I like variety. Sure, sometimes during the week I can get on a kick and eat the same thing every night for dinner (hellooo, lima beans, I'm lookin' at you), but I also really appreciate mixing it up every now and then.
That's why a few months ago when I decided I wanted some breakfast cereal, I went to the store and bought about 8 different boxes of the stuff. Each morning needed to have its own flavor -- as long as the nutrition facts were acceptable. What? Don't look at me like that. Sure, I may be the same girl who posted the Coffee Cookie Dough Fudge Cheesecake, but I do try to eat reasonably during the week!
The store-bought cereal was okay. At least, I thought it was okay at the time. But then something happened -- I had one of those thunderous BIG IDEAS.
It all started when I was perusing one of my favorite blogs, Not So Humble Pie, and saw her (you're not going to believe it) S'mores Candy Bar. I know. Insane.
The premise of her post was that she didn't understand the excitement over this new company that makes customizable candy bars, since it's so easy to make them at home. Having been excited about the customizable candy bar company, I felt admonished. And inspired.
Because even more than I had been excited about customizable candy bars, I was excited about customizable cereal. There's this company on the web (I won't link to them, since I'm about to tell you it's silly to pay for their product) that allows you to choose all the ingredients you want in your own personal box of cereal -- and even lets you pick a name for your new creation! Too fun!
BUT. I realized when I read Mrs. Humble's candy bar post that it didn't make any sense to pay for one kind of customized cereal (that was just like going to the grocery store), or even for eight kinds of customized cereal . . . what would really make sense is to make your own fully customizable cereal buffet -- one that would allow you to have a different flavor every day if you wanted to!
A dream was born. I scrounged up recipes for homemade granola and nutty bran flakes (I'll gush about these in a minute). And as if to emphasize that making homemade cereal was indeed my destiny, the folks at Oh! Nuts emailed to ask if I'd like to review some of their products. Uh, YES, NUT PEOPLE, YOU READ MY MIND. Pounds of nuts and dried fruits later, I was in the cereal-makin' biz.
If you're about to post a comment calling me a hippie for making my own bran flakes, hold it right there. This recipe is super easy, super cool, and super rewarding. You feel like a superhero (who makes their own cereal?! I MAKE MY OWN CEREAL! I AM CEREAL WOMAN!), you know exactly what healthy ingredients went into said cereal, and -- this is the best part -- you have bran flakes that don't taste like a cardboard box. Every time I opened the jar they were stored in, I got a whiff of delicious nuttiness. They had texture! They had taste! Yes!
The granola is the flavor that really carries the cereal, though. I chose a Double Coconut Granola from Opera Girl Cooks that I'd heard a ton about. Once it cooled, it lived up to the hype -- buttery, slightly sweet, coconutty, with a hint of salt to really amp it up.
Once you've made some flakes and granola, the fun starts. Possible add-ins are endless: dried fruits, fresh fruits, toasted nuts (do make sure to toast them -- MUCH more flavor), seeds, chocolate chips, peanut butter or cinnamon chips, candy, marshmallows . . . be creative! Add a little, add a lot.
My favorite bowl was a straight-up combination of all my options: bran flakes, double coconut granola, dried cherries, dried blueberries, cinnamon pecans, and toasted walnuts. If you have just 2 dried fruits and two nut options along with your flakes and granola, you'll have 48 possible breakfast cereal varieties -- that's a lot of options!
The Oh! Nuts products were a success in terms of taste -- the blueberries had a pronounced, wonderful blueberry flavor, and the cinnamon pecans were so addictive that I almost ate my stash before I got my cereal made! The sour cherries did have an odd, slightly fishy flavor (I know, weird), but I still enjoyed eating them. Maybe a flavor compound of the cherries came out that isn't as pronounced when they're not dried?
To be honest, including the price of shipping, I probably wouldn't spend the extra money to buy regular nuts or fruit from Oh! Nuts, but would just head to the grocery store. That being said, for specialty items or rare nuts/fruits/candies, they're the place to go. The selection is huge, and the products are high quality.
