My mom’s granola is one of the better things this earth has to offer, and I’m not even kidding a little. It’s the simple things in life that make it so good, you know?
Growing up as one of the younger siblings in a family of 8 kids, I got ripped off a fair amount of my young life. I never had anything new, and anything precious I did have was broken / stolen / maimed within moments of landing within my reach. But, like any good cliché, I always had a playmate, which came in handy every year when we took our family vacation.
I’ll really never know how my parents managed it but even with 8 kids, two full-time jobs (and often more) between my parents, as well as a family paper route, a needy dog, and two live-in grandparents, my parents always carved a solid two weeks out of every Summer for a family vacation.
Can you even imagine?
My parents subscribed to the European model of life, in more ways than one, but they especially loved the idea of taking a “holiday” for extended periods of time. Two weeks was all they could afford, and I still don’t know how they made it work.
It took my mother about a month every Summer to put everything together, but she did it. Every. Single. Year. The only way we could manage was to camp at National Parks and eat home cooked food, which meant my mother planned each meal and every snack in-between ahead of time, enough for a family of 10 for a solid two weeks, down to the last penny. Then she grocery shopped for all the ingredients, laid out all the camping gear, packed our clothes and the camping cook-stove, and crammed it all in tight in the back of our powder blue 11-passenger van.
Somewhere in that mix, heaven knows where, my mom cooked a two-week supply of homemade granola before packing it all into a 25-gallon bucket. It was the only time she made granola during the year, and it’s safe to say that for me and my siblings the granola was as much a highlight of the camping trips as our far flung destinations. It’s so good.
We camped all over the Western United States, mostly along coast lines (my deep seated love of the ocean is stamped into my DNA), and even though my siblings and I hated and loved each other in equal turns, my childhood camping memories are the happiest of my childhood.
I have such wonderful memories of waking up in the early morning, after pulling into a camp ground and setting up tents late into the night, checking out my surroundings while I sat on top of brown lacquered camp tables eating a bowl of mom’s homemade granola. The glorious forest of the North Rim of the Grand Canyon, watching the surfers in the morning break in Carlsbad, California, the foggy Oregon coast, and freezing but glorious Monterey, California. We camped everywhere, and granola was always our staple breakfast.
Getting the actual granola recipe from my mom was tricky. It’s one of those recipes she’s made so many times she doesn’t really know what’s in it, “Oh, you just add a little bit of whatever you want in your granola,” she said “It’s up to you and what you like.”
I used my mom’s vague recipe instructions as a base and created a granola recipe that’s probably as close to the real thing as I’ll ever get. Keep in mind, the amount my mom always made was for 10 people for 2-weeks, so if you want less than 25 gallons, scale appropriately. I halved the recipe she used, and it’s still a lot. I also cooked my granola on the grill outside so I wouldn’t heat the kitchen up (I made a huge batch in the heat of August, at least 25 gallons), and it gave the granola an extra yummy flavor, but the oven works great too.
- 1 lb (about 8-10 cups) old-fashioned uncooked whole oats
- 1 cup honey
- 1 cup vegetable oil
- 1 cup powdered milk
- 1-2 Tablespoons vanilla
Add dried fruit and nuts per your liking. This is the part where you choose what you want in your granola, because you’re the boss of your life. I like mine extra chewy, but add your favorite whatever to your granola! I added at least half a cup of each of the following:
- dried cranberry
- shredded coconut
- sunflower seeds
- dried cut figs
- sliced almonds
In a large bowl, mix together powdered milk and oats until well combined. Add remaining dry ingredients and stir until completely mixed.
Add honey and vanilla and mix granola together until completely combined. Mix with your hands to make sure oats are totally coated with honey. The mixture should be really, super sticky.
Once the granola is mixed, heat the oven to your lowest setting and coat a baking sheet with cooking spray.
Step 4 :
Bake granola on the lowest temperature for 30 minutes, never letting the oven reach higher than 325 degrees. Every 5-10 minutes stir and rotate the pan in the oven so the granola doesn’t burn.