Mimsy Were the Borogoves

Food: Recipes, cookbook reviews, food notes, and restaurant reviews. Unless otherwise noted, I have personally tried each recipe that gets its own page, but not necessarily recipes listed as part of a cookbook review.

Granola, the ultimate breakfast

Jerry Stratton, September 28, 2022

Granola: The Ultimate Breakfast

I love breakfast cereal. My favorite breakfast cereal is granola. And my favorite granola is home-made.

Homemade granola is both more versatile than store-bought and less expensive. You can put what you want in it, and leave out what you don’t want. Prefer cranberries to raisins? Dates to either? When you make it yourself, it’s entirely up to you.

Always add raisins or cranberries after baking. Otherwise they expand and burn in the oven. A long time ago, when I pulled recipes off of the nascent Internet instead of from old cookbooks, I used a recipe that added the raisins before baking. They expanded and burned in the oven, even with copious mixing during baking. I’d suggest that if you run across such a recipe and still want to try it, hold the dried fruit until after baking, then mix it in when the rest of the ingredients are done.

Burnt raisins can turn you off of home-made cereal very quickly and for a long time. There doesn’t appear to be much of a caramelization middle-ground between “not burnt” and “charred to a distasteful crisp”.

Cooking for Consciousness is possibly the best hippie cookbook I have, despite coming from a questionable source1. The recipe as I’ve presented it here is much more precise than the recipe in the book, which basically consists of, mix some oatmeal, honey, salt, and oil, then consider adding some of these other things. Vanilla, walnuts, cinnamon, and cranberries are among my favorite “other things”.

Vanilla-walnut granola

Ethereal Cereal

Servings: 6
Preparation Time: 45 minutes
Review: Cooking for Consciousness (Jerry@Goodreads)

Ingredients

  • 3 tbsp salad oil
  • ½ cup honey
  • ½ tsp vanilla
  • 3 cups oatmeal
  • ½ cup chopped walnuts
  • ¼ tsp salt
  • ½ tsp cinnamon
  • ½ cup dried cranberries

Steps

  1. Combine the oil, honey, and vanilla in a small mixing bowl.
  2. Combine the oatmeal, walnuts, salt, and cinnamon in a medium mixing bowl.
  3. Add the wet ingredients to the dry ingredients.
  4. Roast in a shallow pan at 250° for 25-30 minutes.
  5. Add dried cranberries and cool.

Ethereal Cereal was the first granola I made when I got back into cooking several years ago, and remains my go-to recipe. This next recipe is the last granola I made before writing this article. It’s the granola that inspired me to share my favorites. I just made it last week (as I write this) and it’s definitely going to be at the top of my breakfast rotation going forward.

Crunchy granola

Crunchy Granola

Servings: 16
Preparation Time: 1 hour
Anna Waller (Austin)
Review: Joy of the Whole Table (Jerry@Goodreads)

Ingredients

  • 2 cups oatmeal
  • 1 cup wheat germ
  • ½ cup coconut
  • ½ cup pecans
  • ½ cup sesame seeds
  • ¼ cup packed brown sugar
  • ⅜ cup vegetable oil
  • ⅙ cup water
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 4 oz dried cranberries

Steps

  1. Mix oatmeal, wheat germ, coconut, pecans, and sesame in a large bowl.
  2. Mix the water, sugar, and vanilla in a small bowl.
  3. Mix the sugar mix into the dry mix.
  4. Add the oil and mix well.
  5. Bake at 325° for one 40-50 minutes, stirring every ten minutes.
  6. Mix in cranberries while warm.
  7. Let cool and store.

As you can see from the accompanying photo, it’s a darker granola. Darker in this case means crunchier, and crunch in milk is a very good thing. The author is Anna Waller, one of the top contributors to the 1985 Austin-Unitarian-based Joy of the Whole Table. If you enjoy Texas cooking and you enjoy community cookbooks, I recommend it.

In my popcorn article, while only one of the recipes in it came from Larry Kusche’s popcorn book, much of the inspiration did. This is one of his recipes worth repeating: popcorn granola, made with ground popcorn! And why not? Popcorn is a grain like any other, and it very smoothly offsets the crunchiness of the other ingredients in milk. My favorite cereals have always been ones with a balance of crunch and soft.

