Last weekend, I was so impressed after I read a fantastic article about a Brooklyn mother who lost her job during the rough economy, which changed her life forever. She still had her three kids to feed, but could no longer afford to shop at the organic food shops that she preferred, so she decided to make a change. She grew her own garden in her little Brooklyn backyard, which soon produced enough to completely replace her need to buy produce from the store, and of course it was all organic. She began baking her own bread which allowed her to make fresh, healthy bread for 1/4th of the price. She even decided to make her own granola, and wondered why she never did it before. Even though she again has a job today (as a writer), she still lives this much cheaper healthy lifestyle, and can't imagine going back to her old ways.
It is so important to remember (and to teach) that we do not have to spend a lot of money to eat healthily. Brian reminded me that Jamie Oliver is the poster child for this idea- attempting to push it into our public school lunch programs. However, with this woman's story as my inspiration, I decided to make my own granola this weekend, hopefully as a first step towards becoming more self-sufficient.
I began by mixing 4 cups of rolled oats, 1/2 cup creamy peanut butter, warmed so that flows easier (add 1/2 tsp of salt if you use unsalted peanut butter), 1/2 cup of home-made caramel (or honey), and 1 tsp of cinnamon in a large bowl. When it begins to come together you can add 1/2cup of any nuts (1/4 cup of seeds) and/or 1/2 cup of dried fruit. I opted for 1 cup of chopped dried organic Mission figs, my favorite! I mixed it all together well, and spread it evenly on a cookie sheet. I then baked it for 20 min (or until it begins to brown) at 350. I took it out of the oven and broke it all in pieces (you can do as you please, and leave it whole to be broken off as you eat it too).
It turned out delicious! If you are not a granola fan already, it is not just for the Hippies. It makes a perfect snack since it is so portable, and it can be really good for you when you are stuck in an airport, or at the office with no healthy food options. Brian and I have recently been eating it parfait style, mixed with fruit and Greek yogurt, for breakfast or lunch. (Brian the Southern boy from Memphis, TN eats granola!!!) The best part about making your own is that you can make it as healthy or decadent as you like..sort of a choose your own adventure. Start with oats, and add any type of sweetener (brown sugar, honey, agave, maple syrup,etc). Add protein (nuts or nut butters- if you don't add one of these you will need an oil to make the granola crispy and flavorful, like olive oil or coconut oil, etc). Add antioxidants (dried berries), or spices (cinnamon, cloves, pumpkin spice, ginger)...and the list goes on. Grabbing a little home-made granola in the midst of a mid-day moment of hunger will keep you filled longer than that bag of 100 calorie cracker wisps that you think is really helping your waistline.
Since I have eaten most of this batch during taste testing, I am off to make another for a gift (another great use of delicious, healthy granola).