Real Granola (Yes, I know: Not a person)
I am not a chef. I’ve never claimed to enjoy the cooking process. I don’t like to get dirty and I don’t like my kitchen to be messy. I do, however, enjoy the process of getting dressed, putting on make-up and fixing my hair to go out to dinner.
That said, since having kids and moving to a tiny village in France, I have been forced to cook for my family… and, I will say, seeing them (sometimes) enjoy the food I prepare makes me incredibly happy and gives me a great sense of accomplishment.
In New York we were blessed (trust me, it was a blessing!) with having two Whole Foods within walking distance. Here, we have a market in our village center every Saturday morning. Technically it is within walking distance from our house, right down a steep, winding hill. The problem is getting back up that mini mountain with your arms filled with bags of fruit, vegetables, cheese, milk, yogurt and roast chicken.
Yeah, I know, you want to smack me because I am complaining about what probably sounds like a dream. But, just for a second, think of your lives without Whole Foods. Where would you get your whole grain pasta, bread and cookies? Your fresh, pre-cut fruit? Iced coffee with almond milk by the gallon? Good-tasting Kombucha? (You should try the French kind – there is a reason it hasn’t caught on here). What about raw, dark chocolate macaroons (the healthy coconut kind, not the Ladurée kind, although I have nothing against those)? And kale!?! I don’t think I have one friend in New York City who doesn’t eat kale at least once a week… and kale is only sold for livestock here!!! I haven’t yet figured out where one goes to buy livestock food here, but trust me, I will.
I also miss my $9.00 gluten-free granola (my husband, on the other hand, is kind of glad that is out of my reach).
Oh, I should also mention our son is allergic to eggs, nuts and mustard. Try to find a sauce or sausage without mayonnaise or mustard in it. Or a dessert or French treat from the boulangerie that isn’t made with eggs and some kind of nut powder…
At Whole Foods we can get egg-free blueberry waffles with Grover on the box! And Puffins! Oh man, my kids miss Puffins!
So, yes, we’ve all had to adapt… especially the one who has had to learn to cook and like it.
Luckily I have a good friend who happens to be a chef, Anna Watson Carl, who helps me out from afar… and not just by sending me boxes of healthy pre-made stuff in the mail.
I’ve written about Anna before: she is a healthy chef/food writer/blogger (www.theyellowtable.com) who lives in Manhattan. She also happens to be a total Francophile who trained to be a chef at a culinary institute in a chateau in Bordeaux, so she knows what it’s like to live and grocery shop in France.
She and her husband stayed with us in Maine last month. One morning I mournfully said, holding a bag of Lucy’s Practically Gluten-Free Granola in my hands, “I miss real granola!”
French “granola” (or muesli croustillant), as Anna knows, is basically little clusters of refined wheat and oats (but you can’t see any grains that remotely resemble actual oats) that are pulverized and then glued back together by liquified, refined sugar. Most muesli croustillant comes with pieces of chocolate in it.
Anna mentioned she had a recipe for some delicious, real granola, so I followed her recipe for crunchy maple pecan granola the other day and ended up adding a few of the ingredients from the Lucy’s Granola that I am currently obsessed with (I need some coconut in my granola!). Here is the recipe I adapted from Anna’s:
2 cups old fashioned oats
1 cup of gluten-free muesli
1 cup sunflower seeds
1 1/2 cups whole or roughly chopped pecans (or walnuts, almonds, etc… I used almonds)
1/4 cup pure maple syrup
1/4 cup light brown sugar (I replaced this with honey)
1/2 cup olive oil
1 teaspoon cinnamon (optional)
Coarse sea salt
**I added 1/2 cup of shredded coconut, 1/2 cup of pumpkin seeds and 1/2 dried cranberries… I also recommend adding a little more salt than you think is necessary. I did this with one batch by accident and it turned out to be the best batch! I also cooked it a couple of minutes longer, but it all depends on your taste… and how your oven behaves.**
Preheat the oven to 300 degrees F. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper. In a large bowl, combine the oats, sunflower seeds, and pecans. In a smaller bowl, whisk together the maple syrup, brown sugar, olive oil, and cinnamon until smooth.
Pour the maple mixture over the oat mixture and stir well to combine.
Pour the mixture onto the two trays and spread evenly with a spatula. Season lightly with sea salt.
Bake for 15 minutes, then stir the granola gently. Depending on your oven, you may want to switch the baking sheets at this point to make sure they cook evenly.(My oven is an old gas oven, so it’s a must!)
Cook for another 15 minutes then stir. Cook for 3-5 more minutes or until golden brown.
Remove from the oven and place on cooling racks until completely cool and crisp. Store in airtight containers at room temperature (I recycled some Kusmi Detox Tea tins). Will keep for several weeks (though it won’t likely last that long! – Anna’s words and so true!)
Et voilà: we had healthy granola in France! I even threw in a few dark chocolate chips into the salty batch and had it for a snack a few times – yum!
Maybe I’ll start selling it here for €9 a tin!
Or not. Pffft… so American!
Thank you, Anna! (P.S. – I found coffee extract online here, so I’m waiting for that salted, dark chocolate and espresso cookie recipe you mentioned!!!!)