S2E50. Granola Revisited

It’s astonishing what can happen to a bowl of granola over the course of a year!

In S1E47: A Granola Ritual, I described the results of my effort to make my own sugar-free granola. Here’s what it looked like then, oh so many breakfasts ago:

1 cup each of chopped walnuts, pecans and almonds

1 cup unsweetened coconut flakes

½ cup each of chia and flax seeds

1 tablespoon cinnamon

1 teaspoon each of turmeric, cumin and ginger

1 teaspoon vanilla

½ cup olive oil

1 dried fig, chopped

1 prune, chopped

¼ apple, chopped

15 red grapes, halved

6 raspberries or blackberries

A handful of blueberries

Enough flax milk to fill the bowl

I know rituals aren’t supposed to change, but the apostate in me just couldn’t resist. Every time I read the results of a new study linking a different food to brain health, I just had to figure out a way to get it into my diet…and my granola bowl every morning was the easiest place to do it.

The first thing that happened was that my annual physical showed my cholesterol getting a little high, so I immediately added 2 cups of oats and a cup of oat bran to the recipe. (I also started adding oat milk to my nightly kefir cocktail.)  With the addition of oats, my morning mix now officially met the criteria for ‘granola.’

Next came cacao. Studies showed brain health benefits for cacao, but I couldn’t figure out how to ingest it without  adding a lot of sugar. Then it occurred to me that I could mix it into my granola where the prune and fig might provide the desired level of sweetness.

So I bought some cacao powder and put a few tablespoons in the mix. It turned out that it added a little sweetness on its own, so I added some more. Now I’m up to 8 tablespoons of cacao powder, which is enough to give the flax milk a little color when I stir it all together, and just a hint of chocolate flavor without turning it into Count Chocula or Cocoa Puffs.

It wasn’t long before I realized that I wasn’t really tasting the spices in my recipe, so I increased the dosage to 1 tablespoon each of cinnamon, turmeric, cumin, and ginger, and I added a tablespoon of nutmeg to the mix. Having done so, there wasn’t any difference in taste that I could discern. A warning, however, is in order. One evening, for a snack, I tried eating just the mix with flax milk but without the fruits. It was god-awful! A ton of stevia made it palatable, but it isn’t anything I would ever do again.

So why add all these spices, you ask? Well, because each one has been linked to improved brain health. But you are only getting minute amounts in each bowlful, you say, so are you really getting any benefit from them? Good question! My hopes are buoyed by two pieces of data. First, there was a study out of India that showed eating curry twice or more each week was protective. And so I thought, “How much spice can that be?” Surely, my daily mini-dose (plus the additional mini-doses of these same spices that I get in my daily matcha green tea brew) must add up to a significant level. 

Secondly, studies show that, in supplements, massive doses of these things must be taken to generate a measurable effect. But other studies suggest that eating a brain-healthy diet that includes them on a regular basis seems to offer just as much protection. So, yes, I think I am benefitting from this approach.

Now in an experimenting mode, I started adding things that I had read about but hadn’t included because they didn’t tickle my gustatory fancy. But the experience of adding things without fouling the taste gave me courage. So I added a cup each of sunflower seeds and hemp hearts. They added new textures, which were interesting, but left the flavor intact.

Turning to the fruit section, I quickly discovered that I could substitute a date for a fig and that it was even sweeter. After going through a few bags of dates, though, I think I prefer the figs.

It was several months into the new year before it dawned on me that I didn’t have any strawberries in the bowl. I couldn’t fathom how that had happened, so I bought a quart and pulled out the 7 largest, dicing one each day and adding it to my bowl. (The rest of the berries go into my kefir, as do 3 bananas, when I make 2 quarts every week.)

At this point, my bowl was overflowing and I had to switch to a larger one!

I always wanted to add raisins, but couldn’t find unsweetened organic ones at my supermarket. But then one day it happened: there they were on the shelf! The same held true for dried cranberries, so I added a cup of both to the recipe, mixing them in after it had finished baking and cooled.

But something strange happened. Even though I store my granola in an air-tight glass container, the raisins and cranberries turned into little rocks, barely chewable and sticking to my teeth when I crunched into them. With deep regret, I dropped them from the recipe.  😦

And then came Thanksgiving and the arrival of fresh organic cranberries to the produce section. I tried adding a handful of them, halved, and, boy oh boy, were they tart! But a recent study had them outperforming cacao and so I thought it was worth it to keep them in. Unfortunately, I’m guessing that they will disappear after the holiday season.

And now for the piece-de-resistance: vitamin gummies!

Sally has a prescription for medical marijuana to help her sleep and she takes it in gummy form. But as we prepared for our trip to Greece in October, we learned that it’s illegal to bring marijuana—in any form—into the country. I came up with the idea of smuggling it in by mixing hers into a bottle of vitamin gummies. By the time the bottle arrived, though, we decided it wasn’t worth the risk, which meant that I now had 170 vitamin gummies that I couldn’t use. Or could I?

I was never a fan of taking vitamins even though they pretty much can’t hurt and they often help. I tried the gummies and they tasted fine, with a hint of citrus, and the texture was interestingly rubbery. When I read the label, it said to take 2 every day with food…and that is when it hit me: I could quarter them and add them to my granola in the morning. So I did…and it’s a hoot! I play this game where I try to identify all 8 pieces when I bite into them. So now I’m taking a daily vitamin and have added a bit of whimsy to my morning ritual.

Reflecting back on my granola’s evolution over the course of this past year, it occurred to me that Forrest Gump had it all wrong: life isn’t like a box of chocolates…it’s like a bowl of granola!

For the adventurous among you, here’s the current recipe:

1 cup each of chopped walnuts, pecans and almonds

2 cups oats

1 cup oat bran

1 cup unsweetened coconut flakes

1 cup sunflower seeds

1 cup hemp hearts

½ cup each of chia and flax seeds

8 tablespoons of unsweetened cacao powder

1 tablespoon each of cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger, turmeric, and cumin

1 teaspoon vanilla

¾ cup olive oil

1 dried fig, chopped

1 prune, chopped

¼ apple, chopped

1 large strawberry, chopped

15 red grapes, halved

A handful of raspberries or blackberries

A handful of blueberries

A handful of cranberries, halved

2 gummy vitamins, quartered

Enough flax milk to fill the bowl

Mix all the dry ingredients together in a large bowl, then drizzle in the olive oil and vanilla and toss until the nuts are coated and the seeds stick to them. Spread the mixture out on a cookie sheet (no need for parchment since there is no sugar to stick to the bottom) and bake for 25 minutes at 300 degrees. Voila…granola!

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3 Comments

  1. thonaman says:

    Loved this. What about freezing the cranberries so you have them available longer? They might add liquid to the mix when defrosted but might not be a bad thing. Especially if you’re enjoying them!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Good idea…I’ll give it a try. The problem, though, might be remembering that I’ve got cranberries in the freezer!

      Like

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