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Groovy Recipes That Are So Granola

Expecting the usual oat flavor of most store-bought granolas, I was blown away by the spices that hit my tongue: cardamom, pistachio, brown sugar. ... Unlike the granola I had been eating all of my life, the flavors in this homemade batch kept me going back for more.

Few foods are so closely associated with their history that they become adjectives. Yet we know what it means to call something "granola." The word has come to represent the 1960s of peace, love and health foods. Even the consistency of granola — crunchy — often is used as a synonym.

My enthusiasm for granola was rekindled recently one morning at work when the chef put out a large serving of her homemade granola for the restaurant staff to try. She served it with a bowl of Greek yogurt and pomegranate seeds to sprinkle on top. Having already eaten a full breakfast, I decided to try a small portion, grabbing a glass coffee mug and filling it with just a touch of each sample.

Expecting the usual oat flavor of most store-bought granolas, I was blown away by the spices that hit my tongue: cardamom, pistachio, brown sugar. With each spoonful I felt the cool, smooth yogurt, the crunch and flavor of the granola, and the sweet, tangy juice that released when my teeth found one of the bright red pomegranate seeds.

As my spoon hit the bottom of the mug, I was already on my way back for seconds, then thirds, then fourths. At last, as I peered into the clear bottom of the coffee cup, I commanded myself to stop. Unlike the granola I had been eating all of my life, the flavors in this homemade batch kept me going back for more.

Though it is strongly associated with the 1960s, granola has been around for more than a century. In 1863, sanitarium owner James Jackson created a graham flour product for his patients. He called it "granula."

Forty years later, at another sanitarium, John Harvey Kellogg created a similar product substituting oats for graham flour. He, too, called it granula — until he was sued by Jackson. Kellogg renamed his dried cereal "granola."

Granola did not really catch on, however, until a century later. The healthful eating movement of the 1960s started, with young adults rejecting generation-old political views as well as processed foods.

With an emphasis on whole grains and organic ingredients, cereal companies such as Kellogg, Post and Quaker Oats decided to rebrand and remarket their whole-grain granolas. In 1972, Pet Inc. introduced Heartland Natural Cereal, with the other cereal companies following close behind. And in 1975, Nature Valley rolled out the first granola bar.

Today shoppers can find granola in any flavor: vanilla, peanut butter, chocolate raspberry, maple cranberry; and with a variety of mix-ins: sunflower seeds, cashews, chocolate-covered pretzels and shredded coconut. With so many options, it can be hard to find one product with all the preferred ingredients. Some consumers like dried fruit, while others do not. Some want a sweeter, more indulgent granola, and others want the bare-bones oats. There are even websites where you can order your own custom-made granola.

Once I tasted the chef's homemade concoction, I decided to give it a go myself. To my surprise, the delectable breakfast treat was a cinch to make; no long hours toiling in the kitchen, even very few dirty pots and pans. It was so easy, I made several batches and packaged them as holiday gifts, pleasing and surprising several family members and friends. Then, I used the leftovers to fuel more creations: granola bars, granola cookies and granola scones.

"I had to throw out the last few granola bars, because I couldn't keep myself from eating them," my sister told me. "How did you make those?" Proud of my creation, I almost did not want to confess how easy they were to put together.

Granola remains a comfort food for those seeking a way to sweeten or add nutrients to their morning meal. Some even use it as a snack on the go, a way to fuel up for a long day at work or an afternoon hike. Though labeling something "granola" generally calls to mind a Birkenstock-and-tie-dye-clad free spirit, its name truly represents a dedication to whole grains and nutrition. So go ahead, call me granola, or even crunchy — just let me keep my cardamom-hinted, honey-glazed, wholesome oat granola.

Copyright 2023 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Eve Turow
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