I have always considered myself a morning person, one of those people who eat and enjoy breakfast every day, but since I started working at Natural Home magazine, I’ve had to set my alarm clock to 5:30 a.m., and breakfast time has been elusive.
For a while I ate the granola bars I buy for my husband despite his lack of interest in breakfast. I always buy the whole grain kind, but they are not for me; I don’t love the flavors they offer, they have too much sodium and are too expensive.
I started looking for recipes in books and online to make my own, and to my surprise I ran into this article from MSNBC about the high calorie and sugar content of granola bars. My suspicions about the store-bought bars are now confirmed, but at the same time I think it is unfair to treat all granola as unhealthy; especially considering that many people have donuts or a processed breakfast sandwich every morning.
One of the problems with granola bars, though, is that in order to hold the ingredients together you need a considerable amount of butter and either honey, sugar or syrup—this adds calories and sugar. I decided that for me, loose granola is probably a better option, even if it is not as easy to transport, because it doesn’t need to be bound by all that sticky sugar.
This is the very simple recipe I have come up with after lots of substitutions from different recipes. I have substituted agave nectar for honey, as it has a very low glycemic index. This and the fact that I used canola oil instead of butter also make the base of this granola vegan. This granola is not very sweet, except for the chocolate that I add at the end, but this is for my own sweet tooth. You can substitute the chocolate for any combination of dried fruit, such as dry bananas or raisins.
I have calculated the nutritional values for this granola through the tool on SparkPeople. Each serving of this granola is 228 calories and 12 grams of fat. It is an estimate because it did not give me the option of adding agave nectar in the amount that I used it, so I used maple syrup as a guide. Each serving is a couple of handfuls, for the estimation I said the total would be 20 servings. This is plenty to keep me going while sitting at my desk, but may not be for those who have active jobs. I eat it dry, and because of the whole almonds it forces you to chew. I am sure it is good with cold rice milk or organic goat milk yogurt, too.
Olivia’s 6 a.m. Granola
3 cups rolled oats
1 ½ cups whole raw almonds
¼ cup canola oil
¼ cup agave nectar
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
¼ cup dark chocolate chips
Adjust the oven rack to the middle low position, and preheat to 300 degrees.
Mix all the ingredients, except the chocolate, in a bowl. Fold with a wood spoon or rubber spatula until combined.
Spread evenly onto a baking sheet and put in the oven for about 1 hour, or until dark golden brown, stirring with a wood spoon or rubber spatula every 15 minutes for even browning.
Cool in the pan and transfer to a bowl, then mix in the chocolate chips. If you mix the chocolate in while it is still warm it will form clumps with the oats, which I find delicious. Store in an air- tight container. Enjoy!
Olivia Blanco Mullins is a journalist and has been eating healthy most of her life, as her parents have owned health food stores for more than 20 years. Currently she lives in Manhattan, Kansas, where her husband owns an Italian restaurant .