Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Why is Breakfast Cereal so Expensive? or How to Make Granola

Today's blog post is brought to you by Rocky and Bullwinkle. Well, not really, but The Rocky and Bullwinkle Show inspired this post's disjunctive title. Do you remember the show's great episode titles like "Lion in the Bedroom or The Cat’s Pajamas"? I sure do! And now on to the real post!

Although most of my blog posts so far have been about home improvement, One Canadian Home is intended to be a do-it-yourself blog in the fullest way possible. James and I are very interested in doing and making whatever things we can around our home for a couple of reasons. Saving money is a big part of our motivation, but we're also interested in learning how to do a wide variety of different things, like our grandparents did. We also strive to be eco-friendly, and this is often easier to do if you buy ingredients instead of finished products. Since this is a post about granola, not about why we want to do as much as we can ourselves, and I've already gone off on a tangent about Rocky and Bullwinkle, I won't digress further, but hopefully you get what we're after, and maybe you'll read along and join the conversation in the comments.

Breakfast cereal is incredibly expensive, especially for what it is. Mostly wheat or oats or corn, all of which are very cheap. It's easy to pay on the order of $5 for a box of cereal, depending on the size of the box, and even the generic brands (which I find don't usually taste as good) are pretty pricey. So, I've been looking for alternatives to breakfast cereal.

My first attempt at making breakfast cereal will be making granola, although in researching the topic I also came across a recipe for home made bran flakes that I really want to try. When I do, I will post about it. I found a couple of granola recipes online, but I also remembered that my friend Kate used to make granola, so I got in touch and asked her for her recipe. In the end, I decided to try Kate's recipe first since it didn't have any ingredients that seemed too hard to find (and some which can be substituted), and wasn't full of coconut, which I don't really like. I also know that she's been making granola this way for years, so I figure it's probably good!

Here it is:

5 cups oats (or 4 cups oats and 1 cup rice puffs)
1 cup cashews or almonds
1 cup sunflower seeds
2/3 cup tahini
2/3 cup concentrated apple (or other) juice (from frozen)
chopped dried fruit: papaya, apricot, cranberries, raisins, etc.

Mix everything except fruit in a large baking pan such as a lasagna pan. Bake 60 minutes at about 275F, stirring every 20 minutes. Add fruit 20 minutes from end (ie at the second stir). Stir immediately upon removal from oven to make clean-up easier.

We usually use two baking pans and make double this recipe which also makes the amount of juice more closely match a standard frozen can. You can substitute other sugars for the fruit juice. Oil can replace some or all of the tahini.

Thanks, Kate!

For my first batch I used oats (no rice puffs), almonds, dried mangos and dried apples. Instead of the juice I used apple sauce, since that's what I had on hand. Since apple sauce is less liquid than apple juice, I added a little canola oil too.

After trying it, I decided that I wanted raisins in it as well, for a little extra sweetness, so I added them after the fact which seems to work just fine. This delicious granola is now stored in a canister on my counter, and I serve myself two handfuls with milk for breakfast almost every morning. Since there are so many variations, I'm sure each batch will be different and interesting, too.

Next up, how to make my own chai tea to go with it. Let me know if you have a recipe!

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