Templeton: How’s this? It says CRUNCHY. Crunchy would be a good word for your web.
Charlotte: Just the wrong idea. Couldn’t be worse. We don’t want Zuckerman to think Wilbur is crunchy.
When I was stumbling through the blurry very first early days of parenthood, I connected with other new moms online. We had this futuristic new wireless internet and a laptop and oh it was a line to the outside world, a world where everyone had new babies, everyone could laugh about diapers and grandparents, everyone could cry about hormones and breastfeeding and body image. It was very supportive and wonderful. But! There were certain topics that sent all of us into panic and attack mode. Then we all had a big internet fight, right there on the computer while holding our precious newborns on our laps.
A lot of the drama centered on food. Feeding a baby, it turns out, is not a simple personal parenting decision. It’s loaded with pressure and guilt and fretting. What if I’m not feeding him enough? What if this is too much? Why is he spitting up so much? What am I doing wrong?
Or, to put it in new-mom message board language: What are YOU doing wrong? Why are YOU such a bad mother? Why are you so unconcerned about what your child eats? And why are you TOO concerned about it? Oh I get it, you’re one of those annoying Crunchy-Granola moms. Oh, I get it, you’re one of those gatorade and flaming hot Cheetos moms. I don’t understand, haven’t you heard of diabetes? WHY DID YOU EVEN HAVE THAT BABY IF YOU WERE PLANNING ON GIVING HIM APPLE JUICE TO DRINK?
And so on.
Feeding our kids is a big deal and it turns out, it’s a deeply weirdly emotional topic for parents. Hoping to avoid drama I did my best to avoid falling into any extreme, avoid anything worthy of a derogatory label like Crunchy Granola, or anything that meant that I cared too little or too much about what my children ate. Too busy to cook, too cool to fret, yet too creeped out by preservatives to feed my baby cheetos.
But as much as I didn’t want feeding to be a big deal with my own kids, in those early days food WAS a big deal. With my first son, nursing was a traumatic disaster. Then, the formula we gave him made him constipated and we had to switch and switch and switch until finally we needed to add in a little bit of juice to help him (see above, in all caps). When it was time to go to solid foods we thought oh yay! The worst is over! Except my child didn’t care for solid foods so we entered his toddler days in a full-tilt struggle over please, seriously eat just one bite of food.
Kids won’t starve themselves of course, and I knew logically that this was nothing to panic over. I understood all of the psychology behind toddler power grabs and the rational voices all agreed that it was fine. He was fine.
But we are all animals with instincts, and it turns out that MUST FEED BABY was a gut-level thing that I could not control. It was upsetting when he wouldn’t eat, and it was crazy satisfying when he would. And while I’d love to say that I can look back now and laugh, no — it was really a frustrating thing. I was a failure, a baby-feeding failure!
They both survived toddlerhood, both managed to eventually gain enough weight that I could breathe, and yet yet YET even as my kids get older, I’m still not over the thrill of seeing them devour a healthy meal.
All of this to get to my wicked confession: I now make granola almost every day. And I can’t describe how exciting it is. TOO exciting. Does this make me the dreaded Crunchy Granola mother? Technically, maybe, yes? Well, whatever, I don’t care.
Granola is yummy, it’s healthy, it’s affordable, it’s easy, it’s forgiving. And also, this:
So what goes into my granola? I’m not great at being consistent, so it’s a little different every time, but here’s basically what I put in this morning’s batch:
First, the basic dry stuff:
1.5 cups of rolled oats (not instant, but this is a texture thing — you use whatever kind sounds yummy to you)
1 cup of steel cut oats (I like the crunch and the health benefits)
A bunch of chopped nuts — I use pecan halves, and then I chop walnuts and a few almonds more finely because frankly I don’t like them as much. That way I really taste the nuts I like best.
1/4 cup of sunflower seeds
1 and a half crumbled-up brown rice cakes (so unbelievably optional)
You can put in whatever sounds good basically. Flax seeds, pumpkin seeds, dried fruit, shredded coconut. No one’s watching! Go crazy with it.
The goopy stuff:
1/2 cup of your favorite oil — I love olive oil for granola, but this isn’t about me
3/4 cup of melted super-crunchy peanut butter — because I am obsessed with peanut butter. You don’t have to use it.
The sweet stuff:
Here you have options. You can use half a cup of honey, brown sugar, maple syrup (expensive but a very delicious option), a little apple juice (if you don’t love your children), or all of the above. Or none of the above! I sort of mix and match, sometimes making the granola sweeter and sometimes less sweet.
The flavory stuff:
A teaspoon of cinnamon.
A pinch of regular old table salt (I tried coarse sea salt a few times and personally didn’t like the way it made some bites super salty and others not at all. But again, that’s your call)
Whatever other kinds of flavors you’re into
NICE moms add mini chocolate chips, but I’m not nice.
So! What do you do with all of this stuff besides make a huge mess in your kitchen? Well, it’s pretty easy.
STEP 1. Pre-heat the oven to 325.
STEP 2. Put everything we just talked about into a large bowl and stir until it looks absolutely disgusting. Taste a little. Add things until it tastes yummy.
STEP 3. Pour the gross, gooping mess into a baking pan or cookie sheet.
STEP 4. Stick it in the oven and set a timer for 10 minutes.
STEP 5. Beep! Your timer went off. Stir it up, make sure you get the edges because that’s what’ll burn if you leave them.
STEP 6. Oh now I feel bad there are so many steps. Sorry. Stir it again. Set the timer for ten more minutes.
STEP 7. One more time. Total of 30 minutes.
STEP 8. Let it cool.
It’s going to go through several stages: Right out of the oven it’s like eating amazing hot cereal. An hour later it’s like eating oatmeal cookies that went a little wrong but are still delicious. The next day? It’s like eating the best granola EVER. And then your kids say yay! And you say yay!
And congratulations, you are officially a Crunchy Granola mom. Or dad. Or person. Anyway, whatever you are, just know that people on the internet will judge you for it. But it’s worth it because LOOK:
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