The favorite healthy snack from 1974!
My brother's basketball season is wrapping up, and March Madness will be starting soon. Or so I'm told - I don't really follow professional sports.
He's been trying to be more conscious of food choices he's been making this season, and it got me thinking about how the definition of health food has really grown and developed since people started recording what they were cooking for what. One thing that still often gets labeled a health food today is granola, whether as a snack or an accompaniment to breakfast, in bar form or not. It can be sort of a controversial health food depending on how you make it, but since it's something both my brother and another (fictional) blonde basketball player both enjoy, I decided I'd give making my own a shot. Can't be too hard, right?
Granola has actually existed in some form since just before the turn of the 20th century, but wasn't an especially popular food, either as a health food or otherwise. It enjoyed a resurgence in popularity during the 1960's, when people who followed the hippie movement helped promote it as a new healthfood with a different recipe from the original. It caught on with the public because it uses all natural ingredients rather than processed foods laden with preservatives and artificial ingredients, which had been steadily on the rise in American kitchens really since the turn of the century. No one knows for sure who helped bring granola back into the public consciousness, but it continued to rise in popularity throughout the decade and into the next one. People were making their own granolas, even as small companies were trying to come up with commercially products for the public.
My grandma went through the phase of feeling like she needed to make her own granola. It was actually super expensive for a middle class family because most of the ingredients weren't as easy to come by as they are today and required going to a health food store rather than a Stop and Shop or another equivalent. Once, she made a giant thing of it, and my mom said it was like they had granola coming out of their ears.
The first widespread commercially available granola was produced in 1972, and major companies like Kellogg's and General Mills followed suit by 1973. Julie's Cooking Studio says that the first major brand to make a granola cereal was Quaker Oats, and reiterate that people liked the dish because they felt it was good to break away from artificial flavors and preservatives.
It's actually a manner of some debate if granola is any good for you - some of the ingredients do have some value in a health food sense, but often, you wind up eating granolas or granola bars that have junk food or lots of sugar tossed in to make them more palatable. The recipe I'm trying out today comes from Julie's Cooking Studio, and it starts off basic enough: you take 3 cups of rolled oats, 2 cups of shredded coconut, 1/2 of a cup each of of wheat germ, sunflower seeds and sesame seeds, 1 cup of bran flakes and an optional 1 cup of chopped walnuts and put them all in a bowl, mixing everything together.
Next, you take 1 cup of honey, 2 teaspoons of vanilla and 1 cup of safflower, corn or canola oil and mix them together. I used canola oil because that's what we had in the house.
This gets dumped in the dry ingredients and mixed until everything's well combined.
Looking kind of gooey, aren't we?
This all gets pressed into a jelly roll pan and baked for 20 to 25 minutes in a 350 degree oven. Mine looked pretty crispy around the edges after 20 minutes, so I'd definitely recommend at least checking on it at 20 before leaving it in for the full 25.
Getting the granola out of the pan was hard. It didn't tell you to grease the pan or anything before putting the granola in, but it basically fused to the cookie sheet in the oven. It took a long, long time to wrestle it loose, and I was honestly a tiny bit worried I was going to break or bend my knife while I was trying to pry it out. If I make this again, I'd definitely like to find a way around this. I might line it with parchment paper or something just to see if that helps.
Once you've harvested as much as you can from your pan, you add in 2 cups of raisins or other dried fruit. This step is also noted as being optional, but I don't see why adding a little dried fruit of your choice would be a turn off for anyone. This would probably be kind of bland without it.
After letting it cool down completely, you're ready to eat! The cookbook recommends eating this with yogurt, cream, or just by itself!
So, this is a pretty good blend of ingredients. I'm not sure how healthy it is at the end of the day, because there's a ton of honey in here and I used sweetened flaked coconut, but it's tasty and probably at least slightly better for you than eating an entire packet of bacon or a bowl of Lucky Charms. That being said, I do think the AG recipe leaves you with a granola that's a little too wet and sticky for my taste. I think of granola as being pretty dry unless it's being squished into a bar form, so I think if I made this again, I'd definitely cut back on the oil, and probably the honey too. My mom suggested drying it out by putting it back in the oven for a little while, but it got kinda crispy and burned, so that wasn't a huge success.
But otherwise, the flavors were fine. A little too sweet, but not unpleasant to eat a tiny bit of at a time. I just don't think this recipe is a good one to eat an entire bowl of, even if you've got yogurt or cream to help break it up.
This recipe is definitely kid friendly and would be totally manageable for a target aged AG fan to make more or less on their own, but again, I'd recommend cutting down on some of the binding agents a little. It's also a good base recipe if you want to play around with ingredients and tweak it to meet your own preferences. It does make a lot of granola though, so keep that in mind when you sit down to make it!
Or find people who'd like to share it with you before basketball practice!