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Recipe for happiness

I don’t know if it’s a fact of my upbringing or something hard-wired into me, but it’s the small things that get to me. Little details of life make me happy, and little details of life drive me up the wall. I am dismayed or angry but never depressed about war, poverty or hunger; a sink full of dirty dishes is something I can’t take. I can stand the fact that a marriage can never be perfect, but I’m driven to despair by a meaningless little argument.

The hard thing about this attribute is that sometimes I spend days pondering, “What did she really mean when she said, ‘thank you’?”

The good thing is that I can usually get myself out of a funk with a small thing that gives me that little bit of joy I need.

Like granola.

I always liked granola, but it was on a business trip in my long distant past when I used to take business trips that I got a cup of yogurt and granola at a cafe in Vancouver, Canada. I had an epiphany. I was actually miserable on that trip, I now recall, but the granola is the main memory I came back with. It is my perfect breakfast.

So I set about trying to find the perfect granola. I tried various types in the bulk bins at the health food store, but the problem with bulk granola is that it ranges in freshness, and what I liked one week would be stale the next. So then I tried various packaged brands. The high fat, high calorie ones like Bear Naked were great. The low-fat varieties were all way too sweet. And they were all way too expensive.

So I started on my quest to make the perfect (for me) granola. It has to be only slightly sweet, it can’t have any very strong flavors that wake me up too quickly, and it can’t be loaded with fat. Also, keep your dried fruit outta my granola — you can always add that later, but it screws up the texture if you store them together.

This is what I came up with:

Put about 8 cups of grains in a large bowl. I do mostly rolled (not quick) oats, with oat bran or wheat germ

Add a large splash of unsalted pepitas (husked pumpkin seeds, available at Trader Joe’s) or other seeds you like

Add a good mix of raw nuts (I use almonds, pecans, and cashews)

Mix in spices (see below) and brown sugar

Dribble on maple syrup and canola oil

Mix and then spread on a large baking sheet

If it looks too dry, add some more oil over the top

Put it in a 300 degree oven on convect

Stir every 15 minutes until it feels dry (usually about 45  minutes for me)

Cool, then add ground flax seed (see note)

Store in airtight container

So here are my notes: The spices are up to your particular tastes. The standard ones would be cinnamon, cloves, and nutmeg (pumpkin pie spices). I like to add cardamom because it’s my favorite spice, and ginger for its anti-inflammatory properties. I usually leave out the cloves because they are a strong taste that conflicts with the cardamom. I do about 6-8 teaspoons total, balanced as I like them. You can get ideas by just looking at packaged granola in the store. Some people like something really bold like candied ginger.

I used to use all maple syrup, but then the price skyrocketed. So now I add a handful of light brown sugar first, then dribble on maple syrup for flavor. Many people use honey, but when I try that it gets a yucky burnt taste that I don’t like because honey has a very low burning point.

You add the flax seeds ground because your body doesn’t really process whole ones, and you add them cold because heating them apparently kills off their Omega-3 properties (or so a local doctor told me!).

The great thing about this is that you can completely control what goes in. If you need to have a very low sugar diet, just put in a little to sweeten it up, or add your favorite non-sugar sweetener. (Personally, since I don’t have to worry about it, I have to say that I’m a fan of just plain ol’ sugar.) If fat is your concern, I wouldn’t suggest leaving it out entirely, but only put in a little and mix well. Low-fat granola will be drier than fattier granola. Kids will want it sweeter, probably.

I eat my granola over plain yogurt, which I also make myself these days. But I haven’t perfected yogurt yet, so I won’t write about my travails. Well, OK, just that I used to be in despair after forgetting my yogurt and ruining it over and over, so I bought a little yogurt maker, and it makes wonderful yogurt but now I have to deal with cleaning out all those little jars that won’t get clean in the dishwasher, and see above for what little irritating details of life do to me!!

The other little irritating detail of life is that I convinced my husband to try my granola, and now he loves it, too. I’m just glad the kids aren’t onto it yet or I’d be making granola in a commercial oven! My husband has learned that he must not take the end of the granola (he eats breakfast before me), or see above for consequences.

I have passed this recipe on to several very happy friends and family members, so now I share it with you. Use it wisely, and pass it on to others who need a recipe for morning happiness.

Posted in Parenting.

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