We all have our issues with breakfast – some of us eat lots of crappy things in the morning. I can easily name a few bad options: sugary cereals, deli meats, donuts. Some of us are happy with just a coffee. Some of us skip the first meal of the day entirely. And I am no exception. Almost since forever (maybe except my childhood), I have had a strange and unhealthy relationship with breakfast. Until recently when I discovered homemade granola.
Having breakfast was always something impossible to achieve, though I honestly tried. There was a time when I compelled myself to wake up earlier than usual to prepare a hearty breakfast. I managed to do this for only two straight weeks then a small holiday followed and when I got back home, my established morning routine was long gone. This is only one example from a long list of failed attempts – one time I had a short 'affair' with those praised healthy smoothies. The enthusiasm was pretty high at the beginning but it went down rapidly as I lost my patience with all the prep involved in making a simple smoothie: peeling and chopping different fruit and veggies and cleaning all that mess before leaving the house for work.
I even tried to give up coffee and eat healthy instead. I threw all the sugary cereals from my kitchen counter and bought oatmeal, whole bread, and low-fat yogurt. Unfortunately, my healthy breakfast plans couldn’t keep up with my chaotic schedule. I soon learned that I need coffee in order to survive a stressful day at work and I slowly started to replace breakfast with it. And the biggest consequence of giving up breakfast (again!) was that I soon started to gain weight (coffee always goes well with a croissant, right?).
This roller-coaster of eating breakfast for short periods of time and then skipping it entirely, made me reconsider my situation all over again. I was in the same place I’ve always been.
Homemade Granola: a small experiment with great repercussions
A few months ago I started another small, yet enthusiastic, experiment! I decided to make breakfast ahead so I wouldn’t be overwhelmed with all the prep first thing in the morning. It also seemed like a good idea because when you're cooking ahead of time you can always pack your meal if you're running late in the morning.
One afternoon while I was flipping through one of Jamie Oliver’s cooking books, one idea struck me all of a sudden: I could make granola for breakfast. To be honest, at that very moment I didn’t really know what a great discovery I had made. It just seemed like a good idea because I love eating all kind of nuts and seeds and dried fruits. Well, I had to add the oats, but it couldn’t be that much worse…
One evening I made my first batch of granola and… it was just perfect! Crunchy, slightly nutty and bursting with cinnamon flavor. It was love at first sight! From that moment on I knew that granola might be the answer to a long and troubled time with breakfast.
Very soon, I upgraded the recipe to fit my own needs. For example, I ditched the dried fruit – I discovered that I prefer to add raisins or cranberries in my granola bowl after I've oven-baked the granola than add them from the beginning. In the same time, I started to play more with spices – along with cinnamon I added my favs: nutmeg, cardamom, or ginger. Finally, I discarded the olive oil from the original recipe: normally, the recipe calls for some olive oil because it gives the oats their wonderful crispness, but I think you can live without it if you want to cut down the calories from your granola. I surely can, knowing that one tablespoon of olive oil has around 120 calories!
By now, my granola recipe is quite customized. And I like it like this! I usually make a double batch because I want to be sure I have enough for the entire week!
So, if you want to try it for breakfast you have to mix the following ingredients in a big bowl: 3 cups of rolled oats, 1/2 cup of pumpkin seeds, 1/2 cup of sunflower seeds, 1/2 cup of cashew, 1/2 cup of dried coconut flakes, 1 teaspoon of cinnamon, 1 teaspoon of cardamom, and 2-3 tablespoons of honey.
To make the granola, preheat your oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit (175 degrees Celsius). Mix the ingredients in the bowl and then spread the mixture evenly onto a baking sheet. Bake the granola for 30 minutes or more, stirring every 10 minutes. Let it cool and store it in an air-tight container.
When making granola, feel free to improvise! Actually, that’s the beauty of this dish – you can use all kinds of add-ons to avoid boredom.
How to upgrade homemade granola to your on needs
- play with nuts and seeds: add almonds, pecan nuts, pistachio, walnuts, peanuts, flax seeds, sesame seeds, hemp seeds and so on;
- make smart swaps: replace classic dried fruits like cranberries and raisins with dried apricots, prunes, and even figs;
- if you choose to add fruit, it’s important to add them after you’ve finished baking your granola – dried fruits tend to become even drier in the oven;
- don’t forget to always add a pinch of salt, no matter what spices you choose to use – salt perks up all the flavors;
- if you like the crunchy feeling when eating salty snacks, make sure to add oil to your granola; otherwise, it will lack that desired crunchiness;
- cook the granola until it’s golden-brown; though, be careful with the oven temperature – it should be around 300-350 degrees Fahrenheit (150-170 degrees Celsius) to not burn your granola. Slow and low is the secret!
After so many attempts to eat breakfast, just a small bowl of homemade granola put me on the right track.
Since I began to make granola for breakfast in advance, my life has simplified so much – all I have to do is take half an hour of my time to prepare it. Now I don’t struggle so much with eating breakfast – I take my granola bag with me and enjoy it at the office before the day starts. When I start to get bored of mixing it with yogurt, I turn to milk. I've heard that peanut butter could be a pretty good option, but I haven’t tested it yet!
Eating granola every few days helped me establish a breakfast routine. Now I don’t struggle that much with breakfast like I have in the past. I have days when I eat a donut or a piece of fruit in the morning, but every time I return to my bowl of crunchy and sweet granola.
Here's an upgraded version of a granola recipe, for those of you eager to be on the healthy side of things!