Supermarket periphery cereal

I’ve always been a big fan of cereal – and as a kid, there was no cereal I liked better than Cap’n Crunch’s Crunch Berries™. Now don’t get me wrong; I’m not talking about these newfangled GMO blue, green and purple crunch berries. I’m talking about the original red ones – the ones that grow on crunch berry trees, and are coveted by the likes of the infamous Jean LaFoote – natural crunch berries, that grow wild. Man I loved those berries … the way they stained the milk pink … the way they kind of cut the roof of my mouth.

The great tragedy for us Canadian kids was that crunch berries were only available for a brief period – just long enough for us to fall in love with their subtle charms. Then they simply disappeared. It was a dark time.

We kids knew they still existed just south of the border, as we could see ads for the cereal on US channels, taunting us through a translucent veneer of white noise. But, for whatever reason – perhaps an embargo on the import of tropical fruit – they couldn’t cross the 49th parallel.

Fortunately, I had family in Massachusetts that I stayed with for a few weeks every summer. A highlight of those trips was always heading to a US supermarket – a magical place with an entire aisle of brightly coloured, plastic-toy-laden cereal boxes. Fortified with niacin. I was always allowed to choose a box of my favourite, and that favourite was always Cap’n Crunch’s Crunch Berries™.

Funny thing: now that I live in the US, I never even walk down that aisle. Aisles are where the processed food lives. The packaging alone represents a level of waste that is hard to justify – never mind the fact that it often involves multiple stages of processing and transportation, and the waste associated with the creation and use of additives and preservatives that humans can easily live without.

But, damn it, I still love cereal.

Fortunately, I married Bonnie Lee .. and, fortunately, a few months after we got married, she made her first batch of granola. It gave the milk a lovely brown tinge and caramel tone, had a satisfying crunch, and best of all was made with ingredients we could find in bulk at the edges of the supermarket (plus oil and honey). When I had my first bite, I knew it was love.

Granola has been a staple in our home ever since (except when we were in Japan, and had an oven the size of the bottom third of a shoebox). The recipe is never the same twice, so we don’t get bored, and it keeps well in the fridge. The recipe for Bonnie Lee’s latest batch is below.

July’s batch of granola

Granola

Ingredients

  • 4 cups rolled oats
  • 1½ cups shredded coconut
  • ½ cup sliced almonds
  • ½ cup flax
  • 1 cup pumpkin seeds
  • ¾ cups vegetable oil℉
  • ¾ cups honey
  • 1 cup dried cherries
  • 1 cup dried cranberries
  • ½ cup raisins

Directions

  • Preheat oven to 300℉.
  • Place rolled oats, shredded coconut, and sliced almonds in the largest glass baking dish you have.
  • Place the baking dish in the oven, and toast the ingredients for 15 minutes, stirring them every 5 minutes so that they toast evenly.
  • Remove the baking dish from the oven, and increase the temperature to 375℉.
  • Mix the flax and pumpkin seeds in with the toasted ingredients.
  • Heat the oil and honey over low heat or a microwave. The goal here is just to make the mixture a little less viscous, so that it blends well.
  • Stir the honey and oil mixture into the dry ingredients, until they are evenly coated.
  • Return the baking dish to the oven, and bake until the granola is nicely browned (about an hour), stirring it every fifteen minutes or so.
  • Remove the granola from the oven, pack it down, and let it cool.
  • Break the granola into chunks, and add in the dried fruit.
  • Store in the refrigerator in a sealed container.
Granola & Thai pickled cherries

Granola & Thai pickled cherries – probably not so great when eaten together.

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28 thoughts on “Supermarket periphery cereal

  1. Great post. I still get a major craving for Captain Crunch…peanut butter flavored for me though. I don’t think I’ve eaten it for close to 20 years! My mom makes excellent granola and all four of us in my household fight over it whenever she sends me home with a batch. I don’t know why I haven’t made it myself yet…maybe I’ll give this a try.

    • You might be able to satisfy that peanut butter Cap’n Crunch craving by mixing a little peanut butter into the oil and honey (not sure how that will turn out) – or just adding some peanuts into the mix.

      At the farmer’s market, I’m always on the lookout for fresh crunch berries to add to our granola, but no luck yet. Don’t even know when they’re in season.

    • Shh. Hey Angie and Jean-François. I’ve started another blog. Like I don’t have enough to do already. It’s a bit of a platform, a soap-box covered in grass. Edible grass. Tee hee.

      You – my most awesome and awesomely respected blog-buds – are the first to know. My gravatar is the same (I haven’t figured out how to change it at whim) but if you click it, it’s linked to the blog Greens for Good.

  2. My love for granola came late in life (recently in fact), when I discovered a blogger’s easy recipe for making it at home. It was like an ah-ha moment! Great for snacking, morning cereal (with fresh fruit added) or as a topper for other things. As with many things (Angie can attest to that one), I asked myself, why the heck hadn’t I done this before? Thankfully, you had Bonnie Lee.