Popcorn granola

Popcorn Granola

Servings: 16
Preparation Time: 1 hour
Larry Kusche
Popcorn (Internet Archive)
Review: Popcorn (Jerry@Goodreads)

Ingredients

  • ¼ cup peanut butter
  • ½ tbsp vegetable oil
  • ½ tbsp water
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • ¼ cup honey
  • 2 tbsp packed brown sugar
  • ¼ tsp salt
  • 1 cup oatmeal
  • 1 cup wheat germ
  • 1 cup medium-ground popped corn
  • ½ cup sesame seeds
  • ½ cup shredded coconut
  • ½ cup dried cranberries

Steps

  1. Mix the peanut butter, oil, water, vanilla, honey, sugar, and salt in a bowl.
  2. In a deep baking pan, mix together the oats, wheat germ, ground popcorn, sesame, and coconut.
  3. Stir in the peanut butter mix to coat.
  4. Bake at 300° for 40-45 minutes, stirring after 20 minutes.
  5. Remove from oven and add cranberries.
  6. Cool and store.

Another hippy granola—and, let’s be honest, the best granola is hippy granola—comes from the Common Ground Dessert Cookbook. It adds sunflower seeds and dates to the mix, both great choices. It also replaces the vanilla with almond extract.

Date-nut granola

Date-Nut Granola

Servings: 8
Preparation Time: 1 hour, 15 minutes

Ingredients

  • 3 cups oatmeal
  • 3 tbsp sunflower seeds
  • ¼ cup chopped almonds
  • ¼ cup chopped walnuts
  • ¼ cup coconut flakes
  • 2 tbsp sesame seeds
  • ¼ cup oil
  • 1½ tbsp honey
  • 1½ tbsp maple syrup
  • ¼ tsp almond extract
  • ½ cup chopped dates

Steps

  1. Mix the oatmeal, sunflower seeds, almonds, walnuts, coconut, and sesame in a large bowl.
  2. Mix the oil, honey, syrup, and almond extract in a saucepan.
  3. Stir over low heat until warm enough to blend together.
  4. Pour wet mix into dry mix and stir to coat.
  5. Spread into a shallow baking pan.
  6. Bake at 275° for one hour, stirring every 10-15 minutes.
  7. It is done when it turns golden brown.
  8. Remove from oven.
  9. Stir in the dates.
  10. Cool completely, then store.

All of the granola recipes so far have one thing in common: you have to be careful not to burn them. All loose granolas will require stirring often. But there is a standard tool in every good kitchen for cooking at low temperatures with minimal oversight. And, it turns out, your crockpot can make very good granola. I’m not going to go so far as to say that this is the “ultimate” granola as Creative Crockery Cooking does, but it is by far the easiest granola to make. Instead of keeping an eye on the oven, you can just stop by every hour or so to stir it, to make sure it bakes evenly in the crockpot.

Ultimate granola

Ultimate Granola

Servings: 8
Preparation Time: 5 hours, 35 minutes
Ethel Lang Graham
Review: Creative Crockery Cooking (Jerry@Goodreads)

Ingredients

  • 3 cups oatmeal
  • 1 cup wheat germ
  • 1 cup shredded coconut
  • ½ cup sesame seeds
  • ½ cup coarsely chopped cashews
  • ½ cup coarsely chopped almonds
  • ⅔ cup honey
  • ¼ cup vegetable oil
  • ⅛ tsp cinnamon
  • ⅛ tsp nutmeg
  • ½ cup dried cranberries
  • ½ cup chopped dates

Steps

  1. Combine all of the ingredients except the cranberries and dates in the crockpot.
  2. Cook on low with the lid slightly ajar for about four hours.
  3. Stir every hour.
  4. Cool.
  5. Stir in cranberries and dates.

I bought this book mainly for the two-page spread of granola recipes, and it’s been worth it just for that. It’s very nice reading a granola recipe and seeing a one-sentence instruction: toss everything together and run on low for a few hours. This recipe can also be used as the basis for much simpler ones. The Michigan Bell community cookbook Favorite Recipes has a “Toasty Nut Granola” that tosses the fruit, doubles the oatmeal, replaces the two different kinds of nuts with a cup of walnuts, deemphasizes the coconut, and so forth, for a granola with fewer flavors and a wonderfully crunchy texture.

