In these days of worldwide pandemic, many aspects of our daily lives have been drastically changed. Stay-at-home measures put into place to protect the vulnerable and slow the spread of the Covid-19 virus have caused all of us to make changes, some difficult, some perhaps for the better. For me, this pause in life has removed some things I love but also provided time to return to some things I love, particularly baking and writing. Today I find myself doing both.
With my family members eating three meals a day at home, suddenly the kitchen seems busier and the food cupboards seem emptier. The menu is requiring a little more ingenuity when certain things are out of stock at the store. Plus, infusing a little variety into our meals seems to break up a bit of the current monotony in our days.
So, to add variety to breakfast, I made our favorite homemade granola. This recipe is easy and less expensive than store brands and most of the ingredients are pantry staples. This granola can be prepared in about fifteen minutes and ready to eat an hour later. The original recipe is from the Charm Countryview Inn, nestled in the hills of Ohio’s Amish country – a favorite place of ours! Over the years I have adapted this recipe to our family’s preferences, and you can do the same. (And if you are looking for a relaxing getaway apart from the busyness of life, the rocking chairs on the large front porch of the Inn and the TV-free guest rooms are just perfect!)
I have had a large Tupperware bowl for years, which is my go-to for this recipe. Simply combine these ingredients in a large bowl with a wooden spoon: 4 cups quick oats, 1/2 tsp. salt, 1/2 cup brown sugar, 3/4 tsp. baking soda, 1/2 cup all-purpose flour (original recipe uses whole wheat flour), 1/2 cup maple syrup, and 1/2 cup melted butter. (Optional: 1 cup coconut, though I do not include this.)
In my opinion, real maple syrup is a key ingredient in this tasty granola. I just received this half-gallon jug of maple syrup from family members in New York state who know the people who make this maple syrup – what a treat! When the granola is thoroughly mixed, it will be a little bit sticky, similar to this picture where some granola mix is sticking to the spoon.
The secret to a delicious batch of granola is the slow baking process. With the oven at 250 degrees, bake the granola for 45 minutes. Then take it out and, using a large flat spatula, turn the granola over and break it up into smaller pieces. This will allow the granola to dry evenly. If you want to add extras, this is the time to mix those in. Options include graham crackers (about 11 crushed) and 1/4 cup chopped nuts. For a sweeter treat, add 1/4 cup chocolate chips after the second bake! This picture shows the granola after 45 minutes. Notice it is in chunks but not completely dried yet.
Return the granola to the oven for an additional 15 minutes. Remove from oven and break the granola up into bite-size chunks or smaller, to your preference. I use the same spatula, holding it sideways, to break it up. We like our granola to have a smaller crumb texture to it. Allow the granola to cool completely before storing in an air-tight container. That’s all there is to it! (We enjoy nibbling on it when it is still warm from the oven, but do not consume while it is still hot.)
Our favorite ways to eat our homemade granola are with cold milk, like a bowl of cereal; or slightly warmed up in the microwave, then with milk added, like a hot cereal; or as a main ingredient in a fruit/yogurt parfait, as pictured at the top of this post. This granola stores well and even makes a great snack for munching in the car on road trips. It might just become one of your family favorites, like it has ours. My recipe here is for half the amount of the original recipe – so if you need more granola, it works fine to double this.
I hope this simple recipe will encourage you to try something new. And perhaps to see something new. To see that this pandemic, though full of hardships and challenges, has brought us a gift – the gift of simplicity. A simplicity that embraces a little less consumerism and a little more creativity. A little less luxury and a little more resourcefulness. A little less self-advancement and a little more other-awareness. Gifts I hope we hold on to long after this pandemic is over.