Kids have been conditioned to expect things sweet. And smooth. And perfectly homogenized.
This is a cultural phenomenon especially prevelant here in the United States where families simply do not make much food from scratch at home any more. Whole ingredients have become a rarity in favor of processed foods out of boxes.
Consequently I had a tough sell this week trying to entice the kids in my "food appreciation" classes with a delicious, nutritious helping of the yogurt they made last week and a topping of homemade granola. Their first issue was the yogurt that came out of the quart jars I'd stashed in the refrigerator since we first incubated it a week ago. They couldn't get over the globbiness of it, and the bit of whey running off to the side as I scooped the yogurt into a bowl. I had each of them take a small sample with a spoon. Never have so many young faces been screwed up into scowls as they tentatively tasted and recorded the mild sourness.
We then sampled some agave syrup. My wife had suggested it as a stand-in for honey, which brings a distinctively assertive sweetness to things. The agave is a cactus-like plant used in Mexico for making tequila. It also makes a fine sweetener--somewhere between honey and a light maple syrup. The kids liked it, and voted to put some of it in the yogurt, which suddenly became palatable for them as it turned sweeter and was stirred into a silken smoothness.
As for the granola, they had great fun measuring out the ingredients and taking turns stirring everything together. This is a basic granola from whole grains and seeds--no nuts--seasoned with cinnamon, nutmeg and vanilla and moderately sweetened with agave syrup. I thought the kids would love it. Boy was I wrong. Their reactions were all over the map. Some indicated they had eaten granola out of a box at home. Others were familiar with granola bars. Many of the kids voted to skip the granola entirely and just eat the yogurt. Then there were a couple who passed on the yogurt and asked for granola by itself.
As for me, a bowl of fresh, plain yogurt mixed with warm granola out of the oven proved irresistible. So make both, and if the kids refuse, eat it yourself.
For the granola:
1 cup shredded, unsweetened coconut
3 cups rolled oats
1 cup wheat germ
1/2 cup sunflower seeds
1/2 cups sesame seeds (or ground flax seeds)
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/2 cup agave syrup (or honey)
1/2 cup water
1/4 cup canola oil
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 cup dried fruit (raisins, cranberries, cherries, etc.)
Preheat oven to 300 degrees.
Toast coconut on a baking sheet in the oven until lightly browned. Pour into a mixing bowl. Add remaining dry ingredients, oats, wheat germ, sunflower seeds, sesame seeds (or flax), salt, cinnamon, nutmeg. Stir until thoroughly mixed.
Pour agave syrup (or honey), water, canola oil and vanilla into a measuring cup. Use a small whisk to mix well. Pour into dry ingredients and mix thoroughly. Use a spatula to spread the mix onto the baking sheet. Place in the oven and bake, stirring every 15 minutes, until the mix has dried, browned and become very aromatic, about 45 minutes total. Set on wire racks to cool. Pour mix into a clean mixing bowl and toss in dried fruits.
When the granola has cooled, it is ready to eat (or maybe you like yours warm?) Serve as you like, with fresh fruit and yogurt, or maybe a little milk. The rest can be stored in sealable bags or jars. Warning: you will be tempted to snack on this shamelessly before you can ever put it away.
Note: We did not include nuts in this recipe because of possible allergies. But you certainly may put nuts in your granola if you like.