Thursday, January 5, 2012

making breakfast

The following article first appeared in the Daily News Record on January 4, 2012.

“I want mine with yogurt and jelly,” my five-year-old announces. “But I want to stir it in myself.”

He vigorously slaps his spoon around as he beats in the jelly, creating a sort of thick milk soup. I hand him a scoop of granola and watch as he carefully sprinkles it on top. Another stir, and he starts to eat.

My children all have their particular way of eating their granola. The youngest two like it stirred into jelly-spiked homemade plain yogurt, while my older daughter prefers hers with milk and whatever dried or frozen fruit is on hand. My older son eats his straight up, with milk—a man-sized bowl filled to the brim with toasted oaty goodness.

This morning, as the rest of the bleary-eyed children shuffle into the kitchen and gather round the table, I eye the large granola jar sitting on the counter—we’re almost out again. It’s high-time I relinquish the granola making to one of the kids, I think.

I can hardly bring myself to buy boxed cereals anymore. My kids love them, of course, and my husband and I used to talk over multiple bowls of milk-doused, crunchy, fluff-o-nothing after the kids were in bed at night. But boxed cereals are expensive, not to mention a waste of calories, so I’ve taken to buying oats in 50-pound sacks and mixing up my own version of breakfast.

Later that morning, I walk my older daughter through the ingredient list, making sure she understands the difference between quick oats and rolled and showing her where I keep the raw wheat germ and the cracked wheat. I watch closely as she measure the salt and sugar—stop tasting it!—and then, after she’s added the water and oil, I demonstrate how to stir with a chopping motion so all the oats get equally moistened. Together, we divide the granola between the two pans and slip them into the oven.

The following day she practices making the granola again. I quiz her to make certain she grasps the procedure, but I keep my distance while she measures and pours. The next time around, she’ll do it all on her own.

Sooner or later, I’ll teach this task to the rest of my children, and before I know it, they won’t be just eating their breakfast granola—they’ll be making it, too.

Basic Granola

While this granola is inexpensive and nutritious, uses common pantry ingredients, goes with anything (milk, yogurt, ice cream, pudding), and pleases a wide range of palates (no nuts or dried fruits to rebel against), you can, of course, change things up to make it as expensive, fancy, and complicated as you like. Add nuts or spices to the raw ingredients, use honey instead of the sugar, or stir in some dried fruit when it has finished baking. Granola is meant to be tweaked, so play with it until it suits your tastes.

7 cups quick (not instant) oats
7 cups rolled oats
2 cups raw wheat germ
2 cups whole wheat flour or cracked wheat
2 cups white sugar
1 tablespoon salt
1 ½ cups flavorless oil, such as canola
1 3/4 cups water

Stir the dry ingredients together in a large mixing bowl. Add the wet ingredients and stir to combine. Divide the granola between two large, ungreased, sided baking sheets (I use jelly roll pans). Bake the granola at 250 degrees for 2-4 hours, or until golden brown and crunchy. During baking, rotate the pans and stir the granola every half hour to break up the large chunks and allow for even toasting. Let the granola cool before storing in an airtight container at room temperature.

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