My relationship with breakfast has changed quite a bit over the years. Which isn’t shocking, as this is the meal that shapes your day. Over my life span I’ve gone from eating whatever my mom fixed for breakfast, to skipping it, to eating leftover lasagna prior to 6 am volleyball practices in 9th grade, to skipping it again, to smoking it, to learning the joys of donuts and scrambled eggs and bagels, to avoiding the carb-load feel of so many traditional breakfasts (waffles, pancakes, hash browns, toast, English muffins), to celebrating a nice mix of nutrients in dishes like spinach frittata or huevos rancheros. I cannot imagine skipping breakfast at this point, nor can I imagine it without coffee.
Now that Adrian’s been home and will make me a brilliant plate of eggs, meat and toast, I am fortunate to eat what he prepares, along with the normal range of breakfast foods: leftover take-out, cold cereal, oatmeal, yogurt, pancakes (if someone else makes them). I have never been good at preparing breakfast, which might be related to my lack of morning skills.
The first year we were married, I ate for probably two years straight the same kind of cold cereal, Post Selects Blueberry Morning. I never got sick of it, though I stopped eating it eventually, as it struck me as somewhat pathological to behave this way, and also when I got pregnant, eating anything in the morning was an ordeal. Adrian didn’t know about my laser-like breakfast sameness, because he worked shifts that were either super early or terribly late, so we didn’t share this meal very often. Or maybe he did know, and didn’t comment? It’s just one more bit of detritus one collects over the years of cohabitation.
In any case, boxed cereal is a fine thing. Easy to make. Involves little thought. But sometimes I want to start my day with some substance and crunch, without having to fry or toast anything. Something that’ll temper the easy smoothness of Greek yogurt. And granola is one of those things.
I’ve never really found store-bought granola that I would to purchase more than once. I can’t explain why; it just seems to be made of crushed up granola bars, which isn’t surprising or bad, but always seems like a rip-off of sorts. When you make granola at home yourself, you know the labor that went into it. Maybe I’m reading way too much into this meal. Probably. In any event, the recipe for granola that I like is fairly straightforward and works well no matter what fruit you put in it. You can also double and triple the recipe if that pleases you.
There are just two things you have to be careful about: first, make sure your oven temperature is correct, and to watch the timer. It is easy to burn this granola, which is a terrible situation, and happened to us recently. In that case, we poured bacon grease over the burnt granola and left it out for the crows, who adored it. If you’re keen to build an army of crow bodyguards, this possibility is not to be waved off.
The second thing you need to be mindful about is the oil you use. This next part gets a bit prurient, if you’re one of those types who get flushed when people speak of their bodily functions. I am sorry, but only if you are one of those types.
As a perimenopausal woman, skin dryness has become a problem for me. I slather my face with oil at night and lotion in the morning. My already-coarse hair needs even more moisturizing support than it normally does. I’ve got sesame oil in the shower, tubes of hand salve in my handbag and cocoa butter by my nightstand. Yet, none of these products are proper for use in the female nether-realm. So, to keep the tenant in that part of the building happy, I scoop out some coconut oil from my kitchen and keep it in a little jar in the bathroom. This makes it easy to touch that area up after a shower or bath and it’s worked splendidly. I credit the idea to Dr. Jen Gunter (creator of another Substack I suggest checking out), who discusses this issue in her excellent book The Vagina Bible.
I mention this because I was making granola in preparation for a weekend trip we took a while back, and, finding that we were out of vegetable oil, decided using coconut oil instead.
Coconut oil will go great with dried coconut, I thought to myself, humming along, happy to have found a solution.
But one morning when I sat down to a bowl of this granola on our trip, I couldn’t eat it. Why? Because it smelled exactly like coconut oil, which wasn’t surprising. What was surprising was learning that I now affiliate the scent of coconut oil with my new nethers-region moisturizing regimen. I couldn’t eat any of this batch, as a result. I don’t want to think I’m self-loathing or anything, but the new olfactory association was a serious distraction.
Adrian loved this batch of granola, in case you’re wondering. I only prepare it now with corn or vegetable oil, myself.
The original recipe comes from here. I modified it a bit. Olive oil doesn’t work for me in this instance; I also added pinches of nutmeg, ground ginger and cardamom because I like those flavors alongside the cinnamon. I took out the raisins, because, come on—it’s breakfast, not a punishment. My dried fruit suggestions are in the ingredient list. I also don’t ever buy containers of rolled oats that measure 16-18 ounces, so I just kinda eyeball it when I’m in too much of a hurry to bust out the kitchen scale and weigh everything out.
Makes: About 12 cups
Time: 1 hour (somewhat unattended - this stuff can burn quick!)
One 16- to 18-ounce container rolled oats
1½ cups shredded unsweetened coconut (it can be sweetened, who cares)
1½ cups whole or chopped cashews
1½ cups whole or sliced almonds
1 cup walnut pieces or halves
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
pinch cardamom, ground ginger and ground nutmeg
1 teaspoon salt
1 cup maple syrup
¾ cup vegetable or corn oil
1 cup dried fruit of your choice - I like craisins and dried blueberries, but have also done apricots, dried cherries and chopped dates. (Feel free live a little and add more than one cup of whatever combination you desire; life is short.)
1. Heat the oven to 350°. Put the oats, coconut, cashews, almonds, walnuts, cinnamon spices and salt in a large bowl and stir to combine. Drizzle with the maple syrup and oil and stir until they’re evenly incorporated. Transfer the mixture to a 13- by 18-inch rimmed baking sheet and spread into a relatively even layer.
2. Bake, stirring every 15 minutes or so, until the granola has begun to turn crisp and brown, about 45 minutes. (It will continue to crisp up as it cools.) Let cool for at least 15 minutes, then stir in the dried fruits, if you’re using them. Serve with milk or yogurt if you like.
like what I make?