Thursday, January 08, 2009

Healthy 2009

Last fall, on a routine physical, Dennis found out he had high cholesterol.

Well, actually, he'd found out a few years ago that it was borderline, but hey, he is not overweight, we eat little red meat, few eggs, and he eats more fiber than should be legal. The only thing that was left to do was to start exercising like a maniac, which he did.

So that should have been enough reason to avoid going to the doctor for a couple of years, right?

My cholesterol, on the other hand, is around 150, even though I stand by my belief in the power of butter, and I exercise only once or twice a week (trying to get better!).

(Ooops, I digress).

ANYWAY, my first thought was, We're too young to be thinking about all this. But then my next thought was, Our KIDS are too young for us NOT to be thinking about this.

Rats. That whole "Take responsibility for your crummy genetics" thing really stinks. It casts a dark shadow on one of my favorite pastimes: Baking.

If it were only about weight control it would be so much easier. Since it seems to work for me, I would take my husband's entire day's allotment of calories and devote them to butter cookies (or a Wendy's Frosty. But alas.

During the holidays I simply had to refrain from baking too much - because I refuse to use that awful stuff they call "corn oil spread" or whatever it is that tastes so FAKE and sweats WATER when left at room temperature. So I kept it to a few batches of my mother-in-law's recipe for Christmas shortbread cutouts.

We're trying to keep tons of fruits and veggies around. I'm happy to report that my whole family is eating more fruit. But sheesh, I need to go to the store practically every day! ACK!

And I started baking granola. Here's the recipe I started with from Pamela Anderson.
(The link will take you to the "why's" of the recipe - kind of interesting).

To add to the heart-healthy-ness of the oats, I'm adding walnuts, sliced almonds, and Uncle Sam cereal (it's full of flax, but since it's in a flake, it has the added benefit of keeping flax seeds from getting stuck in your teeth. Smart, huh?). I probably should put in prunes, but you just have to draw the line somewhere.

Master Granola Recipe Makes 1 quart

Adjust oven rack to middle position, and heat oven to 275 degrees. Coat a 9-by-13-inch metal pan with cooking spray, then set aside. Mix oats, wheat germ, brown sugar, salt and Extra Ingredients --except dried fruit -- in a bowl. Bring syrup, oil, water and any Flavoring indicated below to a simmer in a saucepan over low heat. Drizzle over oat mixture, and stir to combine. Pour mixture onto prepared pan. Working a handful at a time, squeeze cereal to form small clumps. Bake for 30 minutes. Stir in dried fruit. Continue to bake until golden brown, about 15 minutes longer. Let cool. (Granola can be stored in an airtight tin for up to two weeks.) For nutrition information on each granola variation, go to

2 cups old-fashioned oats
1/2 cup wheat germ
2 Tbs. dark brown sugar
1/4 tsp. salt
1 cup Extra Ingredients (see complete list below)
1/4 cup maple syrup
3 Tbs. flavorless oil, such as vegetable or canola
1 Tb. water
Flavoring (see below)

1. Classic Granola
Extra Ingredients: 1/3 cup chopped walnuts, 1/3 cup sweetened flake coconut, 1/3 cup dark or golden raisins
Flavoring: 1/2 tsp. ground cinnamon
You can replace the 1/4 cup of maple syrup with 2 Tbs. each of maple syrup and molasses.

2. Crunchy Granola
Extra Ingredients: 1/4 cup slivered almonds, 1/4 cup sunflower seeds, 2 Tbs. sesame seeds, 6 Tbs. currants
Flavoring: none

3. Granola with Tropical Flavoring
Add the coconut along with the cashews and banana chips.
Extra Ingredients: 1/4 cup chopped roasted unsalted cashews, 1/4 cup chopped banana chips, 1/4 cup sweetened flake coconut, 1/4 cup chopped dried pineapple
Flavoring: 1/2 tsp. ground ginger

4. Granola with Cherries and Almonds
Extra Ingredients: 1/3 cup sliced almonds, 1/3 cup sweetened flake coconut, 1/3 cup dried cherries
Flavoring: 3/4 tsp. almond extract

5. Trail Mix Granola
Extra Ingredients: 1/4 cup chopped roasted unsalted peanuts, 1/4 cup sweetened flake coconut, 1/4 cup dark or golden raisins, 1/4 cup mini chocolate chips*
Flavoring: none
*Stir chips into the granola only after it has completely cooled.

6. Orange-Berry Granola with Pecans
Extra Ingredients: 1/2 cup chopped pecans,1/4 cup dried cranberries, 1/4 cup dried blueberries
Flavoring: 1/2 tsp. finely grated orange zest

7. Pear Granola with Hazelnuts and Vanilla
Extra Ingredients: 1/2 cup chopped hazelnuts, 1/4 cup chopped dried cherries, 1/4 cup chopped dried pears
Flavoring: 1 tsp. vanilla extract

8. Orange-Flavored Granola with Pistachios, Mangos and Dates
Extra Ingredients: 1/2 cup chopped roasted pistachios, 1/4 cup chopped dates, 1/4 cup chopped dried mangos
Flavoring: 1/2 tsp. finely grated orange zest and 1/4 tsp. allspice

Source: USA

Of course, for my crew, I quadruple the recipe and use honey instead of maple syrup. That way they can eat four times as much and I can go to the store TWICE a day! Yea!

Because my kids have no concept of serving size, I've also experimented with lowering the amounts of oil and honey (adding equal amounts of water instead - for me it's just easier to remember 14 c. dry ingredients to 2 c. wet ingredients) and it still comes out clumpy and crunchy.

My mom just gave me a recipe for No Bake Granola. I'll have to check it out.

I'll keep you posted - we'll be going back for a cholesterol re-check in a few months. I hope Dennis's will come down a bit.

With all this additional fiber, mine will probably be zero.


Sherri@NoiseOverload said...

These recipes are totally unfriendly to those with nut allergies :o( Oh well!

If you want even more nutrition, roll the oats yourself. I know, I know, you have to buy groats and an oat roller, but wow it's good.

My granola recipe has cinnamon and vanilla in it. No nuts. Every now and then I add chocolate chips (not helpful in reducing cholesterol).

Love you,

Stephanie said...

I've been making my own granola lately and - yum - is it better than the store version! (Mine is a maple pecan version). My husband had a high cholesterol reading at his last appointment so we're right along here with you!

Mothership said...

Isn't fresh produce infuriating? In the summer, you can't eat it fast enough (or you get SICK of yellow summer squash) and in the winter, you have to visit the grocery store every twenty minutes to keep up.

Good luck with this family diet. Like feeding a family of a thousand wasn't enough of a challenge, huh?

mholgate said...

Yummy! I am always looking for good, healthy snack food for my kids. I'll have to try this!


Carolina Mama said...

My girlfriend was able to lower her cholesterol by eating oatmeal everyday. And walking. That added flaxseed should help and it tastes really good. A nutty flavor. Blessings.

Andrea said...

Thanks, I've been thinking about making granola lately but have been too lazy to find a recipe! These look great!

Queen to my 3 Boys said...

Don't want to think about any of this.

I'm going go hide my head firmly in the sand.

Or maybe just plug my ears and hum. (I guess that won't work since I'm reading, not listening - shucks!) *wink

Raquel said...

this sounds great! thanks. we have bee eating a ton of fruits and veggies since the new year to get healthy and lose some weight. have to go to the store 2 times a week for produce and milk but i store alot in the second fridge.

i have been wanting to make granola but wanted a tried and true yu,,y recipe