Homemade yogurt and granola

by Bonnie Sparrman

Since you are reading this, I’ll assume you did something I did today. You got out of bed, got dressed, and hopefully ate something for breakfast.

I realize some people skip this first meal, even though we’ve all been lectured on the importance of morning nutrition. But whether or not you had breakfast isn’t the issue I wish to discuss. Rather, I invite you to consider with me, your morning routine and the value of daily rituals.

No matter how our days begin, I think most of us would agree, we are creatures of habit. We fall into certain patterns without thinking about it. Some people hit snooze several times before their feet hit the floor. Others wake up before an alarm has a chance to ruin a pleasant dream. God created early birds and night owls; those who rush with energy the moment they are conscious, and those who stumble out of bed in search of coffee, eyes half open.

Whatever your morning routine happens to be, I imagine it developed over time. Perhaps it evolved as your family grew up. Years ago, I cooked hot breakfast and walked youngsters to school. For two decades, the children’s needs dictated our mornings. When we had high school students, chaotic commotion filled the kitchen. We packed lunches assembly-line style. The kids gulped coffee and inhaled a boiled egg on toast, then hopped on bikes or caught a ride to school with Dad. When everyone was out the door, I gladly clutched my own cup of coffee and savored the silence.

When we became empty nesters, my husband and I found greater freedom in starting our days. I love quiet mornings which have become my sacred time alone. It is a gift to rise early, no matter the season. I like to be up when the house is dark and peaceful. It feels so good to exercise as the coffee brews, its heady aroma promising a tasty reward. Next, I read for a while, pray, write in my journal, or scribble a note to a friend. It’s a bonus when our Minnesota weather lets me take these activities outside. I breathe deeply of the morning air and consider the day. Possibilities abound. I am free to listen for God’s voice in what I read, in trees stirred by the breeze, and in birds that grace their branches.

Picture of yoghurt with berries

Next comes breakfast, which excites me even though it’s the same five or six days a week. I scoop plain yogurt into my bowl, top it with berries and granola, sometimes toss in an extra tablespoon of ground flax, and if my sweet tooth speaks up, I add a swirl of real maple syrup. This is ordinary fare, and yet I find it so satisfying it has become my daily breakfast.

Eric and I keep a gallon jar of home-baked granola on our kitchen counter which lasts us about three weeks, unless we have guests. It has become a staple. So has homemade yogurt, which we prefer over anything purchased in a plastic container. I used to be a fan of Greek yogurt, but over time it turned against me, sticking like a blob of overcooked pudding in my throat. So, starting a batch of yogurt, which is truly a snap, is an addition to my morning routine every other Saturday.

Yogurt and granola might not seem like thrilling recipes to share. They certainly aren’t celebratory like a beautiful cake, nor are their origins reminiscent of exotic travels. They are every-day, common place…mundane, if you will. But where do we live the preponderance of life? I imagine the majority of us wake up most mornings at home and eat an ordinary breakfast. So why shouldn’t it be delicious and something we like? Something wholesome and tasty for our senses?

We have a friend who lost her son last week. At 90 years old, she is brokenhearted. Even in deep grief, her husband wisely points out the importance of sticking to as many of their regular routines as possible. He understands the need for familiar daily rituals. When a huge chunk of their life feels unhinged by this untimely death, daily habits become part of the healing process. While listening to him, I imagine John and Mary sitting down to breakfast together, practicing music together; finding comfort in the commonplace, which is the polar opposite of this uncommon grief.

Life is made up of many quotidian habits we repeat over and over. Sometimes we motor through the motions allowing the humdrum to blur beauty out of our consciousness, to dull our taste buds, to miss what is awesome and inspiring all around us.

On the other hand, when we wake up to what our senses tell us, and realize that all we experience are gifts from God, everything looks different. As we welcome Christ into the actions of our lives, day-to-day rituals become sacred. Suddenly, I recognize Christ all around me; in people, in the cardinals that race each other to our feeder just as dawn brightens the eastern sky. I sense him in the first sip of coffee, and yes, in silky smooth yogurt topped with berries and delightfully crunchy granola. It is super ordinary, because most days are ordinary…and sacred.

Yoghurt in jars

Homemade Yogurt

2 quarts milk (we like 2% or whole milk)
2 T. (30 gm) plain yogurt to culture the milk. Plain Dannon works well. You only need this the first time. For every successive batch, use 2 T. yogurt from a previous jar.

Preheat oven to 250 degrees F.

Place two 1-quart jars (or equivalent) and lids on a baking sheet.

Set them in the oven for 15 minutes.

In a stock pot, warm milk to 190 degrees F.

Cool milk to 110 degrees F. In cold weather, you may cool the stockpot outside.

Place 2 T. (30 gm) of yogurt in a small bowl. Add about 2 T. of 110-degree milk to the yogurt and stir until it is smooth. Add another ¼ cup of milk to the bowl. Stir so it is completely mixed.

Add the little bowl of yogurt and milk to the stockpot and stir to evenly distribute. If you desire completely smooth yogurt, free of any skin that may have formed while warming the milk, strain it into a sterilized (but cool) pitcher or bowl. Pour into sterilized jars that are only slightly warm. Screw lids onto jars.

Place jars in a slightly warm environment. I put ours into knit ski caps and place them in a thermal lunch tote with a cloth rice bag that was heated in the microwave. Set lunch tote in a warmish place in your home, perhaps near a heating vent or in a cupboard not on an outside wall. In the summer, I wrap the container in a down jacket and place it away from any air conditioning vents. The idea is to keep the yogurt cozy.

Let the yogurt incubate for 9-12 hours. The longer it sits, the tangier it becomes. Refrigerate yogurt for up to three weeks.

Granola We Love

Mix together in large bowl of stand mixer:

6 cups old fashioned oats
1 ¼ cups rough chopped pecans, walnuts or hazelnuts (or a combination)
2 ½ cups sliced almonds
2 cups natural, unsweetened strips of coconut
1/3 cup ground flax seed

Melt in a small saucepan:

50 gm coconut oil, or other oil of your choosing (a scant ¼ cup)
95 gm maple syrup (a generous ¼ cup)
95 gm honey (a generous ¼ cup)
1 tsp. vanilla extract (optional)

Add to mixer bowl and mix on low speed for one minute. This forms nice clumps.

Spread evenly (without pressing down) onto three baking sheets lined with parchment or Silpat. Bake at 300 degrees F. for 15 minutes. Rotate pans and bake for 10 more minutes or until granola is evenly golden brown.

Allow to cool on pans. Place in airtight container.

Makes one gallon.