Cereal is my all-time favourite food in the world: Cheerios, Grapenuts, shredded wheat, corn flakes… I could happily eat a bowl of cereal for breakfast, lunch and dinner. The problem is, most commercially made cereals tend to be loaded with sugar (even the seemingly plain ones),
are often heavily processed, and are usually made with wheat. So, when I went gluten free, my choice of cereals became very restricted. Where I live in London, the grocery stores are tiny and have limited options, so it’s difficult to find gluten free cereal and they are usually pretty expensive. Luckily, I discovered gluten free oats, and began making my own muesli and granola. I’ve developed my own granola recipe and it’s a great start to the day: it is whole grain, full of healthy nuts and seed, and has a minimal amount of unrefined sugar.
Since I’ve been recovering from CFS, I drastically changed my diet. I’ve really made an effort to cut down on the amount of sugar that I consume and try to only use unrefined sugar. This is something everyone could benefit from. The cookbook, Leon: Baking & Puddings (an amazing cookbook that includes a lot of gluten free recipes) has a great section devoted to explaining the different kinds of unrefined sugars available, and sums up the topic well:
“Until as recently as 1766, when the Sugar Tax was repealed, it was impossible to get hold of sugar in sufficient quantity to do us harm. But white processed sugar is now cheap and plentiful, and over the last couple of decades has been recognized (alongside processed carbohydrates) as the single greatest threat to our health. In the end moderation is the answer, but there are some sweet substances out there that enable us to satisfy those evolutionary instincts while offering a little more protection to our bodies.” (Ptak, Claire, and Henry Dimbleby. “Sugar & Sweeteners.” Leon: Baking & Puddings.)
Once such sugar is molasses: It is a great source of minerals, particularly iron and calcium, as well as manganese, magnesium, potassium and copper. I use a minimal amount of this unrefined sugar to sweeten my granola; the usually-strong bite of molasses is mellowed in this recipe and imparts a nice subtle flavour. This granola is subtly sweet; if you are used to sugary commercial cereals, it may take your taste buds a little while to adjust to less sugary foods. If you have a sweet tooth, begin using ¼ cup sweeter of your choice (see recipe); slowly wheedle your way down to 1/8 cup, which gives the granola just a hint of sweetness. I love the flavour of molasses – they are also really cheap, and are a good source of iron. If you don’t like the taste of them, try substituting another liquid natural sweetener, like honey or maple syrup, or use a mix of all three; this also tastes delicious but gives the granola a different flavour. Another way of naturally sweetening the granola (or any cereal) would be to add some dried fruit.
sleepy kitchen Granola & Muesli
When I buy gluten free oats, I immediately make up a big batch of my Muesli Mix – it is the base for most of my breakfast cereals: I can add some dried fruit and rice milk for a quick breakfast, cook it up into some oatmeal or make it into granola. Feel free to play around with the ingredients in the Muesli Mix, substituting your favourite nuts and seeds, or try some new gluten free grains – just try keep the ratio of ingredients roughly the same. I like to make a double batch of this so I can store some away and don’t have to make it as often.
The original recipe is in US cups (volume-based). If you don’t have US cups, find a small cup in your kitchen that measures approximately 240 mL – don’t get too hung up on precise measurements! The most important thing is to keep the ratios consistent.
Makes: 6 cups
- 4-5 cups gluten-free oats (feel free to use some other gluten free grains – just keep in mind that they will change the texture. Some ideas: puffed rice/amaranth, flaked millet/buckwheat/quinoa)
- ½ cup slivered almonds
- ½ cup walnuts or hazelnuts, coarsely chopped (or mix of the two)
- ¼ cup pumpkin seeds
- ¼ cup sunflower seeds
- ½ cup shredded coconut
Gluten Free Granola
Makes: a lot – roughly 1kg/2 lbs
- 6 cups Muesli Mix (see above)
- 2 tablespoons flax seed (ground, or soak whole flax seed in small amount of water)
- ¼ cup nut butter (I use crunchy peanut butter)
- ¼ cup water
- ⅓ cup extra-virgin olive oil
- ⅛ – ¼ cup blackstrap molasses (or honey/maple syrup/mix of all)
- 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
- 1 tsp cinnamon (optional)
Preheat your oven to 160 C/325 F
In a large bowl, combine all the Muesli Mix ingredients.
Mix the remaining Granola ingredients in a separate bowl and whisk well; if you are having trouble getting them to combine, it may help to simmer them gently for a few minutes, but I don’t normally do this.
Pour wet mixture over Muesli Mix and stir well to combine.
Get out a couple of baking sheets (it is helpful if they have a lip to keep the granola from falling off the edges). Evenly spread the granola in a thin layer on the baking sheets.
Bake for 30-40 minutes, stirring the granola every 10 minutes. Once it is crunchy and completely dry, remove from the oven; make sure to keep an eye on the granola in the final stages so it doesn’t burn.
Allow to cool completely. If you want to add some dried fruit, you can stir in ½ a cup now if you like, but I don’t normally use it. Store in an airtight container.