As an adult, I consider there to be three major categories of granola: the kind I enjoyed as a kid, and look back on with great nostalgia; homemade granola, made either by a friend or family member, or that I’ve made myself; and the kinds I now choose to buy myself through some combination of taste, health, purity and/or cost.
Back when I was a kid, as I’m sure you can relate, I ate and enjoyed granolas without any concern about their sugars, calories, or whether or not they were organic. I simply enjoyed. Quaker 100% Natural with Dates and Raisins (they no longer make it w/dates) was great, but I have an even greater nostalgic fondness for the long-since retired C.W. Post, which was an oat-y, coconut-y sort of mix that’s typical of many granolas but seemed to reach nirvana in this particular incarnation (and don’t just take my word for it; you can read other rapturous reviews of C.W. Post here).
photo from MrBreakfast.com
As a younger adult I enjoyed Quaker 100% Natural from time to time, but it felt like a luxury cost-wise, and then at a certain point I became aware that it was less than the healthiest of cereals (this also was probably when I began having granola as a dessert). Eventually I ventured into homemade granolas, partly due to budget but also curiosity. As I recall, you essentially took a bunch of Quaker Oats, some almonds, raisins, shredded coconut, some honey, and maybe some molasses, mix it together and bake it in two to three batches on a cookie sheet.
While the homemade granola was good, and it was great having a week or so supply of very inexpensively-made snack food and alternative dessert around, there was something about that recipe that always reminded me that it was homemade: it may have been the honey and/or coconut aftertastes- there was a flavor there that, while definitely not unpleasant, was a bit less than smooth and clean.
photo by simplyla, from Flickr
Anyway, the labor intensity of making homemade granola has kept me away from the process for a while, and so I’ve been relying on pre-made granola, and as I’ve discussed in my various healthy granola posts, that’s not at all a bad thing. After taste, your choices come down to whether or not to go organic, and how much to spend. It should come as no surprise that organic granola is going to cost significantly more than non-organic, yet more and more every day it’s feeling like that’s a cost we can’t afford NOT to pay.
In my search for organic, healthy granola, the folks at 18 Rabbits were kind enough to provide me with samples of several of their organic granola bars, as well as several single-serving bags of one of their granola cereals: Gracious Granola. Just to be clear here, I am under no obligation whatsoever to write anything about 18 Rabbits, let alone recommend them, but when you take a look at their mission statement, you’ll find it very challenging not to want to support what they do: deriving their ingredients from organic, locally-sourced farms that they maintain direct relationships with. Isn’t that what we ideally want from a food business?
Since I’ve made such a long lead-up to actually talking about the granola itself, I’ll keep my review short. So we’ve established that 18 Rabbits uses organic ingredients (and not just organic, but certified organic). Here’s the full list of those (all organic) ingredients: whole rolled oats; unsweetened coconut; maple syrup; almonds; butter; sunflower oil; honey; pecans; pumpkin seeds; and sesame seeds. Put it all together and add your favorite (hopefully organic) milk, and you’ve got a granola with a flavor somewhere in the C.W. Post, Quaker 100% Natural vicinity, but not as sweet; more “natural” tasting, if you will. What you miss in refined sugars, you gain in being able to taste the ingredients themselves.
With just five grams of sugar (from the maple syrup, coconut and honey), it also has five grams of protein and 4 grams of fiber in just a 44 gram serving. To me that’s a good enough ratio to be healthy enough for breakfast, but sweetly tasty enough to work as a dessert. The one question that still remains is whether the honey 18 Rabbits uses is pasteurized or raw; until they get back to me on that, I’ll postpone any commentary, though you can probably guess what direction I’ll take it in.