patriotic muffins

In Canada we have this great stuff called Red River Cereal. Not only is it Canadian, it actually originated in Manitoba’s storied Red River Valley–the area surrounding the city I’m from. I don’t know if it’s available in conventional grocery stores in the US, but as with everything else, is available here. (Bob’s Red Mill 7 or 10 grain cereal will also do the trick, though the result will possess a diminished cultural caliber.

As far as whole foods go, this one is tops. Made of just three simple ingredients — cracked wheat, rye and flax– this stuff will boost your High-Density Lipoproteins (the “good” cholesterol everyone is raving about these days) like nobody’s business. HDL Muffins didn’t quite have the same ring to it though.

And just in case the cholesterol pitch wasn’t enough, these babies are high in fiber and protein as well. So pack up those power bars and whip out your wooden spoons.

Since we’re not swallows who can just peck away at grains laid out on the glistening buffet of late February snow, we humans have to turn cereal into more tender possibilities. Whether it’s cooked on the stovetop to yield a hot viscous pudding with a satisfying chew, or made into these Red River Valley Muffins, I think we might actually have it a little better than the birds.

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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 was cycling around Vancouver island in the Spring of ’06, 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 most brash 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, 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 day. Teach him how to fish and he will eat for a lifetime.” Here’s to a lifetime of granola.

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