I know what you’re thinking. “Does Athlete Food really need another granola post?” Or maybe: “Does the world really need another granola recipe?” I concede that, given the shelves of new small-batch granola options at Whole Foods and constant stream of delicious-sounding recipes filling my inbox, granola is having its cupcake moment. And yet, my answer is still an unqualified, “Yes.”
Here is why: Cereal for dinner happens. But over the past few months, as my 6-year-old son, who is finishing kindergarten, transformed from a kinetic little kid into an athletic boy, a bowl of cereal for dinner turned into an entire box.
This is how I ended up tinkering with Bec’s Athlete Food granola. A staple in my pantry, it is just sweet enough to not taste bland and it’s oil-free. This suits me, since it leaves caloric space later in my day for good chocolate and/or dessert. But my kids have never agreed, preferring their granola with so much sugar and oil that it clumps together like a cookie.
So I set out to revamp our house granola, to find a recipe between the cookie-like and the seemingly—to my kids at least—austere. My hopes were that adding a little bit of brown sugar would entice my kids to eat granola, and then that the added fat, from the olive oil, would serve as a more filling alternative to cereal.
After reading about a dozen recipes, I decided to try dialing back the sweetness of the Eleven Madison Park Granola recently included in a NYT Cooking newsletter. Why this one? Because the cooking method was the least fussy of all the instructions I read and because, who am I to argue with anything related to Danny Meyer?
That said, while the original recipe calls for heating the wet ingredients to combine them, I forgot to do this once and didn’t notice a difference. Likewise, I once forgot to line my pan with parchment or a baking mat, and it didn’t seem to matter. In case you’re wondering why I keep forgetting things, I usually make a double batch of granola at 5:30 am when I realize that someone, okay me, finished the granola the night before and I need something extremely tasty to convince my kids to sit still long enough to eat before we have to leave the house for school.
If you do not agree that some fat and sugar are the keys to taming the box-of-cereal pitfall, check out the grown up version of cereal-for-dinner that Bec wrote about in the USA Triathlon newsletter. Or, top Bec’s spinach-packed Tart Cherry and Ginger Smoothie Bowl with this granola for a combo that ranks somewhere between Uncle Sam Original and Cookie Crisp on the nutrition scale.
Athlete Food Granola, the athletic kid version
Adapted from the Eleven Madison Park Granola recipe published in the NYT.
½ cup neutral or fruity olive oil
1/3 cup Grade B maple syrup
1 tablespoon light brown sugar
¾ teaspoon fine sea salt or kosher salt
4 cups rolled oats
¾ cup large flake coconut (also called coconut chips)
Preheat the over to 300° F.
Whisk together the olive oil, maple syrup, brown sugar, and salt.
Stir in the oats and coconut.
Spread the granola on a rimmed baking sheet (like a 13” x 18”sheet pan) and bake, stirring every 10 to 15 minutes, until the oats and coconut are dark golden, 35 to 40 minutes.
Let the granola cool on the pan. When completely cool, store in an airtight container at room temperature or freeze in a zip-top bag for up to 3 months.
Note: I left out the add-ins in the recipe above, since no one in my family likes the same mix, but here are a few of my favorite combinations:
½ cup chopped toasted pecans, ½ cup toasted or raw unsalted pumpkins seeds
½ cup chopped salted cashews, ½ cup raw sunflower seeds
½ cup chopped toasted unsalted almonds, ¼ cup hemp seeds