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The only drawback to homemade granola (superior to store-bought, on all counts, in my book) is finding the foresight to make large batches of it in advance. Maybe it's just me, but my motivation for making anything is pretty closely tied to how soon I'm going to scarf it down.
But there's a cheat, for those mornings when nothing else but granola will do and yet none is on-hand: the stove. The whole process takes about 20 minutes, which is just enough time to do the previous night's dishes (or, for overachievers who do their dishes the night before, make coffee and clean the pot). The results end up somewhere between granola and toasted muesli—lightly crisp, not too rich, and just sweet enough that plain, unsweetened yogurt is just the right partner. It's a perfect compromise—and instantly gratifying.
You, too, can have granola on a whim. Here's how:
For one serving, I use a heaping 1/2 cup of grains. Rolled grains do best here because the cooking time is relatively short, but you can still mix things up a bit. My default is majority rolled oats, with a bit of rye or barley flakes, and a tablespoon or so of millet for extra nuttiness and crunch.
Over medium-low heat, heat the widest skillet you have (something that will hold the grains in one layer and ideally allow you to toss them about without losing any to your grates or the floor). When it's moderately hot (a minute or so), add a couple of teaspoons of fat (butter, coconut oil, and olive oil all work), and a couple of teaspoons of sweetener (honey and maple syrup are good choices), and blend them well. When they're quite liquid (after 20 seconds or so), add the grains and a pinch of salt, toss well, and toast, tossing occasionally, for 8 to 10 minutes, until golden. Watch the heat and reduce it if necessary to keep the grains from browning more than you'd like.
Now add your nuts and seeds—my votes are for crumbled walnuts, pumpkin seeds, and sesame seeds in combination, but use what you like. Toast for another 2 to 3 minutes. At this point, transfer your mix to a flat surface (a plate or a cookie sheet), sprinkle it with any spices (mace or nutmeg is lovely, as is cardamom, and cinnamon is never a bad choice), and let cool for 5 to 10 minutes.
I stop here, but if your mix is calling out for anything else—shaved dried coconut, dried figs, raisins, whatever—add it now, and turn it into a bowl with yogurt, or a milk of choice, if you prefer. Crown it with whatever ripe fruit the season is doling out, and get a spoon. Repeat as needed.
Here’s one recipe to get you started, but really, your imagination’s the limit!
1 teaspoon coconut oil
1 teaspoon honey
1/4 cup rolled oats
1/4 cup rye flakes
1 tablespoon millet
3 tablespoons walnuts
1 tablespoon pumpkin seeds
1 teaspoon sesame seeds
1 pinch sea salt
1/4 teaspoon mace
Photos by James Ransom