Dalai Mama Dishes

by Catherine Newman

Catherine Newman cooks for the family

Dalai Mama Dishes

Catherine Newman cooks for the family

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Posted October 27, 2008
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Birdy eats hers with vanilla yogurt and frozen blueberries. Also lots of napkins.

Ben measuring oats. When he was little, I made him a pretend indoor sandbox by filling a huge cardboard box with oats; he ate all the oats.

Ben mixing with his (clean?) hands. Nuts and seeds are an investment: store leftovers in Ziplocs in the freezer so they won’t get rancid.

Before baking.

After baking.

Fun-house hippy girl. Notice Granola and Corn Chex, living together in perfect harmony.

I seriously considered adjusting the last photo here-and by "adjusting," I mean, of course, blurring out the box of Corn Chex in the background. Because it's a bit tricky to make the case for whole grains and whole foods, for investing in your family's health in every possible way-time, money, the womanly art of persuasion-when the love of my life eats a bowl of Corn Chex every single morning. And by "every single morning," what I mean is every single morning. Except weekends when we make pancakes or waffles-and then he eats Corn Chex for lunch.

Be that as it may, the rest of us like to start our school mornings with whole, unprocessed foods: oatmeal, eggs, or leftover soup sometimes, but mostly this granola. Yes, granola is a hippy cliché. Yes, when Michael and I lived in our vegetarian co-op, they delivered it to us in 1-ton boxes that had to be airlifted through the window while we were busy polishing our Birkenstocks and burning Nag Champa incense. But this granola is delicious and utterly wholesome. Plus, it's totally versatile: you can make it with your favorite ingredients, and eat it with either yogurt or milk. Okay, that sounds about as versatile as a toilet plunger-Plunge the toilet! Plunge the sink!-but still.

This granola is exceptionally rich in protein, fiber, and Omegas. It's true that there is brown sugar, honey, and butter in it-but much less than in most granola recipes, and if it takes a bit of sugar and fat to shepherd that lovely flock of whole foods into my children's bodies, that's fine with me. Ditto with the cost, which will seem high when you're first buying the ingredients, but seem really is the operative word here: I am sure that it is much cheaper per unit of nutritional density than any of those woven puffs of vitamin-fortified air (cough *Corn Chex* cough). You might want to start with a little less flax and a little more honey, and then tip the balance slowly each time you make it. By next week, mine is going to be just a giant bowl of salty, vanilla scented flax flakes. I'll let you know how it goes.

active time: 10 minutes; total time: 45 minutes
yield: 10 cups
If your family doesn't share a titanic aversion to sunflower seeds, please feel free to add them here. Along with cinnamon, which is another normal granola additive that I don't add. If you want fruit-raisins, dried cherries, or those rolly dates that look like bird poops-wait until the granola has baked and cooled, then stir it in.

6 cups old-fashioned rolled oats
1 ½ cups coarsely chopped raw nuts (I use a mix of pecans and almonds)
1 ½ cups shredded coconut (mine is the sweetened kind)
¼ cup each raw pumpkin seeds, whole flax seeds, ground flax seeds, and wheat germ
½ cup brown sugar
1 teaspoon kosher salt
¾ stick butter (mine is salted)
1/3 cup mild-tasting honey
1 teaspoon vanilla

Heat the oven to 300. Mix all the dry ingredients together in a very large bowl (hands are nice for this, as are children), then melt the butter and honey together in a small saucepan, add the vanilla, and stir it into the dry ingredients, mixing with a wooden spoon (preferably one that doesn't hold an aromatic memory of garlic or cumin) until everything seems well moistened.

Now spread the granola evenly on two very large rimmed baking sheets (I think mine are called "jelly roll pans," and they're 12 inches by 17 inches) and bake for 15 minutes. Now take the pans out of the oven and use a spatula to stir the granola around-the edges may have started to brown a bit, and the idea is to move it often enough that all of it browns without any of it burning; be especially wary of the wheat germ, which likes to hide out at the bottom of the pan where it can char in peace. Put the pans back in the oven (switching their positions), and bake another 10 minutes, then stir them around and return them to the oven. After another 10 minutes (35 minutes altogether), evaluate the granola for doneness: it should be fairly golden and toasted-looking; if it's not, return it to the oven for a few minutes at a time, stirring at each checking until it's done; bear in mind that it will continue to toast a bit in the hot pans after you remove them from the oven. Allow the finished granola to cool completely before storing in a large, lidded, airtight container.

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About Catherine Newman

Catherine Newman is the author of the memoir, Waiting for Birdy: A Year of Frantic Tedium, Neurotic Angst, and the Wild Magic of Growing a Family, available online and in bookstores nationwide.

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