Saturday, September 5, 2009

Good Morning Granola

So I’ve been thinking about the most important meal of the day, and how to get better about eating it. The reason why, among many, is that September has become a kind of “cleanse” month for me.

Scratch that.

September has become a kind of lose the stress-induced spare tire and get ready for our summer vacation month. That’s right, our summer vacation is about a month away, and begins every October when the last cruise ship is long gone from Juneau, and we have a few months off before heli ski season starts up. For the last four years, Noah and I have been on a seasonal routine where we fit 12 months of work into 8 or 9, and try as I might, the heavy summer grind takes a minor toll on my bod.

Our summer eating routine reads like a primer on how to gain weight:

Step 1: Skip Breakfast
We are both so busy in the summer that a regular breakfast consists of caffeine, and maybe a yogurt.

Step 2: Get Ravenously Hungry Before Eating Again
It’s go go go until 2 o’clock rolls around and you’re so hungry you’re ready to raid the fridge, eat a bucket of fried chicken, or blow an extra 300 calories snacking-out while you procure some form of midday meal.

Step 3: Stress Out, then Veg Out
When you hit the ground running, and don’t stop for 12 to 14 hours (thanks to AK summer daylight), it’s hard not to have an extra beer or helping of whatever when you finally put your feet up.

Step 4: Eat Your Biggest Meal of the Day Right Before Bed
For Noah and I, when we have but a couple waking hours together each evening, we try to make dinner time special. Fire up the grill, open a bottle of wine, sit on the deck and share the stories of our day…usually around 8:30 or 9 at night. We eat healthy stuff, but dinnertime can definitely be too much of a good thing. Then it’s straight to bed for a repeat.

While looking at my charts, my doctor once remarked, “You’re kind of opposite most people. You gain a little weight in the summer and lose it in the winter.” Not like I’m putting on 20 pounds—more like 3 to 5, but still it requires management. Neither of us is overweight, but part of being beyond our twenties is staying on top of it, and this time of year I am getting ready for some serious play time…in a bathing suit.

So…breakfast. It’s true what they say, and I have learned (from the school of hard knocks) that when I skip it, I overindulge at dinner time. One of the quickest ways to shrink my lil’ pooch down is to go to bed just a little bit hungry. After a couple days my whole routine starts to shift, and I start to wake up with a real desire to eat. Within a week or two I’ve made friends with my pants button again.

Big, healthy, filling breakfast = smarter lunch, conscious snacking, and better discipline at dinner. And that = me strutting down the beach in a two-piece. No pooches allowed.

Good Morning Granola (makes about 5 cups)
A little bit of molasses and ginger gives this cranberry almond granola a rich mahogany spice. Sprinkle ¼ cup of this on top of your yogurt, add a diced banana, and you’ve got a 400 calorie breakfast that will carry you all the way to a healthy lunch.

Granola is one of those “technique” things. Once you’ve got the grain to nut to seed to fruit ratios down, as well as the right amount of oil and sweetener, and the correct baking time and temperature, the possibilities are endless. Feel free to plug in other ingredients to find your signature blend.

2 cups rolled oats
1 cup sliced almonds
¼ cup raw sunflower seeds
¼ cup chia, sesame, or flax seeds (or a combination)
¼ teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon cinnamon
¼ teaspoon ground ginger
¼ teaspoon ground cloves
¼ cup honey
¼ cup maple syrup (or all honey)
2 tablespoons molasses
¼ teaspoon vanilla extract
2 tablespoons canola oil
1 cup sweetened dried cranberries
2 tablespoons crystallized ginger, diced (optional, for ginger lovers)

Preheat oven to 300. Grease a rimmed baking sheet.

In a large mixing bowl combine oats, almonds, seeds, salt, and spices. Stir to combine.

In a separate small mixing bowl combine honey, maple syrup, molasses, vanilla, and canola. Stir well until thoroughly mixed.

Pour the wet ingredients over the dry ingredients and toss to coat evenly. Spread the mixture evenly on baking sheet and place in oven on middle rack. Bake 25 to 30 minutes, stirring halfway through. Do not overbake. Remove from oven and toss with dried fruit. Granola will dry as it cools. Once cool, store in an airtight bag or container. Keeps for several weeks.


Kathy said...

My husband loves granola for breakfast, or a snack. Is this the chewy type? Thanks Kathy.

Ginny Mahar said...

Hi Kathy, and thanks for visiting Food G! To answer your question, yes, I think you could describe this granola as being a little bit chewy, especially after storing it for a few days. Hope you and your husband enjoy it!

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