When it comes to food, I am definitely a creature of habit. I rarely stray from ordering the same menu item from my favorite restaurants for fear of being disappointed with my decision. There are actually some restaurants where I've been ordering the same thing since I was a kid, which could either mean I had a refined palette as a child or that I now have the same palette as an 11 year old (I'd probably go with the latter).
My stubbornness, for lack of a better word, doesn't necessarily mean that I'm not adventurous when it comes to trying new foods. It just means that I know exactly what I like, and when I crave it, I get it! It's that simple. This mindset also is reflected in what I eat at home, especially for breakfast.
For the past three years, I've been eating the same exact thing for breakfast for about 90% of those days (the other days include breakfast eaten out, being on vacation, or making something else). My breakfast is a piece of Ezekiel Bread, toasted, and slathered with natural peanut butter that has flax and chia seeds in it, with a side of mixed berries and homemade cold brew. I LOVE this meal so much so that I go to bed excited knowing I'll be enjoying it within 8 hours. It's the perfect amount of food because I work out about 45-60 minutes afterwards, and it's full of all the good things (fiber, protein) that my body needs.
Alex is pretty much like me when it comes to breakfast, with the only difference being that he rotates between a few different meals. A go-to breakfast of his is plain greek yogurt with store-bought granola (any variety from Trader Joe's works) with a drizzle of honey and fresh berries. Pretty healthy and delicious sounding, right? Well actually I think it's pretty common knowledge at this point that store-bought granola isn't always the best decision when trying to have a balanced breakfast. Last week, I took a look at the ingredients in the granola that Alex was eating that week and found four different kinds of sugar added and canola oil. Because I care about Alex and his well-being, I took it upon myself to make him a granola that not only is a healthier option, but one that he would prefer over the sugary, addicting varieties from the store.
Enter Nekisia Davis' Olive Oil and Maple Granola - a recipe that I found within the cookbook Genius Recipes from Food52. I had actually made this granola years ago, following the recipe to a T, and I absolutely loved it. The olive oil made the granola have a more savory and interesting flavor, and the maple syrup and brown sugar added such a sweet and caramel-y flavor. But this time, I cut back on the maple syrup and instead of brown sugar, I used coconut sugar and only two tablespoons of it (as opposed to 1/2 cup of brown sugar). I added whichever nuts and seeds I knew Alex would like, added some dried fruit at the end, and the result was FANTASTIC. We've been snacking on the granola for the past two days, and I can happily say that it has replaced the store-bought granola for the foreseeable future.
What's so fun about this recipe is how it's so customizable: you can use any nuts of your choosing (almonds, cashews, pistachios, walnuts, etc.), change up the seeds (pumpkin, sunflower, etc). and if you're not too keen on olive oil, I'm sure coconut oil will work just fine as well. Same goes for the coconut sugar: if you are unfamiliar with this ingredient (you can find it at Trader Joe's in the baking section), feel free to stick to using brown sugar. Furthermore, I scaled back on the sugar in this recipe significantly, but I still think it has a nice sweet taste. If you want to add a couple more tablespoons of coconut or brown sugar, go right ahead. I set out to make a granola that was less sweet and breakfast-worthy, but if those aren't your goals, add all the sugar you want!
After the granola is finished baking, you then get to decide what to add to the mix. Dried fruit (cherries, cranberries, blueberries, apricots, etc.) and bittersweet chocolate chips are excellent additions, but make sure the granola is fully cooled before adding the chocolate (or the chocolate will melt).
So just have fun with this! Make it your own based on your preferences, and you can even change it up every time until you land on a flavor combination that may lead you to eating it every day for breakfast for years. This also makes for a very thoughtful gift for a friend, family member, or coworker. Much more meaningful than giving them yet another candle!
Olive Oil and Maple Granola
Makes about 7 cups
Adapted from Nekisia Davis via Genius Recipes
3 cups old-fashioned rolled oats
1 cup hulled raw sunflower seeds
1 cup unsweetened coconut flakes
1 1/4 cup raw sliced almonds (or you can use whole almonds, roughly chopped)
1 1/4 cup raw pecans, roughly chopped
1/2 cup pure maple syrup
2 tbsp. coconut sugar (or brown sugar)
1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil
1 tsp. coarse salt
Optional add-ins: 1/2 cup dried cranberries, 1/4 cup dried cherries (just a suggestion!)
Preheat the oven to 300°F. Line a rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper.
In a large bowl, mix all the ingredients except for the add-ins, making sure every piece gets coated with the liquid components.
Turn the mixture onto the baking sheet and spread it evenly. Transfer to the oven, and stir the mixture every 10-15 minutes (carefully take the tray out of the oven each time). In total, the granola will take about 45 minutes to finish toasting.
Once out of the oven, transfer the granola to a bowl and toss in your additions of choice. Enjoy!