Saturday, April 9, 2011

A Granola Story

At this point, I have to give props to my mother who made granola while I was still in diapers.  Thanks, Mom. 

The granola story goes like this.  Last Christmas, we were brainstorming about what to get our family as presents.  One day, I was looking through "More with Less" and saw a note above a granola recipe about how the author gave granola as a Christmas present, and voila--we were off.  The next step was to see how to make this an economical choice, because besides the obvious reasons of adding a little personal TLC to our Christmas presents, we were also trying to not break the bank.  I looked on many websites, and found that the only way to make granola at a lower price than what you buy at the store was to buy grains, seeds and nuts in bulk (with a few exceptions).  Also, the choice of sweetener is key--honey is the most expensive, of course.  Fortunately, "More with Less" is all about making do with what you have, saving money and being healthy.

The other motive behind the Christmas granola caper was that we were going to make massive amounts of granola for our family, and while we were at it, make a bunch for ourselves.  This was good motivation for me, actually, since I was slightly intimidated by the whole thing.  I mean, was I really going to keep this up, month after month?

I should also add at this point that I continued reading in the "More with Less" cookbook about commercial cereal.  There are obviously some that are healthier than others, but the bottom line--most commercial cereal is more expensive than meat per pound.  Stop and meditate on that for a minute.

I was committed.  I researched prices on-line for weeks and decided that oats are oats just about anywhere, walnuts are cheap at Aldi, local honey is preferred anyway, brown sugar is about the same most places, but other than those items, we would save big $$ if we bought bulk.  I bought 5 lbs. of flaked coconut (a family favorite), 5 lbs. of whole millet, buckwheat groats, 5 lbs. of wheat germ (which is quite a lot, actually), sesame seeds, sunflower seeds, and steel-cut oats.  We have been cycling through a variety of these for a few months now, even after making granola for our whole family (6 cups each for about 15 people).

Buckwheat groats

Our biggest discovery was molasses.  It's cheaper than honey, less processed than white or brown sugar, and in moderation, adds a nice flavor to the cereal or granola.

For me, making cereal is about saving money, not being wasteful with excess packaging, learning to do something ourselves that might come in handy, and being healthy.   I'm not completely opposed to commercial cereal, and I don't judge people for buying it.  We still buy toasted O's for the baby.

Today's adventure is about gathering up the fragments.  I didn't have quite enough oats left to make the normal recipe, so I just grabbed all the whole grains in the house (you can even use rice).  I used about a cup of each of these: wheat germ, whole millet, whole buckwheat groats, steel-cut oats, sesame seeds, sunflower seeds, chopped walnuts, coconut and 3-4 c. of rolled oats.  I might have forgotten something... yes, I forgot to put in flax seed.  Next time.

Dry mix

I heated up a cup of oil with 1/2 c. molasses and brown sugar (w/ a little water) and then mixed in the dry ingredients.  The two cardinal rules of granola or cereal are 1) don't burn the sugar and 2) don't burn the granola.   There is no going back or salvaging it if you do.  Make sure to stir the cereal frequently.  I like to use this oven-safe pot so I do fewer dishes and I don't spill in the oven when I stir, but you can use cookie sheets, also.  The only thing to watch with molasses is that the color is already dark brown, so color will not be a good indicator if the cereal is done. 

Plus molasses, sugar and oil

In the end, I have been making cereal for a few months now, and I have it down to a couple hours during which I am also doing other things.  So it's like my Saturday activity.  My husband is in charge of making bread. :o)

The basic recipe


  1. You rock, guy! Thanks for the shout out! And, you're right about the burning. It's worse than burnt can't even salvage the unburnt part of granola. It all tastes burnt! I love eating your granola, btw!

  2. Oh! I want to do/have this! Lu, I'm just going to have to make my way over to your place one day so you can teach me your knowledge. I have so many questions.....
    p.s. I've started telling people that if something disastrous happens locally then at least I live near you and your husband - and loved-ones can find me there. ;)

  3. That is humbling. You are more than welcome to come over anytime. I don't have that much knowledge, actually, but we are close by!


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