Full disclosure: I have never liked cereal. Sure, I think I enjoyed the novelty of picking out a cavity-causing sweet cereal for my birthday breakfast, but when I realized I could pick any other breakfast I want, I dropped the cereal without a look behind me (my mom would make these little cinnamon biscuits called Scuffles, but we’ll come back to those another time). Never did the cheerio or rice crispies thing. Never liked milk poured over anything, except bananas and brown sugar for dessert. This remains true to this day. The last time I probably had cereal for breakfast was in elementary school. Granola? I could live without it. That is, until we started making our own. I can sum it up with Sebastien’s face when he came home and could smell it baking. He just smiled and said “Cookies?”
No not, cookies. The fabulous smell of toasting oats, bran, coconut, cranberries, and pecans swathed in cinnamon, cardamom, and ginger. When stirred into yogurt, the well-toasted bran combines to make an almost chocolate-like bitterness, and the cranberries end up with crunchy edges cradling their soft middles. By itself, it’s a perfect snack when you are studying, a little bowl of flavour to keep your brain whirring and your stomach settled. So yes, now I can’t live without this granola, and it makes my breakfast or lunch so easy to prepare.
Fresh ginger is something I believe should be on hand at all times. It is just a gorgeous ingredient, creating a warm, spicy pop that so many dishes are complimented by. It takes plain old fried rice and turns it into a culinary experience. It takes pumpkin loaf and turns it into something special. It takes salad dressing and turns it into fork-licking good. It puts the “g” in great granola. The thing is, you usually buy a pretty sizable ginger-root from the grocery store, but can never use it all up (if you have in one go, high five, sounds like a good week). The flavour starts to deteriorate if it sits in the fridge, and the edges get unpleasantly shriveled. For this reason, the moment I get home from the grocery store, I peel the whole thing, cut it into cubes, and throw it in the freezer. It will stay fresh in the freezer, and it makes it very easy to grate or chop finely while it is frozen. To peel ginger, all you need is a metal spoon. Use the edge to pull at the skin, and as you’ll see, it just slides off. Most recipes call for 1″ pieces, so I tend to cut the whole thing up to roughly that size (I gauge 1″ using the knuckle on my thumb to the tip- test out the size of yours with a ruler, it is super useful for measuring on the fly).
Another thing that goes straight into the freezer is nuts, especially pine nuts and walnuts. I have previously ranted on the price of pine nuts, so when I do treat myself to them, I want to make sure I can use every single one. That means NOT having them go rancid. Nuts go rancid quickly because of their high unsaturated fat content, which get oxidized when stored in light/warmth. Rancid oils will not only eventually taste unbelievably disgusting, they are best to be avoided in the diet because of the radicals that can be produced. For this reason, I always buy whole, unprocessed nuts (the more chopped up they are, the more surface area to go rancid) and never keep them in the cupboard, always at least in the fridge, but usually in the freezer. I have for the most part given up on buying walnuts because they are almost always rancid (its those darn omega 6 fatty acids, which are pro-inflammatory and not great for you anyways) so I will always use pecans in the place of walnuts in the recipe. If you love you some walnuts, when you buy them sample them in the bulk section (you can ask, most stores are cool with this) to make sure they don’t taste rancid. At the very least least give them a sniff, you should be able to tell right away.
3 c oats
1/4 c bran
1/2c-3/4 c chopped nuts (my favourite is a combo of almonds and pecans)
1/2 c dried cranberries
1/2 c coconut, unsweetened (large flake is the best in here)
2 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp cardamom
1/4 tsp nutmeg
1/3 c honey
1/4 c oil (melted coconut, butter, or grapeseed oil is what I usually use)
1-2 tsp fresh ginger, grated or chopped very finely
1) Preheat oven to 3500 degrees F. Combine all dry ingredients in a large bowl.
2) Combine all wet ingredients and fresh ginger in a small bowl or a measuring cup.
3) Pour the wet ingredients over the dry ingredients and stir well to combine.
4) Spread the granola mixture onto a baking sheet. If your baking sheets are older or aren’t non-stick, line the sheet with parchment paper or a silicone liner.
5) Bake the granola mixture for 20-30 minutes, stirring every 10 minutes. Make sure you stir the granola at the edges into the middle, because that tends to be where the most browning happens.
6) When the granola is nice and toasting (it will smell fantastic), pull it out of the oven and let it cool on the baking sheet.
7) Store in an air tight container. Enjoy!