Ritual Cooking: Granola

by Caroline

As a child, one of my favorite books was Laura Ingalls Wilder’s Farmer Boy, which details in mouth-watering specificity the meals cooked in Laura’s husband’s family when he was growing up. I remember beautiful descriptions of the breakfasts, particularly: pancakes stacked high with dollops of fresh butter and maple sugar; two kinds of fruit pie; a pinkly glazed ham …

I liked the abundance, sure, but I also liked the ritual and regularity of it all. Saturday mornings: the feast. Saturday nights: bath. Sunday mornings: church.

My childhood moved with some ritual and regularity, too, marked largely by the specific rhythms of church and garden, which I associated with my dad. My mom gave us our household routine; for instance, I remember a period of Saturday mornings when she would wash her long hair, and since she liked to let it air dry, we wouldn’t leave the house till afternoon. So she’d stir together bread dough; I’d help knead, and by the time the bread was ready to come out of the oven, her hair was dry and we could go out someplace.

My current life doesn’t feel like this at all. The routine feels very ad hoc, always shifting in response to the boys’ school and practice schedules. Laundry day comes whenever dirty clothes overflow the hampers, bread gets baked rarely, marketing happens at different grocery stores or farmer’s markets (we’re lucky to have so many to choose from) when we can squeeze it in between other errands.

The one fixed weekly cooking event, often but not always on Monday night, is baking granola. I eat this every morning, and usually Eli joins me for some “mama breakfast” too. The recipe is adapted from Nigella Lawson’s wonderful Feast (an aside: if you don’t have this cookbook, run out for it now. It doesn’t just offer great recipes, it’s beautifully written; the section on funeral feasts brings me to tears. The Chocolate Cake Hall of Fame is worth the price of the book alone [just please ignore her insistence that plastic wrap lining a cake pan won’t melt in the oven. It will. Skip that step.])

So here’s the granola recipe. It’s a fine thing to make with kids, as the measuring doesn’t need to be exact, and they love to scoop up the ingredients, dump them into a big bowl, and stir it all up with their hands.

6 cup rolled oats and/or raw multigrain cereal flakes (Trader Joe’s carries a nice barley-oat-rye-wheat flake mix that I use)
2 cup raw slivered almonds
1 cup raw pumpkin seeds
1 cup raw sesame seeds
1 cup raw sunflower seeds
1/2 cup ground flax meal
1/2 cup wheat germ
2 tsp cinnamon

2 tbsp vegetable oil
1 scant cup honey, rice syrup, maple syrup, or some combination thereof (I use half brown rice syrup and half honey)

1-2 cups dried cranberries or raisins (optional); add these after the granola has baked, otherwise they get too hard

Preheat oven to 320. Stir together all the dry ingredients in a large bowl until well combined (this part can be done with little kid hands).


Add the oil and honey or syrup, and combine well. Pour into two large, lightly oiled baking pans (I use two metal roasting pans) and bake for about 45 minutes, stirring two or three times along the way.

Remove from the oven then cool completely before storing in an airtight container.

You Say Griddle-, I Say Pan-…

By Lisa

My offer was innocent enough, and both kids leapt at it, but there was a semantic conflict that nearly brought down the house.

“I want pancakes,” Finn shouted.

“I want griddle cakes,” Ella countered.

“No,” he protested. “Pan. Cakes.”

“They’re Griddle Cakes,” she insisted.

“I. Want. Pancakes.” Finn stomped.

“Finn! They are the same thing!. They are GRIDDLE CAKES!”


At which point I held up the griddle, and Ella said, “Finn, pancakes are griddle cakes.”

He looked at the familiar evidence: the yellow melamine mixing bowl, the whisk, the griddle on the stove, and the tears stopped. He laughed.  “Oh! Not I know that pancakes are griddle cakes.”

I grew up eating pacakes on Sunday mornings, which my father made from Bisquick, and which I don’t buy.  I have tried recipe after recipe, mix after mix and never quite found the perfect formula until Ella brought home from the library the excellent Fannie in the Kitchen: The Whole Story from Soup to Nuts, a nonfiction story about how Fannie Farmer got her start.

The recipe is a dream:  simple, straightforward, failproof, and it makes the perfect pancake.  The griddle cakes, as we now call them, because that’s what Fanny called them are not to thin, not too thick, easy to cook, easy to eat. WIth Grade B Maple Syrup, you may well rediscover the family breakfast table.  While I do keep a box of mix on hand for emergency dinners, it gets used maybe once a year.

In the book, Fanny teaches her young charge how to cook many things, including griddle cakes, so of course Ella, now 6,  has taken this lesson to heart, and so has Finn, age almost-4.

We had few extra frozen blueberries stashed, which we sprinkled on her griddle cakes, and Ella remembered  to watch the griddle cakes until they were bubbling and dry around the edges, and then she carefully slid the spatula under the disc and… flip! the perfect pancake.

She stood on a step stool, and I was close by, talking her through the steps, what was to safe to touch, what not. She does have basic knife & kitchen safety skills, so I felt relatively okay about the safety aspect of the experiment.  I was less okay about what would happen if the pan–I mean griddle cake collapsed in a gooey mess. But the recipe is, as I said, a dream.

But then Finn wanted a turn.

I took a deep breath. I said okay.  I tried to help him, but he is stubborn.  I showed him how to flip the pancake a few times, hand over hand. Then I showed him what was very, very hot.  Then I stepped back.  He, too, has been in the kitchen a lot with me.   Kory stood just behind him.

And just to prove that you, too, can make the perfect pancake, my not-quite-4-year old really did flip his own griddle-pancakes.

Of course, the real cooking was nearly as big a hit as the eating, and soon Ella was clamoring:

“It’s my flipping turn!”

And so, for your eating and flipping pleasure:

Fannie Farmer’s Griddle Cakes

2 cups flour

1/4 cup sugar

1 teaspoon salt

1 1/2 teaspoon baking powder

1 egg

2 cups milk

2 tablespoons melted butter

1. Sift together all dry ingredients into a large bowl. This is an essential step. We just use a sieve, and work over the sink for easy clean up.

2. In a glass measuring cup beat the egg.

3. Add milk to the egg.

3. Pour egg and milk mixture slowly over dry ingredients, whisking to incorporate.

4. Add butter.

4. Cook batter on a hot griddle. Don’t turn the griddle cakes too soon! Wait until they are bubbling all over the center and a little dry around the edges.

Why We Love France

posted by Caroline

Sure, we love the museums, the sense of history, the people (yes, I really do). The boys love the trains. But we also just really love all the chocolate. It’s available at every meal, whether melted into milk for chocolat chaud, baked into pastry for pain au chocolat, or tossed by the handful into cereals. (Special K with chocolate probably deserves a post of its own, except I just couldn’t bring myself to buy the stuff). Breakfast, lunch, dinner, snack, there’s always some chocolate nearby, and only a real crank would complain about that.

Breakfast in Paris

posted by Caroline

At the covered market, fresh farm eggs are 3 euros for the dozen, a fraction of what I pay for them here (and I can’t get them at a market within walking distance). Flaky croissants, baked fresh several times a day, are less than 2 euros. I can choose from raspberries, strawberries, melon, blueberries, gooseberries, and currants — all dewy and fresh and gorgeous.

At the Monoprix market, a chain that’s an amazing kind of cross between Safeway, Ross and Walgreens — but with decent prepared food — a 300g box of cereal is nearly 6 euros.

It’s clear to me how we should be eating here, but the boys want cereal, so that’s what I buy:

However, I draw the line at this: