Your Very Own Granola

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Meal planning is one of the least glamorous sounding phrases on the internet, right along with “dank memes” and “subtweets”. But now that I’m actually home more evenings than not it’s become something that I look forward to. I spend half an hour every week thinking about what I want to eat and making grocery lists, and a few more hours on days off making food. It’s become this enjoyable ritual where I either queue up Stranger Things (I’m still on Season 2, mostly because no one will ever convince me it’s not scary) or soothing videos about minimalism on YouTube while making food for the week. I cook beans, make pots of soup to take to work, mix spices, and bake goods. And if I don’t have a full mason jar of this granola, I make granola.

When I first started cooking granola was one of my responsibilities. We served it for brunch at the restaurant I worked at, and it was easy to forget because it was rarely ordered. And the granola was finicky- mostly because the ovens at work never heated true to temperature and so it burned easily. Still, the granola page in my recipe book is splattered with oil and coated in salt, because I made it so many times.

This is an adaptation of that granola I made dozens of times in a professional kitchen. I’ve done some tinkering to increase the crispness and clumps of the granola and to make it more stable in the oven. It’s a stunner with a dark, rich sweetness from maple syrup, balanced by a healthy pinch of salt. I like to toss in a variety of nuts, seeds, and dried fruit to suit my whims, though it’s still quite nice naked.

When Aaron went on his first-ever business trip I packed a jar for his breakfasts in his carry-on. When we fly out to California later this month I’ll bring some to eat with almond milk and berries. And right now my platonic ideal of a breakfast is this granola with cream topped yogurt, strong black tea, and toast with butter and jam.

 

Your Very Own Granola

The beauty of this recipe is its flexibility. I like to raid our cabinets for whatever dried fruit and nut combination looks good, which makes this granola endlessly customizable and has the added benefit of using up all the odds and ends around. The maple syrup can be swapped for honey if you’re interested, and spices can be adapted- I’m planning on using garam masala in a batch very soon.

Makes about 5 cups

3 cups rolled oats
1/4 cup packed brown sugar
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup maple syrup
1/3 cup canola oil
up to 1 1/2 cups add-ins of choice (for this batch I used sunflower seeds, flaked almonds, shredded coconut, and dried cranberries

Preheat the oven to 325.

In a large bowl whisk together the oats, brown sugar, cinnamon, and salt together until well-combined. Set aside.

In a small bowl whisk together the maple syrup and canola oil. Drizzle the oil mixture over the oats and toss well to combine. Turn out onto a sheet tray. Set the small bowl aside.

Bake the granola for half an hour, turning with a rubber spatula every fifteen minutes. While the granola bakes place your add-ins in the small bowl, and toss well to coat with any remaining maple syrup mixture.

After half an hour add your add-ins to the granola, and toss well with the rubber spatula. Return to the oven and bake for fifteen more minutes, until it’s golden in color and crisping up. It will get crisper as it cools, so it’s alright if it’s not perfectly crunchy yet, but you don’t want it to be wet. Let cool. Transfer to pretty jars.

Granola will keep stored in airtight jars for a few weeks.

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Baked Oatmeal with Earl Grey, Prunes, and Almonds

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So. Let’s talk prunes.

Aaron makes a face whenever I mention prunes. He was forced to drink prune juice as a kid, and still has the memories.

I found prunes as an adult. I love their deep, wine-like sweetness. I love the rich flavor. To me, they are a comforting but sophisticated dried fruit. When I first graduated from college I was a nanny for a toddler. I would bring prunes for my snack, and she would beg me, over and over, for just one more prune. I can’t think of any better proof that hatred of prunes is learned, not innate.

I’ve seen prunes starting to be sold as dried plums, which is factually true. But it also seems a bit silly. I don’t mind eating prunes, no matter the unglamorous name. I suppose it’s further evidence that I’m actually in my 50s, not 20s.

Prunes are the star of this baked oatmeal, and the idea that made it all fall into place. I wanted to make a baked oatmeal that felt wintery, as most baked oatmeal recipes I’ve seen call for berries. This seems silly, as I don’t know a better time for a hearty, hot breakfast than winter. Winter is also the best time for dried fruit, at least here in the Upper Midwest, because there’s so little that’s fresh. Winter has long been a time for food dried and stored. Perhaps I am actually 80, not 50. Prunes take up the place of berries here. They’re soaked in Earl Grey tea and tossed with lemon zest, almonds, and maple syrup. The maple syrup reinforces the rich sweetness of the prunes, and the lemon zest and tea balance it. The almonds provide a delightful crunch, and help make the whole thing feel like a meal.

