Thursday
Jun232011

Katie's Granola

The Quick Answer:  For a healthy weight, eat more whole foods and fewer refined foods.   And start your day with a good breakfast, like Katie’s Granola (below).

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I promised a granola recipe, but first let me comment on a Harvard study just out.  The study analyzed dietary patterns for over 200K people, taken over 8-20 years, and found that over the years, some foods add weight while others are linked to weight loss.  No surprise, I suppose, but which foods do which? 

Weight loss foods—are unprocessed (and low in sugars and starch) and include yogurt (a surprise finding), nuts, fruits, whole grains, and extra helpings of vegetables.  The benefit of yogurt is unclear; it may be the probiotics or just the fact that people who eat yogurt do a lot of other healthy things.  Exercise and adequate sleep are also important habits.

Weight gain foods—are generally processed and include sugary drinks (most impact, because people drink so much), potatoes (French fries, potato chips and plain old baked potatoes), refined grains, red meats, and processed meats.  The farmers in Idaho will defend the baked potato and I’m with them—but I will avoid things deep-fried and try to limit chips to national holidays.  Also, smoking cessation, alcohol consumption, too little/too much sleep, and TV watching are all linked to overweight.

We intuitively knew this, but it’s nice of Harvard to confirm.  Without saying it outright, the study challenges the common practice of calorie counting.  We discussed this in a post, titled The Skinny on Overweight, which stated that eating a variety of whole foods moved us from eating calorie-dense food to eating nutrient-dense foods that had a low glycemic index (G.I.).  You don’t need to go hungry to lose weight; nutrient-dense foods are filling, you won’t eat too much.  Further, a low G.I. diet of whole foods would lower our insulin level and the propensity of insulin to convert excess glucose into cellular fat.  Bottom line:  don’t count calories; buy whole foods.

All this follows the longevity survey discussed in a recent post (Last Person Standing).  A county-by-county survey of the US found a few counties where longevity was improving even more than the leading nations.  (Nations with best longevity include Japan, Sweden and Switzerland.)  But it also found that 85% of our counties were falling further behind.  It was disturbing that in the greatest democracy, we are not all progressing together. 

The Healthy Change of this week is to regularly eat a healthy breakfast.  This is important—people who do so have more vigor and are less tempted by sugary snacks.  Remember the Breakfast Compote, our effort to make a perfect meal?  Two other healthy breakfasts you can make yourself include the Swiss tradition, muesli, and the American invention, granola.  They’re both oat-based with nuts, seeds, and dried fruits.  The main difference is granola is baked and has oil/fat added to bind it together.  Both will keep for a week or two so can be made in advance to save time.

Granola Recipe:  The beautiful wife and I have three daughters.  When they went off to college, our main requirement (I was going to say “only”, but there were a few other parental dictates) was they work to help pay their way, avoid debt, and pick a major that would lead to a paying job.  Reflecting their uniqueness, one is a firefighter, another is a designer, and the last is a photographer.  They all share an interest in healthy eating and the picture above comes from Brooke’s blog, Inchmark, which links to the recipe at Katie Did. 

I call it Katie’s Granola and it is unique because it’s baked in a cool oven (250 F) but for a longer time (2 hours).  Most granola recipes bake at 350F for 15-30 minutes, depending on moisture level.  (Brooke adds more nuts, as shown below.  You might want to add a little salt.)

Katie’s Granola

10 c old-fashioned rolled oats
2c whole-wheat flour
2c wheat germ
2c coconut, shredded or flaked
2 to 3c total of chopped pecans and sliced almonds
Mix above ingredients in large bowl

4T vanilla
1/2c water
2c honey
1c (or less) healthy oil (try coconut oil)

Mix wet ingredients in a medium bowl, then stir into the dry ingredients.  Spread in shallow baking pans and bake about 2 hours at 250 F., stirring gently every 15 minutes.  Cook until golden brown and nearly dry.  Cool and store in airtight containers; refrigerate. 

Budget Wisdom:  You can save money by making your own granola, and you’ll have the confidence that you know what’s in it.  Katie’s recipe is for the frugal—it has fourfold more grains than nuts/seeds/dried fruit.  Other recipes balance the grain quantity with the more expensive nuts/seeds/fruit.  Another savings: because many love it but don't make it, granola makes a great gift and is simpler than wandering the store aisles looking for something people often don't even need.

Please comment:  We’re all moving away from factory-made stuff, towards home-cooked foods that are both healthier and less expensive.  You're inventing a new economy: blending healthful food traditions with new, time-saving methods.  Examples: home-made granola can last a week or two with the refrigerator, and wheat can be fresh-ground with a home grinder.  Please share your creative ideas for healthier living.

