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January 8, 2011. Sounds a little weird but it’s delicious. Read on. I’ll get to the cardamom and coconut part.

Granola’s been my breakfast of choice for 40 years. About 10 months ago, it finally occurred to me I could make my own. I’ve been tinkering with the recipe. Now it’s the best granola I’ve ever tasted.

It’s not that I’ve been buying bad granola. I just never found one that’s exactly what I want. Here’s how I do it, along with ways to change the recipe to make a version that’s perfect for you. It’s not just Better. It’s Cheaper.

These quantities make two weeks’ worth of breakfast for me. (Even my wife thinks it’s delicious, though she still suffers from a long term commitment to Cheerios, which are, astonishingly, more expensive.)

Basic organic rolled oats (4 cups)
Kosher salt (2 tsp)
Cinnamon, ground (1/2 tsp)
Cardamom, ground (1/2 tsp)
Raw pecans (1/4 cup)
Raw hazelnuts (1/4 cup)
Unsweetened coconut flakes (1/4 cup)
Olive oil, extra virgin (1/2 cup)
Maple syrup (1/2 cup)
Molasses, Blackstrap (1 Tblsp)

Substitutes and Options
Let’s start with the sweetness thing. I don’t like mine very sweet; if you do, forget about the molasses and try brown sugar (1/4 – 1/2 cup) instead. I love maple syrup; if you don’t, try honey instead – but you might want to use less than 1/2 cup. Or you might want to use more.

Olive oil in your granola? Yeah, try it – it’s very subtle. If it sounds profoundly wrong to you, substitute grapeseed or canola or something fairly neutral. If you like the olive oil but think you’d like to taste a bit more of it, don’t use more oil. Just add a bit more salt. It seems to bring out the flavor of the oil without producing oily granola. I like mine dry, toasty and crunchy.

I like pecans and hazelnuts in mine but pretty much anything works, including no nuts at all. Almonds, pistachios, pumpkin seeds all add crunch and nutritional value. If you like coconut, add a 1/4 cup or more of unsweetened flakes.

If you love cinnamon, use a little more. If you hate it, skip it. I use a little cardamom, too. Slightly exotic. Really nice if you add chopped dried apricots or raisins. Be sure to add dried fruit after you’ve baked the granola – unless you want really dried-out fruit.

Stir and Bake
Put everything into a large bowl and stir until it’s all evenly distributed and coated. This should take about two or three minutes, so you can do it in your bare feet, Birkenstocks or Earth Shoes.

Spread it all out on a baking sheet. I use a standard 18″ x 13″ sheet for the quantities in this recipe.

Put it in a preheated 300 F oven for about an hour. Every 15 minutes, open the oven and give it a quick stir and spread it back out on the baking sheet. So you don’t make a very large granola bar stuck to a baking pan. That’s all there is – watch the 3-minute video to see that this really is a 3-minute job, plus a few return trips to the oven for quick stirs. (A note: I made the video months ago when I was still working on the recipe. The timing and technique haven’t changed, but the recipe has.)

If you use a no-stick Silpat baking mat, you can reduce the number of return trips to the oven to just one. At the 30-minute mark. Reduces clean-up time, too, because absolutely nothing sticks to the pan.

About the cooking time: I like it on the dark side – the way I like toast to be dark. So I bake for a bit more than an hour to get that toasty aroma and flavor. When you’re making yours, taste it every now and then – and take it out of the oven when it’s just right for you.

When it’s done, transfer it to a large bowl and give it a good stir to prevent clumping. Unless you like clumps. Let it cool for ten minutes before sealing it in a big jar or whatever you use for storage. Then stir in dried fruit.

I take mine straight with milk. And fresh fruit. Plain yogurt’s good. So’s fresh ricotta cheese. If you’re into granola snacking, it’s great dry.


Required cooking skills:

Cost Comparison
The ingredients for my granola cost 24 cents per ounce. At the farmers market, really good pre-packaged organic granola costs 50 cents per ounce. In my neighborhood, Kellogg’s Lowfat Granola will run you 37 cents/oz; Cheerios 43 cents/oz.

I eat granola pretty much every day. So my annual granola cost is about $190 – that’s less than half the cost of buying good pre-packaged stuff and an annual saving of more than $200. Here’s how it breaks down for a batch that gets me through a couple of weeks:

$2.56 rolled oats
.01 salt
.12 cinammon
.12 cardamom
1.00 pecans
1.00 hazelnuts
.50 coconut flakes
.58 olive oil
1.28 maple syrup
.13 molasses

$7.30 gets me 15 days worth of granola. Four to six dollars gets a box of Cheerios or Corn Flakes that lasts about a week, depending on portion size.

Let’s Do The Math
My two-ounce serving of granola plus a half cup of whole milk and a banana turns out to be almost exactly equal to my 30-minute morning run on the treadmill. Rather walk? An hour and ten minutes, briskly, to knock off the 400 calories. Only have 30 minutes? It’s OK. Four hours at your computer burns 200 calories. More if you take a minute an hour for my Don’t Just Sit There exercises.

Buying ingredients
My costs are based on buying in bulk. Well, “bulk” for storing in a New York apartment that doesn’t have a big pantry.

So I don’t buy a 12- or 16-ounce package of rolled oats; I buy a 4-pack of 32-ounce bags of Organic Rolled Oats for $21. My main granola ingredient costs just 16 cents per ounce. I save money and I save shopping time because this stash lasts three months.

How about 2 liters of Extra Virgin Olive Oil for $20?

A 32-ounce jug of Maple Syrup, Grade B medium: $21

32 ounces of Fair Trade Organic Blackstrap Molasses: $8.69

1 pound raw pecans: $8.95

1 pound raw hazelnuts: $7.95

Unsweetened coconut flakes: a 12-pack of 7-ounce bags for $21

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