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Granola is a scam

Heather Hopp-Bruce

What a lovely ritual it was, waking up on weekend mornings and strolling to the farmers’ market to purchase seasonal produce, sip coffee with friends and neighbors, watch the kiddies gallivant to live music, and — eventually, inevitably — pay $12 for a wee portion of artisanal granola in a brown paper bag with a cute logo hand-stamped on front.

We need new morning rituals now.

Here is one: Make your own granola. Because if you, like me, have consumed your share of the expensive artisanal stuff, I have news for you: You have been victim to a scam. A granola grift, if you will. A cereal con. A breakfast bamboozle. A topping travesty! (I’m stopping now.) Yes, nuts are kind of expensive. And still granola costs little to make, both in terms of dollars and effort. I just crunched the numbers on the excellent granola from Eleven Madison Park, and an investment of somewhere in the ballpark of $10 and an hour of your time will net you 6 cups of sweet, oaty goodness, spiked with pistachios, pumpkin seeds, dried cherries, and coconut flakes. Six cups of granola lasts a long time.

You’ll need to make some decisions about what you’d like to put in your granola, which combination of nuts, dried fruits, and flavorings you favor. (My go-to is pistachios, pepitas, dried cherries, raisins, and chopped crystallized ginger.) After that, the cooking instructions are basically: Toss things together in a bowl, spread them on a baking sheet, and put the mixture in the oven until it turns golden. Voila! You have overthrown the granola-industrial complex.


(That said, support your small local food businesses, including granola makers, as you desire/are able. I kid, there’s overhead, etc. etc. And in a few weeks, when selling snacks, toilet paper, and homemade face masks on the black market becomes the clearest path to getting by in this economy, please buy my very delicious granola, which I will sell in brown paper bags with a cute logo hand-stamped on front.)


Here is a recipe for one version from the Globe archives. Substitute any dried fruits and nuts you like; store in an airtight container.


Makes about 9 cups

1 box (18 ounces) old-fashioned rolled oats (about 5 cups)

1 cup slivered almonds

1/4 cup sunflower seeds

2 tablespoons sesame seeds

1 cup shredded unsweetened coconut

2 teaspoons ground cinnamon

1/4 teaspoon kosher salt

1/3 cup honey

1/2 cup golden raisins

1/2 cup dark raisins

1/2 cup dried cranberries

1. Set the oven at 350 degrees. Have on hand a large rimmed baking sheet.

2. In a large bowl, combine the oats, almonds, sunflower and sesame seeds, coconut, cinnamon, and salt. Toss well.

3. Drizzle the mixture with honey and stir to distribute it. Transfer the granola to the baking sheet. Bake the mixture for 30 minutes, stirring every 10 minutes, or until the oats are brown and toasty.

4. Remove from the oven. Sprinkle with golden and dark raisins and cranberries. With a spoon, mix well. Set aside to cool, stirring occasionally so the granola doesn’t stick to the pan.

Adapted from a recipe by Julie Riven; photo by Karoline Boehm Goodnick

Granola.Karoline Boehm-Goodnick (custom credit)/Karoline Boehm-Goodnick

Of course, granola is of little use without yogurt, and this brings us to another of my favorite grumpy hobbyhorses: American yogurt is not very good. Eating yogurt in France, Greece, India, heck even Japan is a delightful experience. These thick, tangy, rich, and character-filled substances have little in common with the mass-market, low-fat, fruity sugar bombs sold in US markets. The situation has improved in recent years, but we are still behind when it comes to readily available, delicious yogurt.


It is a good thing that, again, it is so easy to make your own. Once you start, you will wonder why you haven’t been doing it all along. If jam’s your jam, mix in whatever kind you like. Layer the yogurt with fruit for parfaits. And, of course, top it with your homemade granola. Because we’re making plain yogurt, it is also excellent in baked goods; dolloped on top of spicy stews; mixed with grated garlic, lemon zest and/or juice, and salt for a dipping sauce (try this with fried or roasted zucchini); and in endless other applications you are sure to discover when there’s a tub always in your fridge. It’s also a good substitute for things like sour cream, crème fraiche, and buttermilk (thinned with water) when these ingredients aren’t on hand.

This method comes from food writer Priya Krishna’s father, thus the name.

Dad’s Yogurt

Makes 1 quart

4 cups organic whole milk

1/4 cup full-fat plain yogurt

1. Evenly coat the bottom of a medium Dutch oven or other heavy-bottomed pot with a thin layer of water (this will prevent the milk from sticking to the bottom of the pot). Set the pot over high heat and add the milk. Heat the milk until it just comes to a boil, watching it closely — as soon as you start to see bubbles forming, take the pot off the heat. Let the milk cool until it reaches 130 degrees. If you don’t have a thermometer, the milk should be warm enough that you can comfortably stick your (clean!) finger into it — it should feel hot, but not so hot as to scald your finger.


2. While the milk is cooling, smear the bottom of a 1-quart container with 1 teaspoon of the yogurt.

3. When the milk has cooled, add the rest of the yogurt to the milk and stir for 3 minutes to make sure the yogurt has completely dissolved into the milk.

4. Pour the milk-yogurt mixture into the container and loosely cover the top, leaving a little room for air to get out.

5. Place the container inside an unheated oven with the oven light on and let it sit for several hours, or as long as overnight — until it is firm but still jiggles like Jell-O. Place it in the refrigerator to chill and set.

Adapted from “Indian-ish: Recipes and Antics From a Modern American Family,” by Priya Krishna

Other things to try

- Another Globe recipe for granola, this one from Sally Pasley Vargas.

- This granola recipe from local favorite Clear Flour Bread.


- The delicious comforts of yogurt rice, to which I was introduced by Food & Wine restaurant editor Khushbu Shah. At home, “Gujarati-style meals always consist of roti, dal, rice, and a vegetable,” she says. “But I didn’t always love dal, so to finish the rice, my mom would mix it with yogurt and salt. I’ve loved it since I was very little. It’s become my go-to thing. It’s comforting and homemade and very cheap.” At its most basic, yogurt rice is warm or room-temperature rice mixed with plain yogurt (not Greek) and salt to taste, as soupy or dry as you like it. You can also add Indian pickle of some sort, or temper spices in fat and pour that over the rice. But this is really a time for your refrigerator cabbage to shine: Khushbu recommends sautéing the cabbage with turmeric, chile powder, and salt, then mixing it together in a bowl with the basic version of yogurt rice described above.

Question of the day: What are you eating for breakfast during quarantine? Do you find your morning tastes have changed? Has your hurried bowl of cereal turned into a luxurious pancake banquet? Or are you suddenly skipping breakfast altogether, because soon enough it will be lunch? Let me know what your mornings look like now.

Thinking of you, good people.

- Devra

Devra First can be reached at devra.first@globe.com. Follow her on Twitter @devrafirst.