I am not a big breakfast eater. I know what they say – how it’s the most important meal of the deal and all that. I just can’t bring myself to eat much. Part of it is that I am totally not a morning person and I think it takes my stomach a full hour to start working after I get my “Mommy!” wake up call. Part of it is so many years of being weight conscious and watching calories.
Most women I know have hit That Day. The day where they can no longer eat whatever they want. The day when having a decent figure takes work instead of coming naturally. It varies for everyone, but I had the extreme bad luck to hit That Day when I was sixteen. Up until then, I was never a skinny minnie, but I just didn’t pay all that much attention and just ate until I was full. My mom was (and is) a good cook and made healthy meals and I always enjoyed eating. My mom has always had serious issues with her weight (she is very thin) and food, but – good for her – she managed to keep her thoughts to herself when it came to me.
And then, at the ripe old age of sixteen, I ate my way through France and it all changed. Michael Phelps can eat his 12,000 calories a day and still be ripped and thin – my 12,000 calories a day (if it wasn’t that, it was pretty close) just made me chunky. I lost the 15 pounds I gained but always had to watch it after that. Some combination of pain au chocolat and hormones ruined my eat-anything-I-want days forever.
I didn’t gain the Freshman Fifteen when I went to college for two reasons. I didn’t drink beer (yet) and I lived on the 4th floor of my dorm. This meant walking up and down four flights of stairs many many times a day and I really think it is that which saved me. My weight remained about the same as high school until I hit my late 20′s and went through a separation and finally a divorce. I dropped 15 pounds in 3 months – a lot on a 5’3″ frame – and managed to keep it off until I got pregnant with my first son many years later. I will be honest and tell you I kept it off through deprivation. I never snacked. I never tasted the wonderful desserts I would bake. I would never finish food that was on my plate – even if it had been a small portion to start with.
I could not embrace my inner foodie. I could not enjoy the food I put so much care into making. It was not a way to live for someone who loves food. Getting pregnant freed me somewhat from this cycle. We were living in London at the time and, because of the tremendous amount of walking I did just to keep our lives going, I was the thinnest I had ever been. I vowed that as soon as I found out I was pregnant, I would eat french fries and that is exactly what I did. I ate a lot of french fries, a lot of dessert, a lot of everything during those nine months. I allowed myself to have eggs for breakfast. I started cleaning my plate. If a cookie sounded good in the afternoon, I had one. For the first time since I was sixteen, I had juice everyday. It was my only pregnancy craving and I drank gallons of orange juice or Paul Newman’s Limeade. It was wonderful!
As I started to get bigger, I started to lose my appetite. I also kept active during the whole pregnancy and I never let myself go completely crazy. 18 years of dieting can do that to a person. For these reasons, I didn’t gain all that much. I stayed within the 25-35 pound guideline. But it was very hard for me, after having been so thin pre-pregnancy, to adjust to my new body and new appetite. Women who have nursed a baby know what I am talking about. I never thought I could consume so much food – except when I was in France.
About a year after I had him, I threw in the towel and decided I was never going to be that weight again. I had a new and somewhat more healthy approach to the food I ate – namely to enjoy it. I took small portions of the desserts I made. If I was hungry, I had a snack. I tried to balance it all with exercise which, admittedly, was difficult with a young guy hanging around all the time. I just tried my best to make peace with myself and balance my love of food with my love of fitting into my pants.
I am still trying to find this balance as my business grows and I am finally (20 months later!) at peace with my body post-second baby.
Because I would rather eat a larger lunch and dinner, breakfast is usually some yogurt and possibly a piece of fruit these days. But I will have to change the rules for this granola. I have been making it for years and everyone who tastes it loves it. One of my clients said, “This isn’t a cereal, it’s a candy bar!” Not because it is so sweet (it isn’t) but because it is so decadent tasting. Every so often I find another granola recipe that sounds interesting and I make it, only to regret not having made this one. Perhaps the best part is the incredible smell of butter, cinnamon, and honey that will linger in your kitchen. I made this for my clients as an apology for my disaster last week. I think they will forgive me.
Fruit and Spice Granola
Adapted from Gourmet Magazine
Makes 10 cups
I would recommend sweetened flake coconut in this recipe rather than the unsweetened kind. It’s texture and taste work better. I use whatever combination of dried fruit I have on hand at the time I am making it. This time it was apricots, cranberries, raisins, and dates.
4 cups old-fashioned oats
1 cup coconut
1 cup sliced almonds
1 cup pecans
1 1/2 tsp. cinnamon
1/2 tsp. nutmeg
1 stick unsalted butter
1/2 cup honey
2 cups mixed dried fruits
Preheat oven to 300 degrees. In a large bowl, stir oats, coconut, nuts, and spices. In a small pan, melt butter and honey over low heat, stirring occasionally. Pour butter mixture over oat mixture and toss to combine well.
Spread granola evenly in 2 shallow pans and bake in upper and lower thirds of oven, stirring frequently and switching position of pans halfway through baking, until golden, about 30 minutes. Remove from oven and carefully stir in fruit. Let cool, stirring occasionally.
(Will keep in an airtight container in the refrigerator for one month.)