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Reader Comments (30)

I'm a huge fan of making most anything homemade. In particular, when we're overrun with sweet potatoes, we love to make baked sweet potato fries! We put them in the oven at about 350F with a bit of olive oil, a small bit of salt and usually sage or rosemary, and bake them for about 15-20mins I think. They're so good, and they're WAY better than french fries from anywhere else. Thanks for the granola recipe!!

June 23, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterRachel T.

This study isn't so surprising to me, but I doubt it will be to most. I am trying to make more things we eat from scratch. It all started with me grinding my own wheat in an attempt to really use our food storage, and this week I'm experimenting making my own whole wheat crackers. I love knowing all the ingredients in our food.

Ironically, I have a granola recipe called Katie's Granola that I found somewhere else, though it has similar ingredients. I began making it to save money so I didn't have to buy cold cereal and it has become a staple in our house. I use mostly sunflower seeds and change the nut we use to whatever is on sale (last week was almonds, this week it's walnuts). I also omit the wheat germ because I ground my own wheat and know that it contains the germ. Thank you for sharing! I'm excited to try this method of baking, as I've only ever tried the shorter cooking time.

June 23, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterAlicia

My homemade granola is basically the same, but we also add sesame seeds, sunflower seeds, ground flax seed and about 5-10 minutes before baking is done I add raisins or craisins or other dried fruit. My husband, who generally goes with my healthier cooking because I'm the cook, but not because he always loves it, absolutely loves this granola. In fact, maybe I should make it again. We haven't had this in awhile.

June 23, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterTianna

You are right the "Bottom line: don’t count calories; buy whole foods." For me this will be the only way to keep weight down and be healthy. I can't have sweets in the house and eat then sparingly. I'm looking forward to trying this recipe. I live in South America right now so on my visit to the states I'll pick up some of the ingredients that are more difficult to get here. Many thanks for the information!

June 23, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterCherilyn

I have always been a little heavier than I wanted. I am active but I was always eating prepared foods with lots of sugar and high fructose corn syrup. Recently I started trying to eat more whole foods and I have dropped down to my smallest. This wasn't the reason I am eating this way, but it is a great benefit.
I also make my own granola but I use dates as part of the binding mixture. You can chop them up really fine and then cook them with a little water and they create a natural sweetener that is the consistency of corn syrup.

June 23, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterBreea

I've been reading your blog since the beginning but this is my first comment. First of all, thank you. This is a great blog and as we try to eat more mindfully it's wonderful to have the tips and research you offer and to know that we're not alone.

We started making our own granola (with a similar recipe) about six months ago. It's delicious, filling and easy. We add yogurt and seasonal fruit for a tasty breakfast.

We also started making our own granola bars with the addition of nut butter, molasses, and a few other ingredients. They're one of the most delicious, nutrient dense foods I've ever had. We took a batch on a recent trip and we found ourselves energetic and satisfied for hours. No need to snack on the normal convenience store food!

June 23, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterCeceli

We love making homemade granola. It makes a great breakfast or snack. I look forward to trying this recipe as well. Here is a link to a recipe that is a favorite at our house: http://www.thesisterscafe.com/2008/03/my-favorite-granola-ever . The cardamon and cinnamon combo are delicious.

June 23, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterSabrina

Rachel—sweet potato fries sound great. Could you post the recipe?
Alicia—when you perfect your homemade wheat cracker recipe, please share.
Breeda—good idea, to use dates as the binder for granola. And you've got tie right idea about eating right—it's not to have a better figure, but it is a nice benefit.
Ceceli—homemade granola nut bars? Please share your recipe. Skip
Thanks all; sharing makes us all better.

June 23, 2011 | Unregistered Commenterskip hellewell

I just made "pop tarts" for my kids for breakfast tomorrow. They are just a dough of
3 1/2 or more cups whole wheat flour
 (or whole spelt flour)
1 teaspoon sea salt

1 cup melted butter

1 cup plain yogurt
and then you roll it out and cut it into pop tart size rectangles. Spread about a 1/2 teaspoon of jam on one piece and top with another piece of dough. Use a fork to close all for sides. Bake at 350 for 25 minutes or until lightly browned on the edges.
We use homemade jam for this.
It is a fun treat to have for breakfast once in a while.

June 23, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterLaura

I like to make homemade yogurt. An easy website is http://makeyourownyogurt.com/. I sweeten it with a little freezer jam, and it tastes great with homemade granola! As a random side note, it is good for healing yeast infections or a yeast diaper rash without having to buy some expensive anti-fungal cream for your baby.

One thing I just don't like to do is roll out dough for crackers. Would you do a post on healthy crackers, if there are any?

