Good granola is like a party in a bowl. Bad granola? It’s closer to cardboard.

In Thailand, I learned to make my own granola—the type that qualifies for the “party in a bowl” description. Not that granola is a Thai thing. I just happened to have some missionary friends who were great at making the very best granola—far better than any store-bought version I’ve ever had—so I learned from them.

Since then, I had learned that I am gluten-intolerant, so making my own favorite breakfast food became a necessity. Why?

  1. GF granola is hard to come by in the places where I tend to live.
  2. In Belize, where I currently live, GF granola costs the price of a lobster dinner. I’m not exaggerating, either.
  3. Store-bought versions tend to contain a lot of oats and very little of the things that make it a really good granola. You might as well just slap a label on stating, “roasted oats with a little bit of other stuff.”

In addition to getting pointers from my friends, I also turned to several online chefs for tips. I took a bit of advice from Alton Brown, a tad from a lady named Megan, and some from Gluten-Free Girl. After all, granola is one of those things that does not require that you stick to a precise recipe.

From Scratch vs. Out of a Box

When I made granola most recently, I decided to also bake some GF blueberry muffins for which I had a simple mix.

While I was able to enjoy a muffin in no time, baking the blueberry treats brought nowhere the amount of joy that making the granola did. It’s not that they didn’t taste good.

The issue was a lack of creativity.

All I had to do was add 1/2 cup of cold milk, stir, pour into a muffin tin, bake it, and voila! Cool and enjoy.

Tasty, yes. Uncreative? You bet!

With the granola, though, I could choose which nuts I wanted to include this time. (I chose almonds and pecans.) Whether I wanted to use maple syrup or honey or coconut sugar. (Maple syrup it is.) I could also decide if I wanted to make enough to share (for sure) or just enough for a week or so for me.

As I was enjoying the smell of the coconut oil and the granola baking, I thought of a lady whom I met not long after moving to the Caribbean. I had led a workshop on Serious Play and talked about discerning which tasks that didn’t bring you joy, tasks you could delegate or outsource.

“But that’s precisely my problem!” the lady objected in a thick English accent. “I’ve hired out all my work. I’m bored to the bone!”

Think about it:
She had totally robbed herself of the gift of creativity
—and of hard work!

I doubt you’re the type who’s bored. Nor am I. There’s so much to enjoy around us—if only in creating new recipes for granola. So, a few things before I share my recipe:

  1. Do not overbake granola. Do not wait till the oats are crisp to the touch as they keep cooking after you pull them out of the oven. Just bake it till the nuts are toasted and you can smell the oats baking. That’s about 15 minutes. Stir it, and bake for another 15-20 minutes.
  2. Do not add dried fruit till afterward, when the granola has cooled down. If you do what some recipes say and add fruit earlier, those become like little rocks in your granola that could break a tooth!
  3. Substitute, substitute, substitute. If you don’t have maple syrup or honey, use brown sugar and water. If you don’t care for coconut, don’t add it. If you like lots of nuts, use lots. If you are not super sensitive to gluten, use regular oats. And traditional, large flakes are the best for granola. (Oats itself is free of gluten, but some companies transport oats in the same trucks as wheat gets transported in. Unless you are super sensitive, it’s way cheaper to just use regular oats.) If you prefer vegetable oil to coconut oil, use that. In fact, I think the only common ingredients in all the granola I have made are oats and salt!

With that in mind, here’s the recipe I use as a guideline when making granola.

Granola Recipe

1. Heat the oven to 350°F or 180°C

  • Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. A deep baking sheet is best since you’ll need to stir the granola, and a cookie sheet will make that a challenge. I’ve even used a skillet before!

2. Mix together dry ingredients

  • 5 or so cups of traditional, large-flake oatmeal (GF if necessary)
  • 2 cups of chopped nuts (pecans, walnuts, cashews, macadamia, raw peanuts, or whatever nuts you prefer)
  • 1 or two cups of seeds (sunflower seeds, flax seed, sesame seeds, pumpkin seeds)
  • 1 cup of dried coconut (unsweetened, if possible)
  • a big pinch of salt
  • 1 tablespoon of cinnamon
  • some ground nutmeg

3. Separately, mix together wet ingredients

  • 2/3 cup of coconut oil (or olive oil, or vegetable oil)
  • 1 cup maple syrup (or honey, or brown sugar with water)
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla essence

4. And separately, prepare dried fruit

  • 1/2 cup or more craisins or raisins or sultanas
  • 1/2 cup dried blueberries, if you’d like
  • 1/2 cup goji berries, ’cause it makes the granola way healthier 😉
  • 1 cup cut up, dried apricots or dried mangoes or dried bananas

Add (2) wet ingredients to (3) the dry ingredients. Do not yet add (4) dried fruitStir well and add to the prepared baking sheet.

  • Press down on the granola so it’s packed quite tight. This will allow for chunky granola.
  • Put granola in the oven.
  • After about 15 minutes (or when the house starts smelling of oats and coconut oil roasting), stir the granola and return it to the oven for another 15-20 minutes.
  • Remove from oven. Don’t stir. Just let it cool completely.
  • Add (4) dried fruit
  • Store in an airtight container for up to 3 weeks, or longer if kept in the fridge—in Belize it has to go straight into the fridge!

Enjoy with yogurt on fresh-cut fruit, or with milk as a healthful breakfast food, or eat it by the handfuls as a snack.

Please comment by responding to one of these questions:

  1. Insofar as creativity goes, what’s your favorite thing to make?
  2. If you had accepted the first Blue Thread Life invitation/challenge of 2018, how’s that going? What have you learned about yourself?
  3. Do you ever experience God’s joy when you cook?

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