This is a big year in our house. I turn fifty next week (don’t know whether to wince or rejoice). Husband Gérard turns sixty in April. Our 110th birthday. Yet we still feel like we’re in our twenties. It’s not quite arrested development (one hopes). Just a state of being, a vibe of being 20-something, in one’s heart. The body is another matter entirely.
Which brings me to the subject of this post. Health, and how good food relates to well-being. Sanctimonious foodies and dietary dictates make me lose my appetite. To me, pleasure and food are inextricably linked. And moderation is the secret ingredient to a long, healthy and pleasure-filled life. But it all begins with (cue the eye rolling)… a good breakfast. Preferably with lots of fiber to fulfill age-appropriate dietary needs.
I start most days with a bowl of homemade granola and plain yogurt, usually with fruit on top. Why make your own cereal, you ask? #1 Because it tastes so good, #2 It costs so much less than the store-bought kind, and #3 You control what goes into it (variety of seeds, whether it’s organic, sweetness factor, etc.). Oh, and because it takes about 30 minutes of actual work, leaving you with a week’s supply. Plus virtue.
This recipe is a favorite, from a new cookbook I like a lot: Good to the Grain, by Kim Boyce. Making granola is very forgiving. Don’t have an ingredient? Skip it or switch it out for another. Want to use up some nuts or dried fruit in your pantry? Throw ’em in there. Need a kick to wake up your palette? Add a pinch of cayenne. Flax seeds, bran and oats may sound drearily healthy but in this granola scattered on yogurt, they taste deliciously rich and indulgent.
Adapted from Good to the Grain: Baking with Whole-Grain Flours
Makes about 10 cups
Note: Dried fruits burn easily. I prefer to add them to the final granola mix, or do it à la carte depending on my mood at serving time.
Butter for greasing the pans
1 cup raw pumpkin seeds
4 cups whole rolled oats
1 cup raw sunflower seeds
1 cup raw pecans or walnuts or almonds
½ cup wheat germ or bran
¼ cup flax seeds
2 tablespoons brown sesame seeds
1 tablespoon black sesame seeds
1 tablespoon poppy seeds
½ teaspoon cayenne powder (optional)
½ cup honey
½ cup dark brown sugar or maple syrup
3 ounces (3/4 stick) unsalted butter
1 teaspoon salt
Preheat oven to 325˚F. Spread the pumpkin seeds onto a baking sheet and bake until light golden brown, about 15 minutes. While they toast, butter two 17” x 12” rimmed baking sheets. Rimmed baking sheets (or large roasting pans) are much easier to use than cookie sheets (rimless), because they contain all the loose ingredients better.
Measure the dry ingredients into a large bowl. Add the toasted pumpkin seeds and toss together with your hands.
To make the syrup, measure the honey, brown sugar or maple syrup, butter, and salt into a small saucepan. Place it over a medium heat, stir once, and cook until the syrup comes to an even boil.
As soon as the syrup boils, immediately pour it over the oat mixture, using a spatula to scrape every last bit out. Turn the mixture over and over, until every oat flake, seed, and nut is coated with syrup. Divide the granola evenly between the two prepared baking sheets, spreading it out in a single, clumpy layer on each pan.
Bake for 10 minutes. Remove the sheets from the oven, close the oven door to retain the heat, and scrape the outer edges of granola towards the center, and the center out to the edges. This prevents the granola from burning on one side. Place the sheets back in the oven, rotating the top and bottom pans from the positions they were in for the first 10 minutes of baking. Repeat the baking, scraping and pan rotation a second and third time, with the last baking time shortened to 5 minutes, unless you like your granola very well done (add a few minutes to the last baking time).
Remove the sheets from the oven and allow the granola to cool thoroughly on the pans; this will allow small clumps to form. Granola keeps at least one week, stored in airtight containers such as Mason jars.