June 23, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterSacha

Granola is one of my favorite breakfasts. We have several recipes that we like. We add flaxseed meal along with the nuts and seeds and wheat germ. You can really do anything with it. Maple syrup swapped for some of the honey gives a nice flavor, and I love sesame seeds in it. I've actually never used flour in it at all, so I will try this.

Yes, I would also love the granola bars recipe. The store bought kind are ridiculous!

Love this blog.

June 23, 2011 | Unregistered Commenterqueenann

Discovered your blog today! I share your faith as well as your philosophy on nutrition. We strive to eat mostly whole foods and stray away from refined grains and sugars (except for special occasions.) We're what you'd call "flexitarian", eating meat only a couple times a week. Granola is one of our staples that I make from scratch. Mine cooks at 325 for about 25 minutes, but I'm curious to see how 2 hours at an even lower temp changes it.

Thanks for your input! I enjoyed my visit and look forward to more of your posts! :)

June 23, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterNatalie

I love granola, but for the most part, this recipe included, it's not gluten free. But I am going to take this recipe, use gluten free oats, and some flax seed. I haven't decided what flour to use to replace the wheat....maybe a mix of brown rice and buckwheat. I'm sure it will taste just as delicious!

June 23, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterTee

Hi,
I have been making this exact granola for about two years now. I read your daughters blog and I use to read Katie's...too bad she isn't doing Katie Did anymore. Anyhow, not sure which blog I first discovered the recipe, but I have been making it ever since. I usually cut the recipe in half, only because I can't fit the extra cookie sheet in my oven. It lasts our family of three about a week to a week in half. I have tried other recipes but we keep coming back to this one...my husband loves it! This granola makes a perfect gift for teachers...I think I got that idea from your daughter.

We make most of our food from scratch and eat what I feel is a pretty well balanced diet. I would like to start making my own bread once the temps cool down. I do thank you for your bread post a while back - the kind we buy now has 4g of fibre and 0g sugar.

June 23, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterStacey

I am so tired of feeding my children store-bought bread but my attempts at homemade with store flour have been unsuccessful. I have been wanting to grind my own wheat for awhile. Some of the grinders are pricey. Can anyone recommend a good entry-level grinder?

June 23, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterTreva

Treva,
I purchased my grain mill on eBay. It was used, but it has worked great so far. You can probably find all sorts of mills. Older ones might not be sleek and quiet, but they will usually hold up well. I don't know about an entry level new mill though.

June 23, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterLaura

Everyone seems to be posting only breakfast foods...but a healthy homemade food we make every week (with enough for leftovers) is rice and beans and pico de gallo. My kids love it, and are excited when it's Nica food night (the husband served an LDS mission in Nicaragua). I'll cut up and serve whatever fruit is in season as the side dish.
recipes:
rice and beans (gallo pinto)- toast rice 1 1/2 cups, and 1/2 diced onion in 1 TBSP oil, add water (follow package directions depending on what type of rice you used, healthy option- brown rice of course). At this point I add salt, garlic powder, onion powder and a pinch of ground clove. Cook rice according to package directions. When the rice is finished, turn up the heat and toast it and dry it out a little more, be careful not to burn it. Then add your favorite type of beans. I add two cans of black beans. Add more salt or garlic powder to taste.
Pico de gallo- finely chop equal parts onion, cilantro and tomato. finely chop 1-2 jalapenos. juice of 1 lime, add salt to taste. I usually add a chopped up avocado, cause I love them!

June 23, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterKendra

Treva, I use the dry container for my Vita-Mix as a wheat grinder. I love it and it doesn't make a mess.
My mom-in-law uses all different nuts and dried fruits in her granola. It keeps it interesting and very tasty.

June 23, 2011 | Unregistered Commenternaomi

Hi Skip- I stumbled upon your blog from a friend who posted it on fb. Then I realized we knew you guys in P2. (Hank is my dad) Small world.
I enjoy reading your blog. I couldn't agree more with your last post. We currently live in Switzerland and when we moved here I was blown away at how health conscious the Swiss are. Sugar is just not a staple in their diet. Most desserts aren't even sweetened. A favorite of mine is Quark with berries. Walk down the cereal aisle and muesli is one of your only choices. I love granola and I am excited to try out your recipe, Thanks!

June 24, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterJulie

Julie, so nice to hear from you. Switzerland is among the nations with best longevity, so we would love to hear more about the food culture. Quark (a sort of slow-baked buttermilk?) and berries for dessert, and muesli the only cereal choice? Avoidance of sugar? This is very refreshing. What else are the Swiss doing? Share a menu of a week's dinners.

Where do you live? (Clare's family is from Wengen, you must visit, or have her come and show it to you. Our best to your family. Skip

June 24, 2011 | Registered CommenterSkip Hellewell

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