Say Bye to the Cereal Box with Homemade Granola

homemade banana granola

They say in America everything is bigger and better. Surely not everything, but this certainly holds when it comes to the world’s most popular breakfast foods: I’m talking about the granola vs muesli debate. Both are simple, filling, and (more or less) full of good stuff, but there are differences.

Granola, invented in Dansville, NY by Dr. James Caleb Jackson is a sweetened, baked cereal consisting of oats, nuts, seeds, often including mix-ins such as dried fruit or chocolate. Some kind of fat is also added to achieve the crumbly texture.

Muesli on the other hand, introduced by Swiss physician Maximilian Bircher-Benner, is neither baked nor sweetened, and not that crunchy either.

As a European I feel inclined to say how I enjoy the pure flavor of muesli, how much I appreciate the distinctness and the way oats, nuts and seeds complement one another, but I’ll cut the bullshit right there. Let’s face it: granola is just more delicious. That’s it, I’m sorry Max!

The perked-up version is more popular state-side and humble muesli on this side of the pond. We therefore don’t have such an impressive selection of baked cereals in our supermarkets here. And what we do have is quite expensive for what it is.

My old favorite comes in a big cardboard box with a small plastic bag inside containing just a handful of the simply too sweet stuff bind together with a not specified type of vegetable oil (how reassuring). A 100 g serving contains about 60 g carbohydrates and over 12 g fat. Wow. I still eye that fucker on the store shelf sometimes, but my body just deserves better.

Luckily, making the crunchy clusters at home couldn’t be easier! Replacing the processed, packaged kind is great not only because from now on it’s in your control what goes into your brekkie bowl (I loathe thee, raisin!). It doesn’t have to have a shitload of sugar and fat either!

(I was about to add reducing your ecological footprint too, but had to revise my opinion as the ingredients you’re about to use also come packaged. Bummer.)

homemade banana granola

Checked out many recipes and made a few batches until I found what works best for us. Granola is not an exact science, you have to tweak the ingredients to suit your taste, but that’s the beauty of it: having your own, special edition.

I wanted mine to be free of processed sugar, so I use bananas and a little honey instead to sweaten. Also decided to cut down on fat and substitute it with a healthier alternative: extra virgin olive oil, one of the richest in polyunsaturated fatty acids (a.k.a the good guys).

I use the same seed mix in my granola that I bake into my breads: equal parts sunflower seeds, sesame seeds, lint seeds and pumpkin seeds. As for the nuts, almonds and walnuts are our favorite, but hazelnuts and pecans are also a great choice. For mix-ins, I prefer spices. OK, sometimes I give in and add dark chocolate chips too. 🙂

This amount, kept in a glass jar, lasts for about a week in our house. I like to eat it with low-fat natural yogurt and berries that are a bit sour (just.love.blackcurrant.) while Husband is not that hard-core as he likes to put it, and prefers milk and banana slices drizzled with pure maple syrup.

homemade banana granola

See how a healthier, homemade granola is such a no-brainer:

Banana Granola

  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print

A healthy take on store-bought cereals

Ingredients

3 cups rolled oats (half fine, half coarse)

1 cup walnuts, roughly chopped

½ cup almonds, whole or sliced

¼ cup seed mix (sesame, lint, sunflower, pumpkin)

1 tsp cinnamon

½ tsp nutmeg

½ tsp allspice

a handful of dark chocolate chips (optional)

2 ripe bananas, mashed

2 tbsp runny honey

1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 180°C / 350°F, line baking tray with parchment paper.
  2. In two separate bowls, mix wet and dry ingredients except chocolate (if using).
  3. Combine wet & dry ingredients well to coat evenly.
  4. Spread mixture on baking tray in a thin layer.
  5. Bake for 30 min or until dark golden.
  6. Allow to cool, than crumble.
  7. Mix in chocolate chips, transfer granola to a glass jar or other airtight container.

How do you do breakfast cereal? I’d love to see some ideas so I can switch things up a bit from time to time.

Love,

Fruzsi

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Dutch Baby, the New Star of Our Weekends

dutch baby in skillet

I might be a little late to the bandwagon with this one as one Manca’s Cafe of Seattle already owned the trademark for the Dutch Baby in 1942 and it is said to actually derive from German pancakes, so you probably won’t find anything revolutionary below.

Still, this hybrid of a beauty (hello, crepes, pancakes and popovers!) is new to our breakfast routine. First, because when we say pancakes in Hungary what we mean is the thin, French crêpe filled with apricot jam or sweet cottage cheese. And also because pancakes are considered dessert or eaten as second course after a hearty soup.