Toasty nut granola on chocolate ice cream

Toasty Nut Granola

Servings: 8
Preparation Time: 40 minutes
Sue Sabo (Bay City, Michigan)
Review: Favorite Recipes (A Cookbook Tastefully Done) (Jerry@Goodreads)

Ingredients

  • 6 cups old-fashioned rolled oats
  • ½ cup brown sugar
  • ¾ cup wheat germ
  • ⅓ cup sesame seeds
  • 1 cup chopped walnuts
  • ½ cup coconut
  • ½ cup vegetable oil
  • ⅓ cup honey
  • 1½ tsp vanilla

Steps

  1. Bake the oatmeal in a baking pan or roaster for ten minutes at 350°.
  2. Mix the sugar, wheat germ, sesame, walnuts, and coconut together.
  3. Mix the oatmeal with the other dry ingredients.
  4. Add the oil, honey, and vanilla in that order.
  5. Mix until dry ingredients are well coated (you may wish to mix by hand).
  6. Bake at 350° for about 20 minutes, stirring every five minutes to brown evenly.
  7. Cool.
  8. Stir to break up and store.

As you can see, it also very closely resembles Anna Waller’s Austin-Unitarian Crunchy Granola.

But sometimes it’s worthwhile putting a little more work into a dish, and breakfast is no exception. Grace Parisi’s recipe from the 2008 Food & Wine annual takes the extra step of glazing the walnuts in maple syrup. If the mere phrase “maple-glazed walnuts” starts your mouth watering, this is the granola for you.

Maple-glazed granola

Maple-Glazed Walnut Granola

Servings: 6
Preparation Time: 50 minutes
Grace Parisi
Review: Food & Wine Annual Cookbook 2008 (Jerry@Goodreads)

Ingredients

  • 1 tbsp butter
  • 2 tbsp flour
  • ⅛ tsp baking soda
  • 2 tbsp packed brown sugar
  • ⅛ tsp salt
  • ⅛ tsp cinnamon
  • ⅛ tsp nutmeg
  • ½ pound oatmeal
  • ¼ cup maple syrup
  • 3 ounces walnut halves
  • ½ tbsp maple syrup
  • 4 ounces dried cranberries

Steps

  1. In a small food processor, process the butter, flour, baking soda, sugar, salt, cinnamon, and nutmeg until crumbly.
  2. Transfer to a large bowl.
  3. Stir in the oatmeal and the ¼ cup maple syrup.
  4. Spread in a buttered roasting pan.
  5. Bake at 375° for 20-30 minutes, stirring occasionally, until crisp.
  6. Cool.
  7. Toss the walnuts with the ½ tbsp maple syrup.
  8. Spread onto a small rimmed baking sheet.
  9. Toast in the oven for 5-7 minutes until golden and caramelized.
  10. Transfer walnuts to a cutting board and let cool.
  11. Chop the walnuts.
  12. Mix the walnuts and cranberries into the granola.

With oatmeal, brown sugar, butter, and cinnamon, mixed with glazed walnuts and cranberries, this granola is pretty much everything I like in a breakfast cereal, which is dessert. It’s a great change of pace from the seventies-commune-era granolas.

As you can see, all of these recipes share many similarities. You ought to be able to mix and match ingredients and techniques from each of them to make your own ultimate granola.

Granola is great in milk, eaten out of the jar as a snack, and sprinkled over ice cream, yogurt, or fruit smoothies. It can be used in place of crumbled cookies in cookie crumb pie crusts, or sprinkled over whipped desserts to give them a crunch. Any recipe that calls for crumbled cookies, consider granola as a flavorful replacement… if you have any leftover after breakfast.

In response to Vintage Cookbooks and Recipes: I have a couple of vintage cookbooks queued up to go online.

  1. When I say “questionable” I mean that literally, as in I don’t know if what I read online or in the news about the organization is trustworthy. It’s hard to believe that an organization that makes a cookbook this wonderful is as bad as it appears to be.

    It’s not like it’s titled “To Serve Man”.

  1. <- Popcorn!