Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Glorious Granola

I've often thought that a really useful class to teach in high school would be "How to Be Poor." Not how to become poor. Any fool with a credit card or drug problem can do that. Rather, how to survive and thrive, regardless of the size of your income.

When I was first married my husband was still in college and I only had a job on the weekends. My husband got a job at the campus bookstore, but it wasn't until after he graduated and our first son was born that he got a "real" job with a big company and perks. His salary was at the very tail end of the pay scale, but we were euphoric because our income tripled!

The saving grace for us was that my husband is by nature frugal and he's really good at budgeting. He'd give me grocery money and when it was gone, that was it till the next payday. For a while he told me that any that was leftover was mine to spend, until he found out that meant eating a lot of rice and beans. When he got a raise he gave me my own allowance. $10 to spend on myself, however I wanted. Every two weeks. Imagine the thrill of having money of my own in my purse! That stopped as soon as I got pregnant with my second child, but it was a heady period of feeling rich.

During those first years of marriage I learned a lot about being frugal. I also learned that it can be fun, rather than a hardship. There is a thrill to discovering a pair of designer jeans in a thrift shop for $8, rather than the $80 retail. It's satisfying to splurge and spend $4 for a rental movie and pop your own popcorn, rather than spending close to $50 to take the family to the theater. And it's gratifying to learn how to make something for yourself instead of paying retail prices at the grocery store.

Lately I've been playing with granola. I was stopped in my tracks at the grocery store when I spied a small, plastic tub of "organic" granola for $8. $8!! I mean, come on, I can do better than that.

I played with various recipes and came up with my own that my family really enjoys. Granola is a super easy thing to make and the great thing is that there is no "right" way to make it. You can play around till you find whatever way makes you happy. Once you find out how simple it is to fill a container with your own, delicious, nutritious, additive-free granola, there will be no going back to the dark side of paying retail again!

Note: My granola has almonds, which can be spendy. I buy the big bag at Costco and keep them in my freezer. They are the most nutritious nut available, so they give health benefits, as well as texture and great taste to the granola.

Another note: This makes a rather small batch of granola, perfect for a single or couple. It's also good to start small when you're first playing with it, so that you don't end up with a huge batch of something no one will eat. Once you've got it down, feel free to double the recipe, but be sure to use two sheets to bake it on. You may also need to increase the baking time 5-10 minutes.

Almond Vanilla Granola

2-1/2 cups rolled oats (not quick or instant oats)
1/3 cup flax seed (you can run them through a spice mill, or leave plain if you like the crunchy little bits)
3/4 cup chopped almonds
1 tsp. cinnamon
1-1/2 Tbsp vanilla sugar*
1/2 spent vanilla bean pod, ground (optional)
2 Tbsp canola oil
2 Tbsp honey
2 Tbsp rice bran syrup**
1 Tbsp vanilla extract
1 cup dried fruit (my favorite is Craisins)

1- Preheat oven to 300 deg. F. Set rack in the center of the oven for a single batch, or racks in the upper and lower thirds for a double batch.

2-In a large bowl combine the oats, flax seed, almonds, cinnamon, vanilla sugar, and ground vanilla bean pod.

3- In a small bowl combine the oil, honey, rice bran syrup, and vanilla. Stir till well mixed.

4- Pour the liquid ingredients over the dry and stir till their well combined.

5- Spread the oat mixture into a rimmed baking sheet.

6- Bake for 40-45 minutes, stirring every 10 minutes, until the oats are golden. Remove the pan to a cooling rack. The granola will crisp up as it cools. (This is the most dangerous time. Lots of snacking occurs while it cools.)

7- You can add and stir in your dried fruit now. My husband prefers variety, so I don't add in any fruit. He selects raisins, dried cherries, cranberries, or blueberries and stirs them in as he pours his cereal. Store the granola airtight at room temperature.

*Vanilla sugar is made by covering your used and rinsed vanilla bean pods in sugar in an airtight jar.

**I bought rice bran syrup for another granola recipe and wanted to use it up. It's quite nice, but if you don't have it, just use honey in it's place. For a vegan alternative, use rice bran syrup in place of the honey as well.


LizNoVeggieGirl said...

Interesting lesson in being frugal!!

Love that granola - yum!!

Aimée said...

Danny's been bugging me for ages to make granola, I can't hold out much longer!!

Thanks for the reminder about keeping nuts in the freezer.

Sara said...

I love granola, but I never think to make it. I definitely need to give this a try!

MyKitchenInHalfCups said...

