Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Your granola: yummier, cheaper, fun-ner

I'm making a lot of my own food these days: things I would never have thought to make from scratch before; things I always bought at the market without a second thought. But since I'm living on a farm and my entire life is about nothing but food, since it's really freakin' fun to make this stuff, and since I have the appetite and the intense daily exercise to justify the caloric ramifications of my experiments, I've decided not to pull any punches.

Then there's the fact that on my farm apprentice salary, it makes economic sense to make some things myself -- good bread's an example (a loaf at the local bakery could be $4, I can make a loaf of sourdough with my starter for less than $0.25 -- flour, water, salt); yogurt's another, and you know what's a great accompaniment to yogurt? You guessed it... the icon of the liberal, hippie, sustainability-loving organic farmer, oh-so-crunchy, oh-so-loveable, granola.

Ginger Snap Granola is my personal favorite store-bought brand. Made by Golden Temple, it usually hides out in bulk food bins of natural food stores or cool supermarkets. At our market in Friday Harbor, it runs around $4.60 a pound. Not cheap when you're a granola hound like me. And just what are you getting for $4.60?
INGREDIENTS: Rolled Oats, Organic Evaporated Cane Juice, Expeller Pressed Canola Oil, Crisp Rice (Milled Rice, Evaporated Cane Juice, Salt, Barley Malt Syrup), Honey, Cornstarch, Organic Ginger Root, Sea Salt, Organic Cinnamon Bark, Epazote Leaf, Organic Cardamom Seed, Organic Fennel Seed, Organic Fenugreek Seed, and Organic Nutmeg.
Mm... well, mostly oats and rice and some cool spices thrown in for good measure.

Inspired by Alton and Mark, I decided to make my own delicious gingery granola and calculate the rough price per pound. I started my adventure out in the bulk foods section, skipping the granola and heading straight for nuts and seeds. I ignored pricier items (dried cherries at $16/lb, walnuts at $13/lb) and went for value (pumpkin seeds at $4.28/lb, raw almonds at $4.88/lb.) You could easily (and economically) engineer your way into granola ecstasy by mixing and matching your own favorites.

Not only is homemade granola healthier, cheaper and more fun, but look, it's prettier too!

In the end, I made a mix with lots more excitement and nutritional value than my old go-to (flax seed=omega-3, raisins & cranberries add fruity goodness, seeds add protein, etc...) and all for only $2.97 per pound, or more than 30% less than the cost of the store stuff.

The finished product, ready for scarfing tomorrow

Jess's Extra Gingery Granola
makes about 28 oz or 1.75 lb of delicious golden granola

3 cups oats (12 oz) -- $0.75

1 cup pumpkin seeds, or your favorite seeds (4 oz) -- $0.98

1 cup raw almonds, or your favorite nuts (4 oz) -- $1.27

1/4 cup flax seeds, optional -- you can substitute wheat germ, sesame seeds, or just leave this out (2 oz) -- $0.26 1/4 cup crystallized ginger (2 oz) -- $0.45
1 tsp ground ginger -- $0.05

1/4 cup brown sugar, optional if you like your granola a little sweet -- $0.02

dash of salt

1/2 cup honey or maple syrup, or a combination of the two, yum! -- $0.20

2 tbsp veggie oil -- $0.02

1/2 cup raisins, or your favorite dried fruit (3 oz) -- $0.45

1/2 cup cranberries, or your other favorite dried fruit (3 oz) -- $1.00

= $5.20
for 1.75 lb
= $2.97 per lb

Preheat oven to 300 degrees.

Chop up your nuts and crystallized ginger to desired size. I prefer to buy whole raw nuts & raw seeds because it seems like they're cheaper and you can cut them down however you like to eat them.

In a big bowl, mix up your oats, nuts, seeds, ginger, salt, and brown sugar so that everything is evenly distributed. Pour honey or syrup over the top and the oil and stir well to combine. Make sure everything's nice and coated and sticky. Distribute the granola in a big baking tray (or two little ones). It's better to use trays with sides to make it easier to stir every once in a while.

Bake for one hour, stirring every 15 minutes or so. The browner you can get your granola without burning it, the crunchier and yummier it will be.

Remove the granola from the oven and pour from pan onto parchment paper to cool. When cool, mix in a large bowl with dried fruit. Eat your yummy granola over yogurt, ice cream, with milk, bake it into a granola bar, or just eat it by the handful from the bag.

There are two changes I might try in this recipe: add some additional spices for kick -- take a page from the Ginger Snap book and add some nutmeg, fenugreek, cinnamon, cardamom, and maybe try a batch with cornstarch to see if it makes the granola more "clustered" like the Ginger Snap instead of distributed like the batch I made.


  1. Hello there, I just found your blog! Though we aren't roughing it on a farm, we are transitioning to much of what you are in our urban homesteading way. My family had property on Anderson Island as a kid right up by you, and now I live just a bit South down in Portland.

    I was commenting because I didn't know if you had tried "barring" your granola. We eat a bunch more of it when it is in bar form and then just dump the crunchy bits left over in the bag over our yogurt when the bars are all consumed. If you wanted recipe you can find one on our blog:

    I'm glad to know you are enjoying your exploration into "real" food and participating in how it is grown. We have really liked our adventures as well.

  2. Hey! I'm excited to check out the bar recipe, your blog, and your adventures

    So far I've been killing all the granola with my yogurt and haven't had any left to bar, but it's a good idea especially when I get hungry and want to gnosh during the day.