This column first appeared in the Saskatoon Star Phoenix.
On special occasions, my mother let us choose the breakfast cereal. This choice was made in the grocery store because the kinds of cereals we would choose were not found in our house on a regular basis. In the winter, we ate oatmeal porridge and cream of wheat. In the summer, it was wheat puffs and Corn Flakes. The cupboard was bare of anything coco-frosted-lucky-special or sporting a cartoon character on the box.
Of course, I longed for what I could not have. Special occasions, such as birthdays, were preceded by weeks of decision making. Would it be Cap’n Crunch (my all-time favourite) or Fruit Loops (my second favourite) or Frosted Flakes (a close third)? Would I eat it slowly and make it last? Or gobble it down in a few breakfasts of uncharacteristic abandon? These were weighty decisions for a 6 year old. By the time I was old enough to buy groceries, sugar cereals had lost their appeal and wheat puffs were passé. Toast became my grownup breakfast of choice.
Until that summer when I ventured to Europe under the weight of a backpack. No toaster in there. I needed a breakfast that was cold, quick, inexpensive, delicious, portable and well, European. I discovered it all in muesli. Full of oats, seeds, nuts and plump dried fruit, with no added sugar, delicious with yogurt for breakfast or by the handful as a snack. In the stores, there were many varieties and combinations of muesli to choose from; clearly, it was the breakfast of choice for many hungry Europeans. Before I flew home to Canada, I stuffed a full bag of muesli into my pack.
There was nothing quite like it in the grocery stores in Saskatoon. At some point, there began appearing processed cereals that use the word “muesli” in order to appear healthy but they were big on over-sweetened oats and stingy on the fruit. I went back to toast. Then I got the bright idea to make my own muesli. There’s nothing hard about it, just a mixture of oats, seeds, nuts and/or dried fruit. I use organic Saskatchewan ingredients as much as possible like rolled oats, flax and hemp seeds, and local apples and cherries I dried myself.
When Monika and Werner Roewekamp moved to Canada 30 years ago, they started making muesli, too. “It was something that we grew up with in Germany, but when we came to Canada we couldn’t find a muesli that we liked,” says Monika. After her friends raved about her homemade muesli, she and Werner decided to go into business. After a year of sourcing organic ingredients, many of them from Saskatchewan, and a few months of test marketing at the farmers’ market, their muesli is now for sale under the Organic2U label at health food stores and as BioStar at the local Zellers. In the New Year, they’ll bring out a muesli especially for children.
“It’s a miracle food,” says Monika, “just the way nature provided.” She can tell you all about the nutritional properties of muesli including fibre, selenium, Omega-3, amino acids and anti-cancer agents. She also says raw oats are best because cooking reduces the healthy enzymes, but I like my muesli either way.
This year, my family has decided to make Christmas presents and you can bet there’ll be some homemade muesli under the tree.
3 cups rolled oats
1/2 cup sunflower seeds
1/2 cup hemp seeds
1/4 cup pumpkin seeds
1/4 cup flax seeds
3 tbsp honey
3 tbsp canola oil
Mix together the oats and seeds. Stir together the honey and oil. If they are too stiff to stir, heat them in the microwave. Pour the honey/oil into the oats and mix thoroughly with your hands. Spread the mixture onto a big cookie sheet and bake at 200F for two hours, stirring now and then for even cooking. Cool on the cookie sheet. Add dried fruit of your choice. Store in an airtight container.