Arts and Entertainment

Grandma’s granola isn’t just a treat for tree huggers

Nature’s kitchen

Granola is one of the primary reasons I eagerly awaited visiting my grandmother on her farm in Salem, Ore., every summer and Christmas break.

Honestly.

A few days before I’d arrive, Eunice — that’s the phenomenal woman I’m lucky enough to call grandma — would pull up to Winco Foods and rifle through the bulk foods section in search of granola ingredients.

Then it was back to her kitchen to brew up my favorite of all breakfast goodies. She’d always burn it a little bit, but that just made it extra special to me.

As soon as I’d bust through her front door after making the trek from western Montana, be it the age of 5 or 25, I’d give her a quick hug and then beeline for the kitchen counter, in search of that glass jar, which always brimmed with a fresh batch of golden-brown granola goodness.

It was the best welcoming I’ve ever experienced.

Every morning I couldn’t wait to rise and eat a massive bowl for breakfast.

Writing this is an ode to my grandmother and an ode to an era, as gone are the days of granola awaiting me and gone are the long, lazy Oregon summer mornings at grandma’s.

About a year ago my grandmother seriously injured her sciatic nerve and could no longer live in the farm house she’d lived in for more than 50 years. She’s staying at an assisted living residence.

It’s now up to me to carry on the granola tradition.

Yes, we’ll be making grandma’s crunchy granola, a recipe that’s been in my family for some 50 years.

Now I know granola as a food item conjures up hippie, environmental and health-nut connotations, which admittedly are kind of true. However, so is the saying breakfast is the most important meal of the day, so why not start one’s daily nutritional intake off with a dish that packs in incredible taste and off-the-charts health benefits.

Seriously, it’s like giving yourself a giant bear hug at the start of 24 brand-new hours.

First preheat the oven to 325 degrees.

The ingredients: 1 cup dried coconut, 4 cups quick cooking oatmeal, 1 cup sunflower seeds, 1 cup wheat germ, half cup sesame seeds, 1 cup nuts, I prefer almonds as that’s what grandma liked, 1 cup honey, half a cup olive oil and 1 teaspoon vanilla.

The process: With clean hands mix the dry ingredients together, bring the honey, oil and vanilla to a boil, pour the honey liquid over the dry ingredients and mix thoroughly. I recommend mixing this with your hands too, but be careful, it’s rather hot. Next spread evenly over two cookie sheets or how ever many are required, and place in the oven for about 30 minutes.

Stir the granola mixture every five minutes or so to prevent burn and to ensure it all bakes evenly. Keep a close eye the last 10 minutes and pull the trays out of the oven once the granola is mildly crunchy and golden brown.

Let cool, or eat a bowl warm, the kitchen’s aroma will dictate the latter choice, and store the rest in an airtight container.

Now even better than the taste is the nutritional goodness of grandma’s granola: Oatmeal is filled with fiber and heart-healthy nutrients, wheat germ provides an impressive bundle of vitamin E, folate, zinc, magnesium and naturally occurring polyunsaturated fat, one of the healthy fats the body needs. One ounce of almonds carries 12 percent of daily protein intake, 35 percent of vitamin E, as well as fiber, calcium, folic acid and monounsaturated fat, another good-for-the-body fat. Coconut is full of fiber, iron and lauric acid, which is good for the immune system.

While granola in general is higher in fat than other breakfast options, here’s the secret: The body needs fat, and 20-35 percent of daily energy intake should be derived from fats, but from the good fats, and this granola is filled those fats.

Fat provides energy, is an essential component of cell membranes, is a shock absorber for internal organs, and some aid in growth, development and brain function.

Monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats are the good fats, the fats more or less found in nature, as food was intended.

Saturated and transaturated fats are the health-threatening fats found in, unfortunately, most processed foods lining the grocery store isles.

Think avocado versus potato chips or candy bars.

So while this granola may pack in some, sigh, deep breath, dare I say it: fat’s actually good for you and will give you energy throughout the day. Plus eating breakfast every morning spikes the metabolism all day long.

Dish up. Your tastebuds and body will thank you.

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