Finding oneself in a bowl of granola

Back in high school, I used to refer to people who ate health food as “crunchy chewies.” Little did I know I would soon enough start attending Grateful Dead shows, wearing batik skirts and eating the favorite food of dirt heads (as my sister jokingly refers to hippies): granola.

Now, of course, I’m a professional chef running a whole foods business where words like nutritional yeast, gluten-free, sprouted Ezekiel bread and kombucha flow off my tongue with ease. And I still love granola, especially with soy milk and some fresh fruit for breakfast. It’s easy to buy it in bulk from the co-op but it’s expensive and I find it always has or doesn’t have some ingredient I wish it didn’t or did have.

So, I make my own and since my family is a bunch of dirt heads and we eat it like squirrels come spring, I do it in huge batches so it’ll last for a month. My favorite recipe is a variation of the one from the Tassajara Recipe Book, created with recipes served at the Tassajara Zen Mountain Center, part of the San Francisco Zen Center.

While I have never been to Tassajara (or any zen center for that matter), I carry of feeling of awe for it. The ability and willingness to meditate strikes me as wildly essential to a healthy life and yet I’ve never been able to do it for more than about 30 seconds. I like to imagine myself as an old person, grown kids off living their good lives while I attend zen retreats, finally able to sit for hours noticing my thoughts in peace and eventually not having any at all (imagine!).

But for now, I’m satisfied with eating food that people who can meditate eat. Hence this delicious, crunchy, chewy, not-to-sweet granola from the Tassajara Recipe Book. I’ve made a couple of changes.

  • 6 cups whole oats
  • 1 cup almonds
  • 1 cup sunflower seeds
  • 1 cup pumpkin seeds
  • 3/4 cup maple syrup
  • 1/2 cup barley malt
  • 1/2 cup canola oil
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 1/2 tblsp cinnamon
  • 1/4 tsp cloves
  • 2 tsp vanilla
  • 1 tsp almond extract
  • 1 cup dried, rolled dates
  • 1 cup raisins

Preheat oven to 350. Mix oats, nuts and seeds in a bowl and set aside. Combine syrup, malt, oil, salt, spices and extracts in a small saucepan and heat over medium flame. Bring to a boil and stir constantly for one minute. It will bubble over if you don’t stir it. Add wet mixture to oat mixture and stir well to coat. Spread onto a large heavy cookie sheet. Bake for 10 minutes in the top third of the oven. Remove from oven and stir granola. Return to oven and cook for 10 minutes. Remove from oven and stir granola. Turn off oven and let sit for 10 minutes. Remove from oven and put in a large bowl to cool. When completely cool, add the fruit. Store in an airtight container.

Ways to eat granola:

  1. With milk and fruit
  2. Plain, on the go
  3. Over yogurt or ice cream
  4. Sprinkled on an apple or graham cracker that’s been spread with peanut butter