I often think about when we were first married as a time when we had nothing and we had it all ;) then it was wonderful.
Granola is grand and homemade is the only kind we'll eat.

Abby said...

Great idea - especially in these frugal times! Costco has also become my best friend - I get a lot of meat there then split and freeze it in smaller portions at home! Every home cook needs a deep freezer if they can find a good deal on one!

Lien said...

What a great story about spending it wisely. Had to laugh out loud with the rice and bean eating!!
Never new you could or should store nuts in the freezer, good tip! (What are Craisins?)

grace said...

when considering foods that i can make myself rather than buy at the store, granola is high on the list. things not on the list--puff pastry, tortillas, and pasta. is that so wrong? :)
lovely granola. :)

Gretchen Noelle said...

I love making homemade granola, it tastes so much better! Yours looks fantastic!

Anonymous said...

Healthy food on your blog! Are you nuts?
OK...who took over Lynn's blog? I hope you are going to make cookies with THAT healthy granola.

(actually, it looks good! I must try to make my own.)

Cookie baker Lynn said...

VeggieGirl - Why are you commenting? You're supposed to be studying! Back to the books, girl!

Aimee - Go for it. Danny will love you even more for it. Wait, is that possible?

Sara- It's fun to come up with your own personal brand of granola. You can even give a bag as a gift.

My Kitchen In Half Cups - There's a lot you'll put up with when you're young and in love. Don't ask me to make do without my kitchen toys now!

Abby - I agree. A deep freezer is a frugal gal's best friend.

Lien - Craisins is a brand name for lightly sweetened dried cranberries.

Grace - Not wrong at all. I stock storebought of those exact same items. Although I do think making homemade pasta is fun.

Gretchen - Thanks!

Melinda - You think all we eat here is cookies? Well, you are close, so close. But man cannot live by cookies alone. So I'm told.

Mandy said...

I must say that I am a frugal girl too, and I make my own granola. It is very satisfying to be able to make something better than what the grocery stores offer at a much lower price!

Peabody said...

Being a school teacher makes you learn to budget big time as well.
This granola sounds wonderful.

Anonymous said...

You have just reminded me about how my hubby and I were when we got married 11 years ago. Looking back, those days were pretty interesting... we were constantly looking out for ways to stretch our $.

Maria said...

Glorious is right! Homemade granola is the best!! I am a big time penny pincher! I love shopping the sales, esp. with my food purchases!! I look at the ads every week and buy what is on sale.

Anonymous said...

Lynn, that looks wonderful and tasty. We love granola and after reading your blog, I just want to make is asap.

NKP said...

I make our granola too, so much better from home.
I will have to keep an eye out for the rice bran syrup, I haven't heard of it before.
When we are feeling poor, I use unsalted sunflower seeds for the nuts, they are fairly inexpensive.
Love the idea of using ground vanilla pods!

Dolores said...

I would so-oooo have taken that class in high school.

And I'll be making your granola soon. Thanks for sharing.

Mary said...

That sounds like an excellent class to have in high schools! I love this granola idea!

CookiePie said...

Homemade granola is the BEST - and yours sounds fantastic!

Homemade Heaven said...

I am involved in a ministry with "-re-formed" street women. We teach them how to integrate back in "normal" living. This includes showing them how to cook and budget, as most of them have never had to do either. It is remarkable to meet someone who at 45 has never cooked a meal or kept money for tomorrow.
I think your idea of teaching kids how to live poor is great. I learnt those lessons the hard way as a kid, and still to this day I can appreciate the value of money.

kickpleat said...

indeed! i am frugal by nature (it was how i was brought up) and i'm thankful that i am that way. i love the idea of a classes on how to be poor because people can really do with living with less. anyway, i eat granola all the time and i'm always looking for new ways to make it. this looks delicious.

Deborah said...

I can't stomach spending money on granola at the store because it is so expensive these days. This sounds like a great recipe!

Sara said...

I was looking at granola in the store last weekend, shocked at the price and fat content. Thanks for sharing this, I'll give it a try!

Marysol said...

Oh, give me!

Sarah said...

Snow day this morning so I made this! It's very yummy...I always seem to mess up granola (I know, you'd think it would be impossible) but this turned out so great! Thanks. :)

kd said...

Here's my version and ode. Thank you!

Jennifer Jo said...

What about substituting vanilla extract for the vanilla bean? That would be okay-enough, right?


Susan from Food Blogga said...

I love to play around with granola too. I'm posting on one this week and will be sure to link to this to yummy recipe.