Just look at it. Isn’t it pretty? That’s my breakfast. Day in and day out. I believe in having a solid breakfast that’ll not only get you through the day but will also pack in as much nutritional value as possible. So what’s in this beautiful bowl?
- 1 cup of 0% plain greek yogurt, preferably Fage, for the protein
- ground flaxseed, for the fiber and omega-3
- handful of natural almonds, for the vitamin E and some healthy fat
- any combination of berries, usually strawberries, blackberries, and blueberries, for the fiber and antioxidants
- drizzle of honey, for sweetness
and the very last, somewhat key component,
- granola, for all of the above and that extra crunch
I love my granola. I go through bags of the stuff. My go-to breakfast just isn’t the same without those yummy clusters I’ve come to rely on each morning.
That was until one day last fall when I decided to actually read the nutrition facts label on the back of the bag before doing my usual grab and dump into the basket at the grocery store. I don’t know what made me go there, but there was no turning back. Clocking in at close to 20g of sugar, that wonderful bag of granola nearly gave me a toothache just holding it while standing in the middle of the cereal aisle. Crap. Crap crap crap. I can’t buy this anymore. What was I going to do?
I don’t think you understand. This like, changed my life. I mean, how was I going to sit here writing a blog about healthy eating and tell my friends about my food choices while eating this sugar-covered (but oh my GAWD, SO DELICIOUS!!!) sorry excuse for a health food?
That’s when I dialed into the idea that not all foods marketed as “healthy” are actually healthy. I know, breakthrough!
It’s like those Yoplait yogurt flavors that border on the insane, like banana cream pie and strawberry cheesecake. Oh, and then why don’t we go ahead and top it with this crunchy, sweetened granola to really brighten up your day, right? Um, it’s supposed to be yogurt, not dessert! And, if you’re buying it because it says ‘cheesecake’ on the label, then maybe you should stop and take a good hard look at your priorities. Or at least a good hard look a that nutrition facts label. Like I did. (And then weep in the privacy of your own home. Like I did.)
Ok, so major diet shift for me here. I started hunting for the perfect granola alternative. My musts included crunch factor, nuts, some light sweetness, and absolutely NO RAISINS, or any dried fruit for that matter. I hate raisins. And dried fruit adds unnecessary sweetness.
I experimented with all sorts of brands and combinations and came to two majorly important conclusions:
- Healthy granola, you know the real healthy kind, is WICKED expensive.
- I’m a picky bastard.
I’ve been blogging for a little while and I spend a good part of my time looking at recipes for ideas and inspiration. I’ve seen dozens of recipes for homemade granola but I always filed that away in my mind under the “never gonna happen” heading. It just seemed so complicated and beyond what I was capable of pulling off in the kitchen.
Then I had another breakthrough last week. That’s dumb.
Yeah, brilliant, right?! It is dumb to second-guess yourself and dismiss something outright without even giving it a try. It’s a horrible habit I have that I’m trying to break each day with considerable effort and practice. I guess, in some ways, making my own granola was putting some of my recent spiritual practice into work by proving that yes, I can do something that I really want if I just set aside the fears (“Christ, I’m going to burn all those little oats. Poor little oats!”), and give it a try. So that’s what I did.
And boy, was I glad I kicked my fears to the curb because I made the BEST GRANOLA EVER MADE IN THE HISTORY OF THE UNIVERSE! Cross my heart.
Since I adore my blog community and I’m a great humanitarian, I’m going to share this slice of heaven with each of you. Just remember to share.
Maribel’s Actually Healthy Refined Sugar-Free Granola aka BGEMITHOTU Granola 🙂
- 3 cups old-fashioned oats
- ½ cup raw almonds, roughly chopped
- ½ cup wheat bran
- 1/3 cup ground flaxseed
- 3 tbsp unsweetened coconut flakes
- ¼ cup honey (little less than the full measurement)
- 3 tbsp natural maple syrup
- 1/3 cup extra-virgin coconut oil, melted
- 1 tsp vanilla extract
- 1 ½ tsp ground cinnamon
- ½ tsp kosher salt
1. Preheat oven to 325°F. Line a large baking sheet with parchment paper.
2. Prepare almonds by roughly chopping into bite size pieces. You’ll need a large, heavy chef’s knife to do this.
3. Combine the oats, wheat bran, flaxseed, coconut, and almonds in one bowl. In another bowl mix the coconut oil, maple syrup, honey, vanilla, cinnamon and salt together making sure everything is incorporated well.
4. Pour all of the dry ingredients onto the pan first, then pour the wet ingredients slowly over the top. Stop several times to mix everything together and spread across the pan with your spatula. By the time you’re done the oats should be in an even layer with a nice coating of the wet ingredients throughout.
5. Bake in the oven for about 20 minutes, but set your timer for 10 minutes. You need to remove the pan about halfway through to stir the oats around and ensure that top layer is also baked. Place it back in the oven for the final ten minutes, but make sure to eyeball it, especially if your oven is wonky like mine and has a tendency to overheat after awhile. We want toasty oats, not burned oats!
BTW: Your entire kitchen will be enveloped by the incredible aroma of the granola- I am not kidding you. The cinnamon and maple syrup are the culprits, but it was very heartening to see and smell what I already knew would be a delicious treat. You’ll feel the same, trust me!
5. Take out the granola after the final 10 minutes have lapsed or until the oats are nice and toasted. Let it cool on the tray for 15-20 minutes. The oats will continue to harden as they cool down so you’ll get that crunchy granola texture we’re all used to. Then, that’s it! You’ve just made your own granola my friend! And you’ve saved money since you’re not buying the expensive granola at the store. Pat yourself on the back. You’ve earned it. 🙂
Make sure you store in an airtight container. It should keep for up to a month….that is, if you haven’t gone through it all before then. If not, then I applaud your restraint. I’ve already gone through several cups of this stuff and it’s only Wednesday. Otherwise, this would make a great homemade gift for another granola-lover who can appreciate the fact that you made this stuff, BY HAND!
The ultimate test came the next day when I happily brought my homemade granola with the rest of my breakfast accoutrements to work. Conclusion? BEST. GRANOLA. EVER. Starting off a Monday morning at work with a smile on my face is the only way to go.
I have done the impossible!! I proved that I can actually do something once I set the doubts and fears aside, and moreover, that I can enjoy each second of that process. I have devoted so much time this year to reconnecting with myself and that also means that I’m taking a harder look at all of my dreams, big and small. Yes, making my own granola is a dream- why? Because it means that I’m creating. I spend so much energy deconstructing and picking apart everything that I sometimes forget what it feels like to build. Cooking helps me remember that. Writing helps encourage it even further. So it brings me a lot of joy to come back here to share this fun little miracle recipe that helped lift my spirits. I hope it brings you joy as well! ♥