Healthy Winter Granola

Many of you loyal readers of this blog already enjoy granola à la Jen; that simple, throw-together-whatever-you’ve-got bowl of nuts, seeds, and grains that turns mornings into moments. I call it Chameleon Granola, and it always surprises me with its various incarnations.

For those of you who feel a little lost in an ingredient list that read “this, OR this,” I’ve put together this foolproof, easy to follow recipe. Just the straight-up stuff with none of the playing around and experimentation. (Actually, truth be told, I put it together for the magazine I work for, where it’s featured in the December-January issue under off-season nutrition.)

So try this one, and next time, maybe you’ll be ready to play Picasso with your breakfast cereal.

Healthy Winter Granola*

Ingredients

Dry:
-4 cups old-fashioned rolled oats
– ½ cup wheatgerm
-½ cup flaxmeal (ground flaxseeds)
-½ cup pumpkin seeds
-½ cup unsweetened coconut (if you don’t like coconut, use 1 cup pumpkin seeds)
-2 Tbsp chia seeds
-1 tsp salt
-1 tsp cinnamon, nutmeg, or ground ginger

Wet:
-¼ cup molasses
-¼ cup pure maple syrup
-¼ cup agave syrup
-¼ cup smooth peanut butter
-2 egg whites
-splash of water or milk

Preparation

1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Mix together the oats, wheatgerm, flaxmeal, pumpkin seeds, and coconut, and spread over two large cookie sheets. Toast for 10 minutes, or until lightly fragrant. Remove, turn oven down to 325 degrees.

2. Pour toasted mixture into a large bowl and add chia seeds, salt, and spices.

3. Mix together the molasses, maple and agave syrups, and peanut butter, microwaving on low power for a few minutes if softening is needed. Stir into the dry mixture until well-coated. Pour in the egg whites and water. Stir to incorporate.

4. Gently oil the baking sheets (unless you’re using non-stick) and disperse mixture evenly over the two sheets. Bake for 20 minutes, remove and stir gently with a flat lifter (especially if you want clumps, don’t disturb the granola too much), and return to the oven for 5-10 minutes, depending on how crunchy you want the final product. (Less time equals a softer, more chewy texture, more time equals more crunch). Place baking sheets on racks and cool.

*Originally published in LAVA Magazine, Issue 3, December/January (2010, 2011)

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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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