Granola: The Not-Necessarily-Healthy Health Food

Gaola is marketed as a health food, but given the loads of sugar in many brands, you’d be better off with a Krispy Kreme donut. Or two. In fact, the New York Times recently called granola “junk food in disguise,” noting that while a Nature Valley variety can have 30 grams of sugar per cup, a slice of chocolate cake – with icing – has 26.

So if your family’s looking for a snack, let them eat cake!

Okay, not really. Before you reach for Sara Lee, consider that there are significant health benefits to granola eaten in moderation. It’s an effective digestive aid and can reduce cholesterol (thanks, soluble and insoluble fiber), can help prevent anemia (iron), and is a good source of vitamin E. I also read it protects against sunburn, but I'd still pack the Coppertone. (Fun fact: Granola was invented in 1863 by a doctor at a Danville, NY health spa called Our Home on the Hillside.)

Like most foods, the method of preparation has a big impact on how beneficial, or not, granola is for you. A bunch of carbs cooked in fat produces molecules your body can’t digest. What kind of sweetener is used, and how much, makes a difference. So you have to look at the label to see whether you’re eating something good for you, or dessert Halloween-ing as health food.

My Vermont sister-in-law, Patty, the one who raises (and paints) chickens and eats birds that smack into her window (“It was a grouse,” she clarified on my Facebook page), is one of those people I greatly admire who don’t just look at labels to see what the healthiest options are – she looks at labels to see how she can make food even better. Her favorite spot when she visits me in Westchester is an organic bakery in Irvington, the Red Barn, which makes a mean granola. Patty bought some, dissected the ingredients, developed her own version and shared her recipe with me.

And now, you:

Preheat oven to 350 degrees

Mix in large bowl:

2 cups rolled oats

Then add one cup each of:

Barley

Sliced almonds

Walnut pieces

Sunflower seeds

Pumpkin seeds

Chopped dates

Raisins

Coconut manna (the white meat of the coconut)

*Change the fruits and nuts to your liking. A good balance is 3 cups grain, 2 cups seed, 2 cups nuts and 3 cups fruit.

Then add:
Cinnamon to taste (at least 1 TB)

Optional: ½ cup cocoa nibs (bittersweet chocolate) and ½ cup chia seeds (both are anti-oxidant-Omega 3, per Patty)

Toss together, then massage in 3/4 cup coconut oil with your hands (yuck)

 If you want granola to clump, add 3 whipped egg whites and stir thoroughly

Place in roasting pan and cook for 20 minutes. Remove from oven turn, and put back for 10 minutes. You should be able to smell it toasting, but remove from oven before the dried fruit burns.

Let cool on rack. If you want the granola to clump, let it cool completely before taking it out of the pan.

I'm going to leave you with one of Patty's paintings of chickens, to make sure it's clear that Patty paints pictures of chickens, not paints chickens themselves. This painting is called Cooped Up (ha!):

For more chickens, nature and such check out www.plmeriam.com