There was a time when flying home to San Francisco after a visit to my east coast family would leave my kids so crazed with jet lagged — and me so exhausted from their 3 AM wake ups — that I could fall asleep while they were jumping on me. Those were the days when I added espresso powder to the cookie dough — and then didn’t share those power-packed cookies with the kids.
I’ve been making granola for years. I first wrote about granola for this blog nearly four years ago, and I wrote when I started following a new recipe and then again last year when the boys got in on the granola-baking act. It has been one of the very few constants in my kitchen — and in my breakfast bowl — over the last several years.
I tend to stick to just this one classic recipe, which is a lot like having cake for breakfast. Or, in last night’s case, for dinner.
In our house, Mardi Gras–Fat Tuesday, the day before Lent begins–has come to mean pancakes. Traditionally pancakes were served on Fat Tuesday as a way to use up all your dairy and eggs and sugar before long, lean spell of Lent. Historically, some Christians abstained from all animal products during Lent, and one year I did just that, and it was really hard. But that was before kids and migraines.
While we do try to limit our sweets during Lent–and this year I am giving up all cocktails & wine during the week (stay tuned to see how that works out)–we don’t encourage the kids to do food-based things for the season. The all out pancake-gorge-for-dinner is symbolic, and it does begin to remind them that a time of reflection is beginning.
In true Mardi Gras spirit, they ate with their hands. Finn picked up the fork when I told him I was going to blog about what he calls Dinbr.
This year, they’ve resolved to pick up after themselves with greater vigilance–or with just one reminder from me–and our whole family is resolved to Practice Peace. Without the cocktail, this might be a long 40 days. We’ll see.
For years, I was unwavering in my granola routine. I started with the recipe in Nigella Lawson’s Feast and while over the years I abandoned certain ingredients (the applesauce, the ginger) and eventually all measurements, the granola still remained essentially Nigella’s recipe and my daily breakfast.
But then there was that new granola I started to make, which renewed the boys’ interest in (and taste for) granola. Except Ben was picking out the pumpkin seeds and Eli was picking out the pistachios. So I invited them to make their own.
A lot of this granola-making exercise for kids is simply teaching them about the process: assembling the ingredients; learning how to open bags of nuts and seeds so they don’t explode all over the kitchen; remembering to finish measuring the dry ingredients before measuring the sticky liquid ingredients; getting comfortable with leaning a little ways into the hot oven to stir the pan of baking granola; cleaning up afterwards (the first time the boys did this, I had to leave the room while they cleaned because they are simultaneously so deliberate and ineffective).
But the more exciting part of this, clearly, is cooking something to their own tastes, and I love giving the boys that opportunity. Ben’s granola is a bit sweeter than I like, and Eli’s a little paler (he always eats a bowl unbaked). But they are making granola. We eat it every morning. The last time they made a batch (our third time in what they’ve now dubbed GranoLab) was the most pleasant half hour I’ve had in the kitchen with my children in a long time.
Ben has updated his recipe twice since I first drafted it here on the blog and continues to tinker with it every time, measuring carefully. Eli, like me, just eyeballs the ingredients. Either way, the method is the same: combine the dry ingredients, stir in the liquid ingredients, spread into a baking pan and bake at 325 for 20-50 minutes, stirring occasionally, until toasted brown to taste.
1/3 cup olive oil
1 tablespoon brown sugar
1/3 cup maple syrup
3 cups oats
1/2 cup unsweetened shredded coconut
1/2 cup sliced almonds
2 tablespoons sesame sends
1 tablespoon cinnamon
3 tablespoons wheat germ
1/2 cup pine nuts
3 cups oats
a sprinkle of sesame seeds
1/2 cup pumpkin seeds
1 cup sliced almonds
1 cup sunflower seeds