Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Make your own muesli

For years and years and years I ate granola with yogurt for breakfast, and it never occurred to me to use anything other than pre-mixed granola. But all that changed about a year and a half ago, and since then I've been waking up nearly every morning and eating this:

What happened a year and a half ago that was so thunderously life-changing? I read Michael Pollan's essay (now a book) in the New York Times - "In Defense of Food: An Eater's Manifesto". That essay completely changed the way I thought about food. Actually, 'changed' may not be the best word here, because I simply hadn't thought about food, at least not in depth, before.

It's shocking - I mean, we eat food every day, it's all around us, and yet in American culture at least, nobody actually wants to think about food. We don't ask ourselves "What is it? Where did it come from? How did it end up in front of me? How many hands have touched this? How many machines have manipulated it?" But once you do start asking those questions, once you look at a package of cookies and no longer see them as "Chips Ahoy!" or "Oreos" or whatever they've been branded as, but as a mixture of flour, sugar, chemically treated oil from something - supposedly vegetables?, additives with names too long to pronounce or understand... once you think about how these things were made (what is a corporate cookie factory like anyway?) and how their production is affecting the economy, the environment, the general health of the population, your own health, etc., etc., welllll, it's enough to put you off processed food permanently! At least, it was enough to put me off processed food in the sense of corporation-generated, has ingredients I would never use even if I had access to them, and really doesn't even taste that great - sort of processed food.

Which brings me back to my muesli. I actually don't think pre-prepared granola is all that bad in the grand scheme of things. It generally doesn't have a lot of weird ingredients, it tastes pretty good, and you never really hear about "Big Granola" ruining the industries of small-time oat farmers.

But still. After I read the article, I decided to really clean up my act, and go completely un-processed wherever possible. To be fair, this wasn't all that difficult for me, since at that time I was living in Milan where I had access to a fantastic open-air market and delicious fresh ingredients year-round. But I did make whatever changes I could. Instead of having crackers as a before-dinner snack when I got hungry, I switched to carrots; when possible I made my own tomato sauce instead of using the bottled kind; and I stopped buying pre-packaged granola and flavored yogurt and started making my own muesli mixes with plain and simple whole-milk yogurt.

The best part about making your own muesli is that you can change it every single day. Buy a bunch of stock items (nuts, seeds, dried & fresh fruits), and then just put in whatever you feel like each morning. After extensive experimentation, I have pretty much settled on a favorite mixture, which I'll give below, but I encourage you to play around with your muesli and see what you like best. Admittedly, it's slightly more time-consuming than just dumping a package of granola into a bowl in the morning, but it's also more fun, and it gives you just a little bit more control.

About 100 g. of plain yogurt
A generous handful of oats
A small handful of linseeds (also called flaxseeds)
A small handful of sunflower seeds
A few almonds
1 banana
In summer: a handful of fresh blueberries and/or raspberries
In winter: a handful of raisins or dried cherries or dried strawberries
In any season: a couple dried apricots or other dried fruit of your choosing

Slice the banana, wash the berries if applicable, and cut up any dried fruit that's bigger than a button (dried apricots, peaches, apples, kiwis, mangos...). Combine all ingredients together, mix well, and eat!

A few notes:
1. I don't generally put in all the fruits I mentioned here - usually I just pick one or two, but I wanted to mention all my favorites!
2. To make this more like granola, you could toast the oats with some honey, brown sugar, canola oil, etc. beforehand. I actually like them plain, but if you prefer yours a bit sweeter, then you can prepare a big batch of oats like this and then just use those each morning.


Burcin Ikiz said...

Hey lady,

It was great to hear that you are eating only non-processed healthy food. I am sure you can find loads of fresh fruits and vegetables in Malta as well. Am I right? Oh, the glorious Mediterranean climate. I miss you!

Zoe said...

Hehe, well I try - but I don't count dark chocolate as processed food =)

There are lots of fresh fruits and vegetables here, and the best part is that they are really cheap! However I do miss the California avocadoes...

Miss you a ton too!! Come visit and I'll bring you to a fun salsa club where you can impress everyone with your amazing skills!