Granola Is Good for You!

Granula, as it was originally named, was invented in Dansville, New York, by Dr. James Caleb Jackson at the Jackson Sanitarium in 1863. The Jackson Sanitarium was a prominent health spa that operated into the early 20th century. He served it to his patients as a health food to promote recovery from illness. It was not very popular and didn’t enter mainstream cuisines for many decades.

A similar cereal was developed by John Harvey Kellogg of Kellogg’s cereal fame. It, too, was initially known as granula, but the name was changed to granola to avoid legal problems with Dr. Jackson. That is the name that most manufacturers stuck with.

The food and name were revived in the 1960s, and fruits and nuts were added to it to make it even healthier. Granola became popular with the hippie movement and the term “granola people” was sometimes used to refer to them. At the time, several people claim to have revived or re-invented granola.

A major promoter was Layton Gentry, profiled as “Johnny Granola-Seed.” In 1964, Gentry sold the rights to a granola recipe using oats, which he claimed to have invented himself, for $3,000.

In the 1960s and ’70s, a family-owned business by the name of Sunny Crunch Foods Ltd. began specializing in granola cereals, granola and protein bars, fiber-filled products, meal replacement products, and health-food items. Sunny Crunch Foods Ltd. grew to have worldwide distribution and became one of Canada’s most respected health-food manufacturers. Its founder, Willie Pelzer, is now known as the founder of “crunch granola.”

In the early ’70s, Quaker introduced Quaker 100% Natural Granola. Within a year, Kellogg’s had introduced its “Country Morning” granola cereal and General Mills had introduced its “Nature Valley.”

Granola had finally earned its place at our breakfast tables. Then came granola bars and snack bags so you could have a quick pick-me-up on the go. Granola has remained a popular food for both those who purchase it and those who prefer to make their own at home.

Basic Granola

6 cups rolled oats (not quick-cooking or instant)

2 cups mixed nuts and seeds: a combination of sunflower seeds, chopped walnuts, pecans, almonds, cashews, sesame seeds, etc.

1 cup shredded coconut (optional)

1 teaspoon ground cinnamon, or to taste

Dash salt

1/2 cup honey or real maple syrup (not pancake syrup)

1 cup craisins or chopped dried fruit, optional

 Yield: About 8 cups

Heat the oven to 350°F. Line a cookie sheet with parchment paper or a silpat.

In a bowl, combine the oats, nuts and seeds, the coconut if you’re using it, cinnamon, salt, and honey or syrup. Spread evenly on the lined baking sheet and bake for 30 minutes or a little longer, stirring occasionally. The mixture should brown evenly; the browner it gets without burning, the crunchier the granola will be.

Remove the pan from the oven and add the craisins. Cool on a rack, stirring once in a while until the granola reaches room temperature.

Transfer to a sealed container and store in the refrigerator; it will keep indefinitely.

To turn the granola into bars that make great school snacks, simply increase the honey to 1 cup and add 3 tablespoons canola oil to the mixture. Switch the craisins to chocolate chips.

Grease and flour or line a 9”x13” pan and spread the oat mixture in the pan, packing it down as firmly as you can. Bake 25–30 minutes or until golden. Remove from oven and let it cool. Cut into bars or squares and store airtight. If you will not be eating it all within a week, the bars can be individually wrapped and frozen. It takes just a few minutes for them to thaw.