KEEP CALM AND EAT WHATEVER YOU WANT!
Here’s something you may not know about: May 11 is National Eat What You Want Day. While I wasn’t able to find an origin or designator for this day, I have to say, “It’s about time!”
Maybe you can relate: It’s been a super busy day and I’m exhausted. It’s dinnertime and all I can think of for dinner is cereal. Or maybe a dish of hot oatmeal. Ever been there?
Well today that’s just the direction I’m heading. To anyone that wants to know what’s for dinner, I’m enthusiastically responding (and with no guilt, I might add), “Eat what you want!” Seriously.
But not to let you down, let’s look at something kind of fun, that’s sort of related. Have you ever made your own cold cereal? Most local supermarkets devote almost an entire aisle to cereal—most of them loaded with more sugar than a Twinkie®, as well as preservatives, synthetic colors, and other ingredients with dubious pedigrees. Even if they do contain whole grain, most of them have been so heavily processed as to be devoid of any lingering nutrition. Not only that, but they're expensive!
So why not make your own? You’ll be able to minimize the sugar overload and rely on whole grains, thus upping the health factor too boot! Whether it’s puffs or flakes, it’s not hard. For instance:
PUFFS. Commercially these are made by superheating grains, shooting them out of a gun, and often sugar-coating them. You can pop amaranth or sorghum seeds for something a little healthier: Heat a dry cast-iron skillet over medium heat, add a tablespoon of seeds, stir until the popping stops, then empty the tiny popcorn-like kernels into a cool container immediately so they don't burn, and eat them up with milk.
HOMEMADE "GRAPE NUTS." Though you'll need to make these over the weekend, they are quite easy to prepare, and when you make your own, you can adjust the sweetness to suit your tastes (and even the hardness—I can't eat commercial versions because they tear up the roof of my mouth).
HOMEMADE GRAPENUTS (makes 8 servings)
3½ cups whole wheat flour (freshly ground or "sprouted" flour each have natural sweetness)
2 cups buttermilk, or 2 cups whole milk mixed with 2 tablespoons of vinegar to sour it
1 teaspoon baking soda
¼ cup honey or your favorite sweetener (optional)
½ teaspoon salt
Combine all ingredients and let batter sit at room temperature for up to 12 hours.
Then, spread out into a ¼-inch layer on a cookie pan lined with parchment paper or silicone liners.
Bake at 350ºF for about 15 minutes, or until the edges start to brown.
Remove from oven, allow to cool slightly.
Peel from pan and break into chunks (if cereal still feels sticky, return your pan to the oven for a few more minutes).
Break into small chunks with a rolling pin or by whizzing about a cup at a time in a food processor or blender (stop before it turns into meal).
After that, put cereal back on your cookie pan and back in the oven, set as low as your oven allows, until the chunks are as dry as you want them; the drier they are, the harder your cereal will be.
Once it's to your liking, store the cereal in an airtight container.
FLAKES. The cereal just described can be made into flakes by adding enough water to the batter so that you can spread it more thinly (1/8-inch or less) before baking it. Substitute corn flour or fine cornmeal for whole wheat flour if cornflakes is the goal.
Flakes bake quite rapidly, so keep a close eye on your pan and pull it out as soon as the batter just starts to brown. Break it into flakes and return the flakes to a low oven until completely dry and crisp. Store in an airtight container.
Since these are not coated with sugar or any other synthetic ingredients that help them resist moisture, they will soak up milk faster than commercial products, so stick to small servings. Homemade flakes are also great for use in homemade granola to add some variety.
Lastly, SWISS MUESLI. Sure, you can buy ready-to-eat muesli in stores, but many versions are mostly grain and heavily sweetened. Plus they’re pricey. And to add insult to injury, they bear little resemblance to the traditional Swiss fruit- and nut-rich breakfast that's so healthy and so incredibly good. Making your own is the answer.
BETTER THAN STORE-BOUGHT SWISS MUESLI (makes 1 serving)
1 tablespoon rolled oats
3 tablespoons water
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice or cider vinegar
1 tablespoon cream or full-fat yogurt
1 large apple, preferably tart
1 tablespoon hazelnuts or almonds, ground
1 cup golden or regular raisins
Up to 12 hours before breakfast, mix oats, water, and lemon juice or vinegar in a bowl and set aside to soak (if you use quick oats, this step is less critical).
Right before breakfast, core apple and grate it, skin and all, on top of the oats.
Add cream or yogurt and ground nuts to the bowl, stir, and enjoy!
Feel free to substitute nuts with other varieties and use whatever fruits are in season in addition to, or instead of, the apple.
I’m pretty sure you’ll find these recipes so good you’ll be eating them all the time, not just on National Eat What You Want Day. Do you have a favorite homemade cereal recipe you turn to? We’d love to know about it. Meanwhile, here’s to eating what you want—today and always, actually!
Weekly Newsletter Contributor since 2006
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