My world was momentarily flipped upside down at eight years old when Mum fractured almost every bone in her foot* and was forced to employ Helga, a middle-aged German Nanny, to help out with us beastly children.
Shocked and outraged by the sheer abandonment by our own mother (AKA her physical inability to be at our beck and call 24/7) and her decision to palm us off to a complete stranger who had an accent we couldn’t –or blatantly pretended not to– understand, we vowed to make Helga’s experience as difficult as possible. We were devils disguised in eight, five and four year old bodies.
Of course, in affectionate and remorseful hindsight, Helga was a lovely and caring woman. She desperately wanted to win us over and eventually realised that she could, to some degree at least, through our stomachs. We began seeing her as less of a villain when instead of serving the usual Vegemite toast for breakfast, she started giving us Special Coco Pops. These Coco Pops were extra special because not only were we not allowed to eat Coco Pops on weekdays, but Helga would also sprinkle white sugar all over them to add to the thrilling novelty of our new morning ritual. This was during the days when Foot Loops were still a perfectly acceptable breakfast food *face palm*, plus mum didn’t want to crush Helga’s newfound glory, so she let it slide for a while.
And that’s where my love for sweet AF breakfast cereals began. I eventually grew out of Coco Pops and my obsession with sprinkling white poison all over them, but the habit was replaced by only marginally less sugary cereals with boxes that read anything along the lines of “crunchy granola” or “nut clusters” throughout the majority of my teenage years. I may not eat the highly processed and sugar laden versions anymore, but my love for any type of granola remains. Anyone with IBS or fructose malabsorption will share my frustration of not being able to easily find muesli options that tick all the boxes (punny). They’re either full of crap, processed gluten, refined sugars or dried fruits, and if you do find one that’s low in FODMAPs and genuinely healthy, chances are it’s pretty pricey. So I just make my own. My go-to recipes are this Crunchy Chocolate Granola, and my Lemon, Ginger and Cranberry Granola.
This Crunchy Chocolate Granola immediately takes me back to the mornings with Helga when I’d eat two huge bowls of candied Coco Pop greatness and then drink the leftover pool of super sweet chocolatey milk at the end. This version might contain 8 teaspoons less sugar per serving, but the crunchy clusters of chocolatey puffed seeds, quinoa flakes and toasted nuts taste totally indulgent and are so satisfying.
The beauty of granola is that it can be used in so many ways – serve it with your favourite nut milk and fresh berries, on top of smoothie bowls or “nice cream”, layered in chia pudding parfaits, sprinkled on grilled banana, or simply use it as a trail mix to snack on.
*Background story: It was school holidays and mum took us to “Pirate Day” at the Polly Woodside in Melbourne, the site where a famous 1885 cargo ship is preserved. We ended up playing on the grounds late into the afternoon and most likely ignored the numerous “closing soon” announcements. To this day I cannot fathom how they managed it, but security ended up locking us in. Determined to not have to sleep on a potentially haunted ship overnight, we screamed our lungs out for help, to no avail. The only solution that seemed logical at the time was to jump the three metre fence, and obviously mum was to be the guinea pig. She ended up landing badly (her high heeled boots probably didn’t help) and broke the bejeezus out of her foot.
Crunchy Chocolate Granola
Makes x 10 ¾ cup servings
FODMAP friendly serving size: ¾ cup (approx. 80g)
- 2 cups (178g) quinoa flakes (flaked brown rice or buckwheat also works well)
- 1 ½ cups (23g) puffed buckwheat (if you’re not strictly grain free, puffed brown rice also works well)
- 1 ¼ cups (250g) buckwheat grouts, activated if possible
- ¾ cup (45g) unsweetened dried shredded or flaked coconut
- ¾ cup (97g) of your favourite natural nuts (activated if possible), roughly chopped. I use a combination of pecans, macadamias, almonds and walnuts
- ½ cup (80g) pepitas (pumpkin seeds)
- ¼ cup (40g) chia seeds
- ½ cup (100g) coconut oil
- ⅓ cup (95g) pure maple syrup
- ½ cup (32g) raw cacao powder (you can also use regular fair-trade cocoa powder)
- 1 tsp ground cinnamon
- 1 tbs pure vanilla extract
- ¼ tsp sea sea salt
- Preheat oven to 160*C and grease a large baking tray with coconut oil
- In a large bowl, combine all “muesli mixture” ingredients, except the shredded coconut
- In a small saucepan, melt the coconut oil over medium-low heat. Add the maple syrup, cacao and cinnamon and stir until all combined. Bring to the boil and remove from heat. Add the vanilla and salt and stir until the liquid is fully incorporated.
- Pour the chocolate mixture over the dry muesli mixture and stir gently until all dry ingredients are evenly coated. There should be enough ‘wet’ mixture to completely cover the muesli.
- Spread mixture evenly over the greased tray. Bake in oven for 15 minutes, then remove from oven and stir. Add the dried coconut and return to the oven for a further 10 minutes. The granola will continue to crisp up after you take it out of the oven, so don’t worry if it’s still a little soft.
- Allow to cool completely before transferring to a large air-tight container or glass jars. The granola will keep for over a week if stored in a cool, dry place away from direct sunlight.
Info for the Irritable:
- Certain nuts and dried coconut contain moderate amounts of FODMAPs (GOS and polyols, respectively), however the amount I have used in this recipe, especially once divided into the recommended servings, is considered to be low. If you’re especially sensitive to either, reduce the amount by half or omit altogether and substitute with more quinoa flakes and puffed buckwheat
- To keep the FODMAP load of your meal down, make sure you serve this granola with low FODMAP accompaniments, such as fresh berries and a suitable nut milk.