If you, like me, love a big ol' bowl of hearty, nutty, earthy, crunchy, chewy, flavorful, delicious breakfast cereal -- and one that can change with whatever mood you're in -- I hope you'll make your own personal cereal buffet! Or perhaps fix a cereal buffet in pretty jars as a gift for a friend. Even better, have a breakfast party: set up a cereal buffet for family and friends where each person can make their own cereal combination, perhaps supplemented with juice and muffins on the side. Have fun!
Oh, by the way, I did have to branch out a little in homage to my original inspiration. How about some S'mores Cereal?
Below you'll find the recipes for granola and nutty bran flakes. I even included nutritional info so you can make healthy breakfast choices! Round up some of your favorite add-ins and place all the components in separate jars for storage. Enjoy!
Homemade Nutty Bran Flakes
- 1/2 cup bran
- 1/2 cup whole wheat flour
- 1/3 cup almond flour (or other finely ground nuts)
- 2 tablespoons sugar
- 1/4 teaspoon baking powder
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- 1/3 cup milk
- 1/4 cup water
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Sift all dry ingredients into a large mixing bowl and add milk and water. Stir to mix well. The resulting mixture will be a very wet “dough” (so wet, you can hardly call it a dough). Cut two sheets of parchment paper to fit two baking sheets, and set one sheet of parchment paper on the counter where you’ll be rolling — you won’t be able to transfer it without this!
- Glop half of the “dough” out onto the sheet of parchment paper and flatten it by hand. Place a piece of plastic wrap over the dough and “roll” it out (your rolling pin will almost just be smooshing it out into place) EXTREMELY THIN, almost transparent in some places. It will look like a giant bran flake — super fun!
- Remove the plastic wrap and transfer the parchment carefully to a baking sheet. Cook for 10 minutes, but check often after just 5, because such a thin dough can easily burn. You’re looking for a thin, leathery cracker that is crunchy at the edges. When it’s done, remove it and allow it to cool completely. While it cools, repeat the process with the other half of the dough.
- After both giant bran flakes have finished their first bake, reduce the oven temperature to 275 degrees. Tear the first, cooled bran flake into regular bran flake-sized pieces (about 3/4 of an inch), spreading them out on the parchment-covered baking sheet.
- Bake at the reduced temperature for 20 minutes, flipping and stirring the flakes around every 5 minutes. Repeat process with the second cooled, giant bran flake. Then allow all bran flakes to cool completely. Store well in a sealed container for up to two weeks.
Now that I've shared my favorites with you, I'm anxious to know: What sort of breakfast cereal would you make for yourself? Piña colada cereal with toasted coconut and dried pineapple? Cherry crumble cereal with dried cherries and cinnamon granola? A luscious combo of dates, coconut, and chocolate chips?
Double Coconut Granola
- 3 cups rolled oats
- 1 scant cup unsweetened shredded coconut
- 1/4 cup clover honey
- 1/6 cup virgin coconut oil (half of a 1/3 cup measure)
- 1 tablespoon vanilla extract (I used almond because I was out of vanilla)
- 1 teaspoon kosher salt
- optional: I toasted another 1/2 cup of sweetened shredded coconut to add in for sweetness, but that was before I’d tasted the cooled batch. It’s probably unnecessary.
- Heat oven to 300 degrees F. Combine oats and shredded coconut in a large bowl. In a small saucepan over medium heat, cook honey, coconut oil, vanilla, and salt until just simmering.
- Pour honey mixture over the oat mixture, stirring well with a wooden spoon until fully combined. Spread this mixture out over a large sheet pan, place in oven, and bake for 10 minutes before stirring the granola. Repeat 10 minute baking time, followed by stirring, until granola is well-toasted (takes about 4 cycles, or about 40 minutes).
- Cool the granola on the baking sheet, stirring occasionally. When cooled, you can store granola in an airtight container in the refrigerator for a few weeks, or at room temperature for two.
Other delicious breakfast ideas floating around the internet right now: Beer Waffles with Cinnamon Cardamom Apples, S'mores Oatmeal, Oatmeal Pancakes, Pecan Sticky Buns, and of course, from yours truly, Carrot Cake Waffles.
Note: I received the above mentioned products from Oh! Nuts free of charge to create these recipes.