This is a comforting breakfast if you’ve already finished off all of your Thanksgiving pie, and even if you haven’t. It’s a sturdy oatmeal, the kind that will keep its shape as you serve it. It’s the type of breakfast I like to make for a lazy morning, and then store the rest for busy days.

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Baked Oatmeal with Earl Grey, Prunes, and Almonds

If your prunes are very moist and you’d like to skip a step, you could pass on soaking the prunes in tea. And if you’re absolutely against prunes, I bet this would be stellar with dried figs.

Serves 6

Adapted from Super Natural Every Day by Heidi Swanson

1 cup hot Earl Grey tea
1 cup (about 15) pitted prunes
2 cups (190 grams) rolled oats
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon lemon zest
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup (100 grams) slivered almonds
1/2 cup (60 grams) unsalted sunflower seeds
2 tablespoons (16 grams) poppy seeds
2 cups whole milk
1/3 cup maple syrup
2 tablespoons melted butter
2 large eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla

Preheat your oven to 400.

In a small bowl combine the Earl Grey tea and the prunes. Set aside to steep until the tea has cooled and the prunes are soft, about 5 minutes. Drain the tea and roughly chop the prunes.

In a large bowl combine the oats, baking powder, lemon zest, cinnamon, and salt. Whisk well, then add the chopped prunes. Whisk well again, and set aside.

In a medium bowl whisk together the almonds, sunflower seeds, and poppy seeds. Add half of the seed mixture to the oats and whisk the oats again. Set the rest of the seeds aside.

In another medium bowl whisk together the milk, maple syrup, melted butter, eggs, and vanilla until the eggs are completely incorporated.

Turn the oats out into a 8×8 pan. Pour the milk-egg mixture evenly across the oats. Top with the remainder of the seed mixture, being careful to spread the seeds evenly. Transfer the pan to the oven, and bake until golden and fragrant, 30-40 minutes. Serve warm.

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 Power Oatmeal


I told a friend the other day that I was trying out a yoga streaming site I found on Gwenyth Paltrow’s blog, Goop.

“Does it require you to buy a gold plated yoga mat?” she quipped.

It’s a fair point. Paltrow has a reputation for catering to the one percent. Goop is filled with beautiful things that I can’t imagine affording. And she’s been accused of pandering to the masses before. A few years ago an article came out claiming that following her recipes would cost a family $300 a day.

But that doesn’t mean she doesn’t have worth. (And for the record, that $300 a day figure doesn’t add up.) I’ve had her book, It’s All Good, recommended to me a few times by people who I know watch their grocery budget. And when I was looking through her book I could see why. There’s an emphasis on whole foods, simply prepared that appeals to me. While flipping through the copy I took out from the library I found some inspiration.

Like this oatmeal. I think breakfast is wonderful, but I’m much more likely to eat toast with peanut butter most mornings than whip something up while still half asleep. But I work some crazy long hours on weekends,without promised meal breaks (see here) and I need something with sustenance to stay on my feet. I’ve started making this oatmeal during the week and microwaving it for breakfast.

The textural difference is key here, I think. The rolled oats meld into a custard, where the steel cut oats (or barley, if you’re feeling adventurous) soften but stay close to al dente. It’s filled with fiber, which keeps me full and kicking for hours. I love it topped with maple syrup and walnuts, but the possibilities are endless.

It’s a simple, satisfying breakfast from a slightly surprising source. If you try it, I’d love to how you top it.

Power Oatmeal

Adapted from It’s All Good by Gwenyth Paltrow

To make this oatmeal a la GP, replace the steel cut oats with rolled barley, and replace replace the liquid with 3/4 cup almond milk and 3/4 water. She also tops her oatmeal with flax and sesame seeds. If you’d like to make breakfast ahead of time, this doubles well.

1/4 cup steel cut oats
1/4 cup rolled oats
1/2 cup whole milk
1 cup water
pinch salt

to serve:
maple syrup
chopped walnuts

In a saucepan combine both oats, the milk, the water, and salt. Bring to a boil, then lower to a simmer. Simmer, stirring every so often, until the liquid has reduced and the oats are tender, about twenty minutes. The whole thing should be custardy in texture.

To serve, drizzle with maple syrup and sprinkle with chopped walnuts.

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