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Pumkin Spice Granola aka Cracknola: From PSL to PSG


Granola is nearly synonymous with Hippie Food. In the early 2000s, I truly believed I was a hippie. I adorned myself with tie dye, hemp necklaces, went to Bonnaroo and smoked a ton of weed– the whole nine yards. I was so immersed in this persona that my first adult life film, written and produced by moi, is called Desperate Hippies. Clearly, a parody of the first episode of Desperate Housewives. Spoiler Alert: It's cheesy AF. 

“How I Became a Hippie” is a lesson for all you young folks out there. Keep on going towards Memory Lane… 

Do you remember the “cool kids” of the 90s, with the butterfly hair clips and transparent phones? Yeah, I was far from that. I loved musical theater, spent hours on DOS computers and had a very offbeat tomboy fashion sense. I even wore the same backwards baseball hat for 2 years over my ponytail (so gay, I know). At 10, Queen was my #1 choice. Being driven to hockey practice meant my mom had to listen to “Bohemian Rhapsody” over and over again.  To top it all off, my very few friends were boys. 

I could continue listing my idiosyncratic qualities, but I'll get to the point. I didn't let anyone define me. I was just myself. 

At 12, my love of musical theater landed me a talent agent who had seen me perform in Ohio and urged my parents to get me out to LA for the 1998 Pilot Season. I missed most of the last 2 years of middle school– not too bad if you ask me. I was technically still a student, and in ye olden days my Ohio teachers would fax my class work to a tutor in LA. Despite little Jenn not having many friends, I'd grown up around the same kids my whole childhood, and this solo student shituation only furthered my social disconnect. 

At 14, I had a mini meltdown. I had flown back to Ohio for the very end of 8th grade. All of these kids who I didn't think even knew my name were suddenly welcoming, friendly and happy to see me. Not exactly the "super cool" crowd, but the people who would soon become my close friends in band, theater, and early high school. 

By the middle of my sophomore year, I was well established as a total book nerd: the straight-A student (only thing straight…) One weekend, my band friends and I decided we were going to try weed. All of the cool kids were doing it– so we piled into a small, lime green station wagon and smoked several joints. If you didn’t know, not everyone gets blazed the first time they smoke. 

Hours later, there I was, high as a kite - running around a parking lot between Perkins and McDonalds with airplane arms. At that point I decided walking up to the drive-thru window was a great idea. Fuzziness ensues, but I hear I got pretty wild that night. 

The following Monday, I walked into my History class and took my assigned seat. I'd been placed right next to one of the “super cool” kids - a girl who I maybe also had a huge crush on, but it was 2001 so that feeling had no name. Get this flashback:

She leans over to me. My heart starts racing. I panic-think, “Is she about to talk to me?!” And alas! She says: “Hey, Shags… I heard you smoked weed. Is that true?” Not only is the cool chick speaking to me, but she is whispering–in my ear– and there is a slight glint in her eye. Knot in my stomach, teenage sweat on my neck, I keep cool and reply in my signature awkward-casual fashion: “Yep. Totally. I even made some pipes out of Sculpey Clay*.” And she delivers the punchline: “Sick, dude! Let's blaze up some time.”

The rest is (High School) History. Weed became my social ladder life-hack, and I climbed it to the highest rung. I'll save the fun stories for another post. There's plenty of good that came out of my teenage identity crisis - especially my still best friend, Amy. I also found myself in a fair amount of dangerous situations, but it wasn’t the weed, kids, that was just me. 

Moral of the story: be yourself. You will meet your people, who appreciate you for who you are. I could have spared the loss of many brain cells. 

My presumed Hippie self eventually learned that love is not free. I look infinitely sexier in skinny jeans than brown corduroys (how did I ever wear those…)  and hemp jewelry gives me terrible rashes. I still love blasting Janis Joplin and burning patchouli - and I most certainly love granola. 

I wanted to post this recipe while the air is crisp and the leaves are falling. 

*I would later find out that smoking out of Sculpey Clay is toxic, so please don't.

On to this week's recipe...

Pumpkin Spice Granola aka Cracknola

I've created many variations of this recipe. If you don't like pumpkin spice, leave it out. Add some Old Bay, Cinnamon Sugar, Cannabis Butter...whatever floats your boat. It's also great minus the pumpkin spice + dried blueberries, strawberries, etc. 

You'll be making a pretty large batch of granola. You can feel free to downsize it - this tastes great with a side of regret.

Pro Tip: This recipe makes a great Meal Prep breakfast item paired with a side of Greek yogurt and honey. That link to Greek yogurt is the only one you should be eating. Thanks to my wife, Iris, I've seen the light - and it is Fage 5% yogurt. 


*Chef's Note: This recipe is already Vegan and Gluten Free - but shop cautiously. Use pure whole oats to ensure the granola you make is truly free of gluten if necessary. Oat processing facilities aren't always the best at avoiding cross-contamination, but Bob's Red Mill Organic Old Fashioned Oats are a safe bet.

PS: Yes, I know Pumpkin Pie spice already contains cinnamon and nutmeg. If you're feeling lazy or just don't give a shit, dump more Pumpkin Pie spice into the mixing bowl.

Preheat your oven to 350°F (177°C). If you have convection mode on your oven, go ahead and use it. If you don't, that won't make much of a difference. Just don't use an air fryer unless you like breaking your teeth on granola.

Line one large (or two medium-ish) sheet pans with foil. Spray the foil evenly with nonstick cooking spray and thank me later for not having as many dishes to wash. You can skip the foil, but that's your call. 

Get yourself a big-ass mixing bowl. Add all ingredients except the Coconut Oil, Agave Nectar, Light Brown Sugar and Pure Vanilla Extract. Please don't add nonstick cooking spray to the bowl - we already used that. Stir gently to avoided flinging oats and nuts all over your kitchen until the contents of the bowl are mixed evenly together.

Is your coconut oil in a liquid state? If not, make sure it is before proceeding. 

Add the melted Coconut Oil, Agave Nectar, Brown Sugar and pure Vanilla Extract into the big-ass bowl. Mix very well one more time, ensuring all of the bowl contents are evenly coated with the liquid ingredients. 

Carefully pour some of the granola on to your prepared sheet pan(s). Spread the well-mixed granola out into a thin, even layer (about 2 cm thick). It's okay to use more than one pan or bake the granola in batches. It's sensitive and needs a lot of attention while in the oven.

Baking time will vary based on your oven's BTUs (aka powerful) and elevation. My average batch takes between 22 to 26 minutes. Place the pan(s) of granola into the oven, making sure to stir every 8ish minutes. Keep a close eye on it once you're nearing the 18 minute mark.

The granola is done when it takes on a light gold hue. Don't let it fool you - it may seem just slightly soft, but that's a good thing. It's going to crisp and harden as it cools should be turning lightly golden. If you're afraid you're going to overcook it, make a small test-batch first. If you burn it, don't hate on yourself. Think of it like the first batch of pancakes - still good enough to eat, but not as pretty.

Place the done pan(s) of granola in a safe place to cool - somewhere your cat, partner, roommate or family member won't find it yet. Once someone starts eating it, it may take an intervention program to stop them.

Let it cool completely, then store in Mason Jars or another airtight container to keep it fresh AF for months.

Look how pretty it looks in set of Ball Jars? Don't fear - this is a double (or triple?) batch I made...

As mentioned above, this is an easy, inexpensive breakfast or snack you can take with you. Kids love it, too. Look at this cute little Meal Prep container I made. *Keep the yogurt separate until eating - you don't want it all mushy.*

That's all for this weekend, friends. 

See? I can make simple recipes. Take that, "Brenda."