I took my chances despite all the rules – going against tradition and making dessert for breakfast. I’m telling you, Dutch Babies are on demand ever since! And as my country is becoming more acquainted with brunching, I’m sure we will soon see them popping up (literally!) everywhere.

I don’t think pancakes need much explaining to anyone. All versions of this pastry are prepared from eggs, milk, flour, sugar and salt, leavened or unleavened. And while I like and regularly make most of the variations, dutch babies are particularly awesome because it’s not necessary to prepare several pieces from the batter: one skillet, one pouring, and you’re set.

BTW, skillets. I bought a cast iron skillet and not used it for years. Nowadays, it’s out constantly. I found the idea of seasoning too much of a hassle first, but once I got the hang of it, this lasting piece become one of the trustiest items in my kitchen (read this short how-to if you need some clarifying on the subject).

dutch baby slice

Anyway. Here’s a few Dutch Baby tricks I’ve learnt:

Don’t start with preheating your oven. Make the batter, and then switch the heat on. In the cca. 15 minutes the temperature reaches ‘hot’, the flour will have time to start absorbing the liquid. The result is a softer, tender texture and crunchy edges.

To help your pancake puff up nice and high, use a smaller skillet (like a 9″ or 10″). Although any oven-safe pan (even a pie dish!) will do, cast iron is best without a doubt. Using a hot pan also helps increase the puff, so warm the skillet along with the oven.

This one is from Chrissy Teigen’s Cravings: using your blender to make the batter. A few pulses and the ingredients are mixed smoothly with no lumps, much better than me and my whisk would ever be able to. The washing-up is the same, so you decide!

Dutch Babies can be pretty versatile too. Enrich the batter with caramelised fruits like apples or pears (when adding fruits, remember to arrange them over the bottom of the pan first, pouring the batter over top: this way the add-ons won’t weigh your Baby down). Cocoa powder and spices also work wonders. Think cinnamon, cloves, nutmeg and allspice.

I’ll add the recipe, just in case you lived under a rock like I did don’t happen to have one. This batch serves the two of you. If you have more mouths to feed, offer slices along with other breakfast favorites. Recipe can be scaled up.

Dutch Baby Pancake

  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print

A spectacular skillet pancake guaranteed to wow.

Ingredients

4 eggs

1 cup all-purpose flour

1 cup whole milk

pinch of salt

1 tbsp granulated sugar

1 tsp vanilla extract

2 tbsp butter

Directions

  1. Measure ingredients except butter into your blender and pulse to mix well, about 2×10 sec.
  2. While batter is resting, preheat oven to 200°C / 400°F, along with the skillet.
  3. Carefully take skillet out and toss in butter, swirl to cover sides as well (watch out for sputters)
  4. Pour batter in skillet, transfer to hot oven immediately.
  5. Bake until puffed up and golden, about 15-20 min. Serve hot.

Do you make Dutch Babies often? What do you prefer eating them with? Melted butter? Drizzled with honey? Maple syrup? Jam? Fresh fruits? Or simply dusted with powdered sugar?

I just love squatting in front of the oven to watch as it puffs.

Love,

Fruzsi

Friday Finds

The month of lights, snow and feasts is here. December, you are the last one so be the best one!

No snow yet, but morning frosts have arrived (image via Tumblr):

frosty pine and haybales

One word: home.

r.m. drake quote

How cozy does this one look! (image via Pinterest)

breakfast in bed

Time to get festive (image via Tumblr):

candles in drinking glass

These poached pears look so incredible (photo by S. Tuck of From The Kitchen):

poached pears

Happy weekend!

Fruzsi

Baked Oatmeal 3 Ways

baked-oatmeal-3-ways-title

Update: For those of you with lactose intolerance, I’ve made the recipes with almond and soy milk too, they both work fine. Simply substitute 1:1 

You guys over there in the US of A seem to have a national day for just about everything, and I love you for that. Why yes, it’s always a good idea to celebrate and/or raise awareness! I honestly think we should copy-paste your National Day Calendar as-is.

Now I know it’s only Monday, but let the preparations start in time because this Saturday marks not just one, but 3 of your National Days. October 29th is National Cat Day, National Oatmeal Day and also National Hermit Day. Not sure about the latter, but please allow my humble Hungarian self to join in on for the other two.

