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May 2013

Food for Thought

Fill Your Bowl with Homemade Goodness
By Lorinda

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Index of Food for Thought recipes

Click here for this month's printable recipes


Here's a jar of homemade Grape Nuts. What cereal do you want to try in your kitchen?


Coco Puffs, Frosted Flakes, Trix, Lucky Charms . . . my generation was the first to be inundated with catchy cereal advertisements. Corn Flakes and Cheerios already existed, but they were pretty boring—no comparison to the colorful, sugar-coated stuff dancing across our TV screens. Oh, Mom held out for a while, offering soft-boiled eggs and Cream of Wheat in the mornings, but eventually breakfast cereal predominated and "real" breakfasts were for weekends.

I was nine when Lucky Charms hit the stores and remember being disappointed with the actual product. "Magically delicious" was questionable as far as I was concerned. The original Lucky Charms didn't go over very well, but once they added a sugar coating the stuff sold like candy. Go figure.

I still can't abide crunchy marshmallows. It's just wrong!

We all know, of course, that boxed cereal isn't good for us. It's highly processed, possibly harmful, and in most cases it's loaded with sugar. The high heat and extrusion process negates the health benefits of even the "natural" and "healthy" options. I promised I wouldn't rant this month, so if you want to learn more, here's a link you should read: Dirty Secrets of the Food Processing Industry.

Did you know you can make breakfast cereals at home? Without specialized equipment you won't be able to produce puffed cereals, or "hearts, stars, and clovers," but it's easy to make a very tasty, crunchy, minimally processed bowl of cereal to get your morning started right.

Here in the Pacific Northwest, wheat is a very important crop. Montana, Washington, and Idaho are all in the list of top ten states for wheat production. I love to grow and grind my own grains, but it's a laborious process, so I depend on all of the wonderful Northwest farmers for my wheat.

Grape Nuts Cereal was introduced just a wee bit before my time—in the late 1800s—and was initially promoted as a "brain food." In the 1960s the emphasis was more diet-related, with the assurance that Grape Nuts "fills you up, not out."

When I want something crunchy, a small cup of dry Grape Nuts is very satisfying, though a little hard on my teeth and jaw muscles. The crunch factor increased in 2005 when the formula was changed to include ground husks so the cereal could be called "whole grain."

Here is a link for a recipe for homemade Plant-Based Grape Nuts from Melissa at Honey Bee Hive. She adapted a recipe to make it dairy free, but gives you a link to the original recipe, too. I tried the dairy-free recipe, and it makes a wonderful bowl of cereal. It's sweeter, with just the right amount of crunch. My teeth are much happier with this homemade version!


Grape Nuts warm from the oven.


Cocoa Puffs were always my favorite cereal, narrowly winning out over Alpha Bits. I loved to put too much milk in the bowl so that I could have chocolate milk after the cereal was gone. And yes, my chocolate addiction started very early!

I'm not going to claim that homemade Cocoa Puffs are completely healthy, or that they're quite as delicious as the real thing, but if you're craving those crunchy little balls of chocolate and corn, this is close enough!

If I weren't trying to avoid GMOs in my daily diet, I would use Kix as a base for these homemade Cocoa Puffs, but I settled for an organic corn puff. I tried the recipe using both sweetened puffs and unsweetened puffs, and both were good. It took me four tries before I was happy with the coating; the cocoa in the original recipe was just a little too bitter for me and I had to tweak it a bit.

For fun, I tried a batch with peanut butter in it and I think I like that one even better! Since you're not actually making the cereal, this is a very quick and easy process, so you might as well try both options.


Homemade Cocoa Puffs


Corn Flakes tried my patience. After nine attempts I learned the following:

  • No matter what the recipes on the Internet say, it is not possible to roll out dough thinly enough to resemble anything like flakes.
  • When you crumble a large piece of cooked corn batter, it makes a disappointingly small amount of cereal.
  • Sweetener is necessary . . . otherwise you're basically eating little crunchy pieces of corn tortillas.
  • Never blow into a coffee grinder with cornmeal in it unless you have your eyes closed. Seriously.

Most of the recipes I found for Corn Flakes involved rolling dough as thin as possible and then baking it until it was crispy. The resulting cereal was tasty, but definitely not what I was expecting. Thick and crunchy just didn't cut it; I wanted thin and light. My experiments for spreading batter on baking sheets were unsuccessful.

Then I finally found a method of pan-frying the corn and played with ingredients until I was satisfied. You'll need a nonstick (preferably ceramic) pan and a spray bottle. You'll also have to have patience, and practice a bit until you get the hang of it. It also helps to have chickens to happily gobble up any mistakes.


Homemade Corn Flakes


I saved the best for last! Here is a granola recipe that is simple to make, and positively addicting. You can vary the ingredients to suit your taste, using whatever nuts and seeds you have on hand. It's wonderful with milk, of course, but I prefer to just eat it by the handful. There are so many possible variations that I may have to do an entire column in the future just about granola.


Great Granola!


I use 7-grain cereal instead of rolled oats, but either will work just fine. I buy my 7-grain cereal in fifty-pound bags from Wheat Montana and cook some almost every morning during the winter. But once the hot weather comes and I begin heading down to the garden as soon as the sun is up, hot cereal won't be very appealing. I think granola is going to be my best friend this summer.

On the go, or in a bowl on the front porch, cereal is a great start to anyone's day. Enjoy!


Contact Lorinda at lorindamckinnon@gmail.com

Lorinda resides in Eastern Washington, where she joyously combines her love of cooking and gardening. Baking is her passion, and licking the batter off the spoon after making a cake is her reward. When she's not in the kitchen, she's out in the garden pulling weeds and snacking on young peas. Also enjoy Lorinda's blog, The Rowdy Baker.


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