    The “lack of packaging” part is why I’m tweaking my ways. It is the most costly part of a breakfast cereal. When corn prices go way up, it’s not the the cereals that will see a significant increase, I’m betting.

    That cello bag inside the recyclable box of cereal, keeping the product fresh? NOT recyclable.

    • It is great food to have on hand, particularly for single guys, who in my experience pretty much live on cereal – well, I did anyway. Speaking as someone who just had onion sambal and roti for breakfast, I could certainly have used some this morning.

      And yes, all that packaging is such an incredible waste of resources, so often wrapped around stuff that doesn’t quite taste or look like food.

      • You must be in Malaysia! Eat a roti telor and some sambal ikan bilis for me, please, with hot teh tarik. I’ll pass on crumby ole granola any day THAT is served. Sedapnyna! (Delicious!)

      • Yup, back in KL – and I guess the grass is always greener on the other side of the Pacific. :) I actually love the food here – roti included – but after a couple of weeks, a little granola would hit the spot. I think it’s just home cooking and my usual dinner companions (B and the cats) that I miss.

  3. that looks so delicious. I hate buying granola at the store, even though my store is one of the most beloved supermarkets in the USA. It’s expensive and by the time you get to the bottom, it’s too crumbly and many times (I confess) I throw it out. I’ve been meaning to make granola all summer, and I’m preheating my oven right now to try out your recipe. (I even bought some flax seeds at the public market on a whim). Thanks for this post and beautiful presentation.

    • Let me know how that works out. I hate the store bought stuff too – mostly because it’s just way too sweet for my taste (and you pay a lot for so little).

      Once you’ve made a couple of batches, you should be comfortable playing around with the “recipe”. Really, what it comes down to is adding just enough oil & honey to bind everything together. Our July batch was just an exercise in using up what we had left in the pantry.

  4. Hahaha love the comment about the shoebox oven! I can relate. But people do really creative things with toaster ovens here. I also love a crockpot to avoid baking in the heat of summer. I’ve yet to see a crockpot granola recipe though….

    • Wow, toaster ovens. I dreamed of a toaster oven. All we had was one of those little fish grillers under the stovetop – that and a rice cooker, which we used for a lot, including making banana bread.

      • Ooo that sounds good. My kitchen was big enough that I could buy an oven, but I can’t even think of touching it while it is this hot. But I’ve been making chicken and sweet potatoes, two of my staples, in the crockpot. I know you can use rice cookers in the same fashion!

  5. Thanks for the “recipe”. I am also a convert to granola late in life (we have toasted muesli, which is similar, in Australia). I usually only add sultanas, but am looking to try other dried fruits, so will look out for dried cherries and cranberries on sale :)

  6. A blast from the past! I wasn’t too much of a Captain Crunch fan, because of those darn sharp edges and I didn’t like sugar much. I was the weird girl who had stir-fried mushrooms or grilled cheese. Sometimes I would even take a hard-boiled egg with me on the bus and eat it. It really is a wonder I had any friends. But nowadays I am a bit more normal, still preferring savoury stuff but I love homemade granola. Probably because I can control the sugar. I make it every two weeks and it goes camping with us too. Such a versatile little pile of dried bits and bobs. It’s funny how we all have slightly different techniques for this most simple of foodstuffs.

    • In retrospect, I’m not sure how I managed to eat the stuff. I think it might have been because of the sharp edges. They hurt, but it was a good hurt. You knew you had eaten something significant. The pain spoke of food with a certain gravitas.

      Or maybe it was just my sweet tooth at work.

  7. I LOVE this post. Years and years ago, when I gave up the “sugary” cereal, the two I missed the most were Captain Crunch and Lucky Charms—two of the worst for you, no doubt. I still miss them. And occassionally, I’ll go down that aisle, just to make sure they still make them. I don’t know why! :D
    Then when we started a war with packaging in our zero waste effort, we gave up all cereal. We too eat a lot of granola for breakfast now. And eggs and yogurt. And muffins I make from scratch.
    It’s funny. I didn’t remember those commercials until you put that up. And then the sound of his voice saying, “Anytime’s a time for Captain Crunch” came crashing back. Thanks for the memory!
    And I’m loving the recipes! Great site!!!

      • As a kid, the marshmallows were the best part! I remember the first time I felt truly independent, I’d moved away from home and bought my own groceries. I bought boxes of Lucky Charms and ONLY ate the marshmallows—tossing the rest of the cereal. (As our mother wouldn’t let us do this, of course.) What a moron! ha! That was nothing but sugar.

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  9. Count me in also as a big fan of Crunch Berries! I wouldn’t have turned down any of the Cap’n Crunch line, but Crunch Berries was definitely the clear winner. And having a fruit thing in your cereal is healthy, right??

    Speaking of “healthy”, my other cereal favorite was “Life” – which they so famously declared so healthy that kids were in danger of not liking it – but of course they do : “He likes it! Hey Mikey!” : http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GhdHJ8GMiJc

    The granola looks and sounds fabulous – and fairly simple to make. Never thought to try. Alas, I suffer from shoe-box oven syndrome myself, so will need to wait until I’m stateside. Bookmarked!

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