As a child, I scarfed down bowlfuls of the commercial breakfast cereals endorsed by all of those lively animated monsters, ship captains and talking birds. I savored the sickeningly sweet, faux fruit flavors and the artificial crunch that only partially hydrogenated oil could produce. In the 1970s, education and awareness of what went into our food products was still a long way off.
As an adult, I leaned toward, well, adult cereals; the boring kinds that make kids groan, with flakes or wheat biscuits or O-shapes not coated with anything remotely sugary, promoted by just a picture of wheat stalks, and not some silly rabbit.
Time went by and I learned more about food ingredients and sources, as well as the agricultural methods used on commercial crops. Even a few of those supposedly healthy adult cereals were made from crops that had been sprayed with who-knows-what, or the corn or rice had been genetically modified.
So for years, I’ve made my own granola, which is a fine complement to the morning coffee and paper (or even if I still want to catch a Saturday morning cartoon). My sister, Nancy, provided me with an excellent base recipe that can be altered to produce a variety of flavors:
3 cups large flake oats
1 1/2 cups barley or rye flakes
3/4 cup oat bran
1 cup shredded or flake coconut
1 cup chopped nuts
1/2 cup raw pepitas (shelled pumpkin seeds)
1/2 cup flax seed
1/2 cup canola oil
1/4 cup water
2/3 cup honey or maple syrup
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 1/2 cups dried berries
Sugar or brown sugar to taste
Preheat oven to 250 degrees F. In a large bowl, combine all dried ingredients except berries. In a smaller bowl, whisk oil, water, honey, vanilla and cinnamon. Combine wet and dry ingredients. Spread mixture onto making sheets. Bake for 30 minutes, stirring every 10 minutes. Can bake longer if more crunch is desired.
I’ve made a cherry-almond version using dried cherries for the berries, slivered almonds for the nuts, and almond extract instead of vanilla. I’ve also substituted wheat germ for the oat bran, sunflower seeds for the pumpkin seeds, and I’ve made a hearty fall variety with maple syrup, brown sugar, raisins and dried apple bits.
This recipe makes the equivalent of three 10-ounce boxes of granola cereal. I buy the oats, seeds and most berries in bulk from my local natural foods co-op. I’ve found that making my own granola is a very economical way to have good quality cereal.
But I do kind of miss the cartoon monsters.