Homemade Granola (AKA Hippie Food Can Be Cool)
I saw a review today for a book called Hippie Food and just the title made me laugh. I read the review, I have not read the book, but I’m here to say, these are my people. This is my food heritage, if I’m being truly honest. I realize I have always been jealous of friends with rich, ethnic food backgrounds. Italian grandmothers who have made the same gravy for generations. Jewish mothers who make the same charoset each year for the holidays. Uncles and aunts who make sweet potato pies, soda breads, Christmas puddings. Part of my fascination for these things is all the connection and stories and family and chaos that is so different than my own experience.
But the main element of my jealousy is that I had this hippie food as the food of my people. My parents are actually too old to have been true ‘hippies’ (they were in their 30’s by the time the 1960’s hit their stride) but they were a women’s studies professor and a poet. Both college professors. I don’t think they had radical ideas about food, or thought deeply about its meaning or anything like that. I think they thought about what seemed healthy, that there was not a lot of money hanging around, and they were perfectly happy to make things by hand. (Well, Mom was. Dad taught himself after they divorced. During which my sister and I lived through the Bean Goop incident of 1977. Dad’s a pretty terrific cook now, but that was a rough summer.)
Now that Hippie Food is acknowledging that the forefront of the health food we all think of as almost normal nowadays gets credited back to these people, perhaps I’ll begin to feel some pride for my own family’s food heritage. Grownup me has always appreciated that I have very healthy food habits. There is a lot of processed food that we are warned about that I genuinely have never tried. I am very grateful for having been raised on whole foods, natural foods and healthy foods. I’ve known my way around a food co-op long before they were trendy. Back when they were in the back room of small buildings down dark alleys, with large bins of mysterious ingredients. Back when the carob chip was king. (Why? I don’t know. They tasted awful.)
Grownup me is happy with all of this, but pre-grown-up me was ashamed of my homemade bread sandwiches. She wished for a package of Doritos instead of a baggie of carrot sticks. (And not even those little baby carrots that taste exactly the same but somehow were just so much cooler than a large carrot that had been cut smaller.) Adult me realizes how insanely ridiculous this is, but 9 year old me just wanted that smooth peanut butter (not the chunky natural stuff with the oil on top) with strawberry jam on Wonder Bread. I am so glad that wasn’t me, but it was a tough sell when you’re the kid whose lunch came in a brown bag (never a groovy lunch box) and your sandwich was wrapped in wax paper. (When plastic baggies were MUCH better.) Oh the judgement, oh the shame.
But here comes Hippie Food to say, we were right, all along! Well, I wasn’t, but my parents were. And, as is true with so many things, I have also slowly become my parents. I have belonged to one co-op or another my entire adult life, I know and like my way around all vegetables (though chard, I’m still not really a fan of chard) and I make granola on a regular basis.
Granola is so simple. So healthy. Quick and easy to make. So satisfying and, as a bonus, your house will smell delicious. I’ll give you a granola recipe here, but seriously, you have ingredients for granola in your house. Just about everything in this recipe can be altered. (Well, maybe not the oats.) Throw in other dried fruits, leave out the fruit altogether. Use coconut, don’t use coconut. Change up your nut. Throw in some flaxseed because you bought it that one time at the co-op and have no idea what to do with it. You get the gist.
- 4 cups old-fashioned rolled oats
- 1 cup unsweetened coconut
- 1 cup wheat germ flaxseed, chia seeds, oat bran...
- 3 tbsp sesame seeds sunflower seeds, pumpkin seeds....
- 1/2 cup almonds
- 1 cup hazelnuts these are my favorite, but pecans, walnuts, pistachios....they all work
- 1 tsp cinnamon
- 1 tsp salt
- 8 tbsp unsalted butter (1 stick)
- 1/4 cup maple syrup the darker, the better
- 1/2 cup light brown sugar
- 2 tsp vanilla extract
- 1 cup dried fruit cherries are my favorite but any fruit works
Preheat the oven to 325F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
In a large mixing bowl, combine all the dry ingredients: oats, nuts, seeds, coconut, wheat germ, cinnamon and salt.
In a small saucepan, melt the butter over medium-low heat. Add the maple syrup and sugar and keep heating until the sugar has dissolved. Remove from heat and add the vanilla.
Pour the butter mixture over the dry ingredients and mix until everything is coated.
Spread the mixture on the baking sheet and bake for 35-40 minutes. Stir the mixture occasionally so everything browns evenly. Remove from oven and place on wire rack to cool.
Once cooled, add the dried fruit and mix to distribute evenly. Your granola can now be stored in an airtight container.
As I mentioned above, granola is endlessly adaptable. This recipe gives you a basic idea of proportions of ingredients, but they are there to be altered. I'd probably leave the oats alone, but the nuts can be changed, or left out. You could use sunflower seeds. Change from cinnamon to mace. Use honey instead of maple syrup. Use the dried fruit you love the best, or have too much of in the house.