Whenever I see granola for sale in groceries, a very clear visual pops up in my mind. There is my dad, standing at the kitchen counter with a huge stainless steel bowl in front of him. He’s carefully measuring ingredients into the bowl. Oats, wheat germ, sunflower seeds, and sliced almonds.
On the stove top, a mixture of honey, oil and vanilla are warming. He reaches for the pot, slowly swirls the mixture over the dry ingredients. Using a large wooden spoon, he carefully and methodically stirs the mixture, gently turning it over until each grain, nut and seed is coated.
For Dad, making granola was a welcome change from his usual days spent in the lab and classroom, teaching his students to blend the right ingredients for experiments. Yet, in many ways, his hours in the kitchen were very similar to those in the lab — the right ingredients, perfect measurements, temperature control, and most important — staying nearby throughout the process.
Because once he had the ingredients mixed and spread in baking pans, he knew timing was crucial. If he didn’t watch it carefully, at timed intervals removing the pans from the oven to stir them, he’d end up with a burnt batch. And on a college professor’s salary in the 70s, a batch of granola could be expensive. A burnt batch even more so.
Once the granola was done, he’d remove it from the oven, set it on racks to cool before spooning into old tins and coffee cans saved just for this purpose.
Thinking back, I must have taken that granola for granted. It was always there. Secretly, I’d filter through the cans for the big chunks. My favorite way to eat it was on top of ice cream.
My mom still makes granola regularly; probably some of my brothers do, too. Awhile back, my husband, daughters and I made a family cookbook to give to family members as a Christmas present. My parents’ granola recipe stands front and center, an icon of our family history.
Today I had a hankering for granola…the real thing. No coconut. I don’t think any of my family members (brothers, parents, children) has ever liked coconut so it’s not in the recipe. You could add it, but then it wouldn’t be our granola. It would be yours.
This is the original recipe, with notes about any changes I made. When making mine, I took poetic license and added some flax seed — the wheat germ of the 2000s. Dad would have understood. He was all for change as long as it was a healthy one. Mother, of course, has probably made more changes to her own versions over the years. Pumpkin seeds, walnuts, dried fruit.
If you decide to make your own, remember this caveat: Do not leave the kitchen. Sit at a nearby table with a cup of tea or coffee and set a timer. Unless, of course, you like your granola with a blackened quality.
1/4 c. safflower or canola oil
1/2 c. honey
1/2 tsp. vanilla extract
4 c. rolled oats
1 c. wheat germ
1 c. sliced almonds
1 c. sunflower seeds
1/2 c. whole wheat bran
1/4-1/2 c. flax seeds (OPTIONAL — this is my addition)
Heat first three ingredients. Add to remaining ingredients and stir (mix well). Spread on oiled cookie sheets or baking pans. Bake at 325 degrees (stir twice during baking) 20-25 min.
Store in tightly-closed containers.