I grew up in the San Francisco Bay Area during the 60’s and 70’s. It was the heyday of the hippie movement and the beginning of today’s health food practices. A man named Euell Gibbons was touting the virtues of raw foods and whole grains. People were moving away from the cities and establishing communal farms. It was a time of change, rebellion, protest, open love, drugs, rock and roll music, and challenging the practices of our parent’s generation. Much of it thankfully passed me by, but I am still a child of that era. In hindsight, it was similar to the changes that occurred during the Roaring Twenties with young people forcing modifications to the mores of the day.
My friends and I witnessed the first Earth Day, the identification of noise pollution, the first man walking on the moon and, unfortunately, we experienced many public assassinations and our country’s first televised war. Most of my friends wore POW bracelets and attended protest rallies, and though we were politically aware, we were still young friends looking for good times. We spent many weekends enjoying incredible music at Days on the Green. It was a confusing and disturbing time, as well as an exciting time. We are a generation born of change and nonconformity. And all of that shaped the generation that now runs this country.
At the same time, in Berkeley, California, in addition to the war protests and People’s Park sit-ins, a new food initiative was born. Alice Waters, along with countless others, decided that the convenience foods of the 50’s were not the way people should eat. Following the lead of earlier generations here and in Europe, they believed in fresh foods, eaten the same day they were picked from a local farm or yard. They knew that if people could taste the difference they would understand the passion behind organic produce and humanely raised animals. It was the dawning of a new awareness, one we are gratefully enjoying the fruits of today.
One of the most popular foods of that era was granola. Unlike the first of its kind, granola these days are vastly improved from the dry and flavorless animal fodder you may think of. Granola is far more versatile than most people realize. You can eat it as cereal of course, but you can also make beautiful layered parfaits with yogurt and fresh fruit, perfect in the morning or as a snack anytime of the day. If you really want to be decadent, use vanilla ice cream instead of yogurt! You can use it to top a fruit crisp or crumble, make granola bars with it, or use it as the base for healthy cookies. Think outside the (cereal) box and get creative with this delicious blend of grains, nuts, and fruits.
Fast forward to today. When The Artist and I go to Lake Tahoe, our favorite place to visit is the PlumpJack Inn, located at the base of Squaw Valley. It is small and intimate with a wonderful restaurant and access to all the fun activities in Olympic Village. Every morning they provide a hearty breakfast which includes this amazing granola. Full of delicious and healthy grains, nuts, and fruits, it keeps our tummies filled during hikes on the mountain, a day of skiing or exploring at the Lake.
This crunchy, fruity, cinnamon-scented wake-me-up also makes a great mid-day snack – with milk and fresh fruit, or simply on its own. In Tahoe it serves well as a trail mix during an alpine hike. Or try it as a topping for ice cream. Feel free to change up the ingredients to utilize what you have on hand or to cater to your family’s tastes.
The Artist and I look forward to our vacations at Lake Tahoe and enjoy the laid-back nature of the people. We relish the natural beauty of the area and we can’t wait to get PlumpJack’s granola for breakfast. It is the perfect way to start the day!
Jane’s Tips and Hints:
There is one step where many people make a mistake in making granola. You must never add the dried fruits until the very end. If you bake them along with the grains and nuts they become hard as rocks and you can actually break a tooth on them. Resist the urge to add them at the beginning, and only toss them in once you have taken the rest of the granola from the oven, or bake for no more than 15 minutes at the most. Also, golden raisins are much moister than dried black raisins and work extremely well in this cereal.
- 3/4 cup (1-1/2 sticks) unsalted butter
- 1 cup honey
- 1 cup maple syrup
- 1/2 cup light corn syrup, or Lyle’s Golden Syrup
- 4 cups rolled oats
- 1/2 cup shredded coconut
- 1/2 cup chopped pecans
- 1/2 cup slivered or sliced almonds
- 1/4 cup sesame seeds
- 1/4 cup flax or millet seeds
- 1/4 cup unsweetened wheat germ
- 3/4 tsp ground cinnamon
- 1/2 tsp coarse salt
- 2 tbsp canola oil
- 1-1/2 cups mixed dried fruit (any blend of golden raisins, cherries, cranberries, etc.)
- 1 cup maple syrup
- Preheat oven to 350°F.
- In a large saucepan, combine the butter, honey, maple syrup, and corn syrup and slowly bring to a boil over medium heat. Reduce heat and simmer for 5 minutes, stirring frequently. (Watch carefully – the liquid tends to boil over). Combine the oats, coconut, nuts, sesame and flax seeds, wheat germ, cinnamon and salt in a large bowl. Pour the hot syrup mixture over the dry ingredients and mix thoroughly.
- Lightly oil the surface of a large baking pan with the canola oil, wiping off any excess with a paper towel. Spread the granola mixture evenly onto the baking pan and bake for 25 minutes, stirring occasionally to prevent sticking or large clumps from forming. Remove from the oven and stir in the dried fruit, mixing it evenly. Return to the oven and bake until golden brown, about 15 to 20 more minutes.
- Let cool completely before transferring it to an airtight container. Will hold up to three weeks.
- Yield: about 2-1/2 quarts