We share a home with two cats and our feral rescue fur babies are literally the cutest, so that one is obvs. And then, there is oatmeal. Oats, the base for “America’s favorite breakfast” oatmeal, are grown mostly for forage here, but started gaining a footing in our kitchens as well. I personally am a big fan and always keep a few packages of Lidl’s Norwaldtaler or Aldi’s Kunsperone Old-Fashioned Oats in my pantry.

Oats are good for you because they contain a type of soluble fibre that slows down the absorption of carbohydrates into the bloodstream: this slower digestion prevents spikes in blood sugar. Also, oats are a rich source of magnesium, which is key to enzyme function and energy production, and helps prevent heart attacks, aiding the heart muscle and regulating blood pressure.

While all oats start off as oat groats after harvest, there are a variety of table oats depending on how much the unbroken grains were processed. If you need clarification on roasting, steaming, and the difference between steel-cut, rolled and instant oats (like I did), this article will answer all your questions.

For my taste, oats are a little bland on their own, but luckily you can dress this ingredient up nicely to make a warm, delicious and deeply comforting meal to start your day off right. It’s just a texture preference of mine and you don’t need to follow suit, but I buy both coarse and fine oats, and mix the two.

We love oat biscuits (the family fav is a walnut-oat biscuit, a particularly guilty pleasure the recipe of which I plan on sharing as we go deeper into the cold season), and I’ve been making a lot of baked oatmeal as well lately for lazy weekend mornings.

The 3 most popular flavors turned out to be banana, apple pie and pumpkin pie (considering fall is in full swing, no surprise there). They are a total no-brainer and reheat beautifully: just store in the fridge and pop the leftover in the microwave. Enjoy with a huge cup of latte!

You can cut down on the sugar if you like, all the added fruits contain plenty of sweetness. Optionally, toast almonds or chopped walnuts in a dry pan to sprinkle on top of your steaming bowl of a hearty breakfast.

BTW, the HF Coors Shirred Egg French Round chefsware in the pictures? Thrifted at the Negreni Fair for $1.25 each. I can’t help but wonder at the food and the kitchens they’ve seen since manufactured in Inglewood, CA up until they got – undamaged! – to a tiny village on the other side of the globe to be found, bargained at, and taken home by me. All that history!

Without further ado, I give you my baked oatmeal recipes:

banana bread baked oatmeal

Baked Banana Bread Oatmeal

  • Servings: 2
  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print

Ingredients

1 cup rolled oats

1 cup milk

2 ripe bananas, smashed

1/4 cup brown sugar

1 medium egg

pinch of salt

1 tsp vanilla extract

1/2 tsp baking powder

1 tsp cinnamon

1/4 tsp nutmeg

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 175°C (350°F)
  2. In a bowl, mix oats, sugar, salt, baking powder and spices.
  3. In a separate bowl, whisk eggs, milk, vanilla and banana.
  4. Pour liquid mixture into dry ingredients and stir to combine.
  5. Transfer to baking dish and bake for about half an hour, until middle is set.

apple pie baked oatmeal

Baked Apple Pie Oatmeal

  • Servings: 2
  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print

Ingredients

1 cup rolled oats

1 cup milk

1 cup applesauce

1/4 cup brown sugar

1 medium egg

pinch of salt

1 tsp vanilla extract

1/2 tsp baking powder

1 tsp apple pie spice

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 175°C (350°F)
  2. In a bowl, mix oats, sugar, salt, baking powder and spices.
  3. In a separate bowl, whisk eggs, milk, vanilla and applesauce.
  4. Pour liquid mixture into dry ingredients and stir to combine.
  5. Transfer to baking dish and bake for about half an hour, until middle is set.

pumpkin pie baked oatmeal

Baked Pumpkin Pie Oatmeal

  • Servings: 2
  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print

Ingredients

1 cup rolled oats

1 cup milk

1 cup pumpkin puree

1/4 cup brown sugar

1 medium egg

pinch of salt

1 tsp vanilla extract

1/2 tsp baking powder

1 tsp pumpkin pie spice

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 175°C (350°F)
  2. In a bowl, mix oats, sugar, salt, baking powder and spices.
  3. In a separate bowl, whisk eggs, milk, vanilla and pumpkin puree.
  4. Pour liquid mixture into dry ingredients and stir to combine.
  5. Transfer to baking dish and bake for about half an hour, until middle is set.

Love,

Fruzsi

“Healthy cereals for breakfast” photo featured in title image © evening_tao via freepik

 *Disclaimer: I like and use the products mentioned in posts on My Chest of Wonders. What I write about such items represent my genuine and unbiased opinion, I am not being compensated in any way through sponsorship or gifts.*