For the past 13 months, my migraine attacks have been so frequent and so long-lasting, that I am beginning to fear they have become chronic. When this seemingly never-ending round began in April 2017, I thought it was due to stress from my car’s dying on the road and being irreparable. Though I got another car within 10 days, the migraine didn’t stop. “Reduce your stress,” said my doctor at every single now-monthly visit, until I was virtually living like a hermit with no apparent reduction in migraine pain or frequency. Several months ago, I began going through every single item in my kitchen, vowing to eliminate any food additives or artificial sweeteners that might be lurking in my meals. I went through my cookbooks and vowed to make everything from scratch. Everything. From scratch. So I would know every single ingredient that was going into my body. Unfortunately, every time I thought I’d found the offending trigger, and had a half-day’s respite, the migraine would return with furious anger.
In the meantime, however, I found lots of ways to enjoy food prepared as simply as possible, with very few sauces or condiments (unless I make them myself). One of my most exciting discoveries was that I could make my own granola. I love it over yogurt, as muesli (I eat mine with cold water, a hold-over from my years as a vegetarian and/or vegan back in the days when such conveniences as soy-milk were unheard of), or straight from my hand into my mouth. Most of the commercial brands are high-fat or, if low-fat, covered with honey. (I’m allergic to bees, and the last time I had some honey in baked goods, I ended up in the ER.)
I’m a big fan of Deb Perelman, of Smitten Kitchen fame, and earlier this year, I treated myself to both her cookbooks. It was in her 2012 The Smitten Kitchen Cookbook that I found her recipe for Big Cluster Maple Granola (pp. 26-27), which you can also find online at Serious Eats.
Deb’s version is very fine, although the egg whites she uses for “clustering” made me a big nervous. I used her recipe as is the first time, and then, when it didn’t cluster despite the addition of the egg whites, I went off on my own and tinkered away, burning quite a few batches in the process.
I’ve finally mastered my own low-fat, vegan granola, and I cannot keep it in the house. And that was before I finally pronounced the recipe an actual success, wrote it down on the pages of Deb’s cookbook, and offered my guy a taste. I may have to start making more than one batch a week of this very fine granola.
4 C old-fashioned rolled oats, uncooked (I use a generic brand)
1 C pumpkin seeds (kernels, shelled, no salt)
1 C flax seeds (whole)
⅔ – 1 C maple syrup (I started with the ⅔, and finally settled on 1 C because of the extra ingredients
2 T olive oil (extra virgin, and be sure to taste it first: you want a slightly sweet taste, not a bitter one)
1 t Vietnamese cinnamon, ground (any kind of cinnamon will do, but Vietnamese has the best taste)
½ t sea salt (coarse or fine: both work)
½ C each dried blueberries, dried cherries, dried cranberries (or any mixture you wish)
Pre-heat oven to 300º F.
Combine all ingredients except the dried fruit in a large bowl and stir well until all the dry ingredients seem evenly coated with the liquid ingredients. Spread it on a large cookie sheet covered with parchment paper. (This will work fine without parchment paper, but if you don’t have any parchment baking paper, do not use waxed paper instead: it will smoke — if it doesn’t catch fire — and will taint the granola.)
Bake for 20 minutes. **
Using a large spatula, carefully turn over the granola in sections: it browns on the underside and on the very edges. Rotate the pan to ensure even toasting.
Bake 15-20 minutes more.
If it looks like it needs a bit more browning, rotate the pan, turn the oven off, and “bake” for 5-7 more minutes, checking the granola every minute. It goes from it could be just a little browner to burnt, blackened, and ruined faster than you can imagine, so keep an eye on it.
When it looks light to medium brown, remove from oven. Set aside while you pour dried fruit into a heat-proof bowl. Mix the fruit slightly.
You do not have to wait for the granola to cool completely before mixing it with the dried fruit. In fact, I prefer mixing the warm-to-hot granola in with the dried fruit and letting the two parts mingle their flavors. You do what you prefer.
Lifting the ends of the parchment paper by both sides, slowly lift all the granola off the cookie sheet and pour it directly into the bowl of dried fruit. If you’re not using parchment sheet, you may have to spoon the granola into the bowl: the small seeds and toasty oatmeal scatter easily.
With a large mixing spoon, carefully stir until the dried fruit seems evenly distributed among the granola.
Eat straight from the bowl (I mean, from the storage jar), serve mixed with yogurt, sprinkled over ice cream, or with milk (soy milk, almond milk, cold water, juice) as muesli for breakfast.
Store in an air-tight storage jar. Deb Perelman says hers lasts up to 2 weeks on the counter in the air-tight jars, but I’ve never had any granola left after a week.
And if you have any questions or suggestions, please do let me know.
* I use Gerbs seeds and dried fruit because, although the dried fruit has a bit of sugar, it’s not very sweet, and all their products are non-GMO, vegan, and kosher. I get everything else at the grocery, and I use generic when I can find it.
** I’m high-altitude, about 8500 feet in the Rockies, so you may have to adjust your own baking time. Perelman’s original recommendation is 45-55 minutes at 300º F, turning/rotating etc. about half-way through.