Everybody makes questionable choices in college, right? There was the time I let a roommate put 4 (very unblended) bleach streaks in my brown hair. I may have been known to sport a pair of denim overalls once in a while. And once I even spent three hours helping a boy that I liked make dinner for a girl that HE liked. Ouch.
Possibly the worst decision I made during college (and perhaps one of the worst of my life) happened during my sophomore year. I had been learning to snowboard in order to have something to look forward to in winter. Three friends convinced me that we could, with joined forces, create and execute the cheapest snowboarding spring break EVER known to man.
We planned to stay at friends’ houses along the way, eat unhealthy amounts of pb & j sandwiches during the trip, split the gas costs, and sleep on some distant acquaintance’s floor while there. The only problem was the lift ticket costs. So, in all my collegiate wisdom, here is what I did: For the entire two months before the trip, I ate nothing but ramen for breakfast and lunch. Every day. For two months. I know, right?
And that was not the last of my food routines. For the next two years, for lack of a kitchenette and any cooking skills, I often ate yogurt and granola for breakfast and lunch…and sometimes dinner. I couldn’t get enough of the stuff. I hadn’t grown up knowing that was even a combination to be had. I mean, I am someone, who still to this day, does not put milk in her cereal. But yogurt? Yogurt was a different story.
While my palate now demands far more variety than that, I still love yogurt and granola. Only, now, it’s a little more refined than what comes in boxes at the grocery store. A few years ago, my friend Darren alerted me to the fact that you could make your own granola. Startling. Astounding. Fantastic. And I’ve been doing so ever since. I have gone through phases with about 3 granola recipes, and the one listed below is a combination of the best of them all.
It uses whole wheat flour as well as the oats, and no refined sugars – only honey and brown sugar, yet it is surprisingly sweet. The milk, honey, and oil in it hold the granola together in perfectly sized, lightly crunchy, slightly chewy clumps of goodness. And it’s a super flexible recipe. Love sesame seeds? Throw some in. Prefer craisins? Done. Want to try some allspice in there? This granola can handle it.
Put it over some yogurt (my recent obsession is plain, but it’s even dessertier over vanilla). I deemed this a “summer recipe” because it’s great with berries, and it will absolutely blow your mind with fresh peaches. But this makes for a great breakfast all year round with some dried fruit. Make it. And eat it 3 times a day if you want. It’s that good.
Don’t have dessert around the house? Are you sitting around watching back episodes of 30 Rock at night, needing something sweet, like me? Put this over some fresh fruit, add heaping tsp. of brown sugar, and microwave it for a minute or two. Instant Crumble. Add a little ice cream, and you may never make a real dessert again.
P.S. Tell me about your most forgettable college decision.
(a recipe produced from a combination of granola recipes from Joy the Baker, Simply in Season, and my friend Darren's kitchen)
(Yields 6-7 cups)
Making granola at home is super easy. You can do this! You do not have to buy it from the store ever again. I can't even tell you how I adapted this recipe because it is such a conglomerate of the three granola sources above. Look at this recipe and then make it YOUR own. Then, eat half it raw with a spoon like cookie dough and tell yourself you're being healthy because it's not actually cookie dough.
3 c. rolled oats
1 c. whole wheat flour
1/4 c. brown sugar (I use dark, but light would work too)
1 1/2 tsp. ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. ground ginger
1/2-1 c. shredded coconut (whatever your preference)
1/8 c. wheat germ (optional)
1/4 c. canola or vegetable oil
1/4. c. milk
1/4 c. honey
1 tsp. vanilla extract
1/4 c. raw shelled sunflower seeds (optional)
1 1/2 c. dried fruit or nuts of your choice (I'm obsessed with almonds and pecans sans dried fruit at present)
Preheat oven to 300*.
Combine oats, flour, brown sugar, cinnamon, salt, ground ginger, shredded coconut and wheat germ (if using) in a large bowl. Stir well. (Make sure salt is distributed well or you will regret your life when you take a salty bite of granola in the morning).
Make a well in the center of the bowl and pour in the oil, honey, milk, and vanilla extract.
*Tip: pour the oil in your 1/4 c. measuring cup FIRST; then your honey. The oil will coat the measuring cup, and the honey will slide right out. Yeah!
Mix the wet and dry ingredients together thoroughly until all of the flour is incorporated. Add another 1 tbsp. of milk if you feel like it's not "clumping" enough for your preferences. Stir in your sunflower seeds if using, and any nuts and dried fruit you're incorporating.
Grease a 9x13 in. baking pan with cooking spray. Bake at 300* for 50-60 minutes, stirring every 10 minutes. This step is vitally important, because if you are like me, and you are down in the basement when the timer goes off and you don't hear it, parts of the granola will burn, and then your breakfast for the next week and a half will be slightly saddened by random crunchy burned bits.
Cool on a wire rack. Then store in an airtight container in your pantry for between 1-2 weeks. I've heard rumors you can freeze granola, but I've never tried it. Has anyone out there done it?