And just for you I went and looked up all the nutritional information, because that's the kind of full-service Edhat author that I am, despite the fact that I don't understand how to interpret "nutritional information" because it looks suspiciously like math.
For a serving size of ½ cup:
Calories: 196 (31% from fat.); Fat 6.8g (sat. 0.7g, 2/2g mono, poly 3.3g) Iron 1.5 mg; Cholesterol 0.0mg, Calcium 38mg; Carbohydrate 32.5 g; Sodium 5 mg; Protein 4.1 g; Fiber 3.6g.
Eat the granola. You'll feel all healthy and sporty and pennywise. You will love it. Trust me.
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Nicole Freire is a freelance writer who lives in Santa Barbara.