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Jen Pollock Michel

( author + writer + speaker )

Filtering by Category: Breakfast

Monday's Menu: I'm Hungry for a Story (Granola Recipe)

Up until the moment I had to get up from our second-row seat and march him up the aisle towards his impending doom (during the silent prayer of confession, he'd been anything but silent), I was having visions of heaven. We had sung two old hymns, which I learned from the pews of the Southern Baptist churches where I did my growing up: "I Stand Amazed," and "Blessed Assurance." How marvellous, how wonderful,

And my song shall ever be

How marvellous, how wonderful

Is my Savior's love for me.


This is my story, this is my song,

Praising my Savior, all the day long

This is my story, this is my song,

Praising my Savior, all the day long.

"We live today in a world impoverished of story," says Eugene Peterson in Eat This Book, and it's as if I realized as we sang those hymns yesterday, that heaven was, at least in part, going to be a feast of story. From the beginning of time until the time of Jesus' return, God will have been gathering for Himself, not just a multitude of saints, but an anthology of stories. People from every tribe, nation, people and language will sing the melody of grace in their collected psalms and poems of their lived experience; each will be a song of salvation. I can imagine it will take an eternity for that concert of praise.

Stories are sacred: they are our threads of continuity, of belonging, and for those of us who believe in the risen Jesus, they are always stories of salvation. Salvation happens in unexpected places: in backyards, in bedrooms, around the table, and at the kitchen sink. There are stories (salvation?) in our recipes, especially those we've collected from our mothers and grandmothers. I think of my friend who lost her mother years ago to pancreatic cancer, and how it has been her sacred work to type and save all of her mother's handwritten recipes. We all need to belong and to matter to someone, and our family recipes (and their flavours of an irretrievable past), can grant us that.

Today's recipe is from a family cookbook I own, although the names on the front cover aren't ones I recognize: Wheeler, O'Brien, Christensen, Porter, Ralph, Dillon. It was Cathy Dillon who gave me a copy of her family's recipes and stories. Cathy and Bill lived in the white colonial on Chestnut Avenue in Arlington Heights, Illinois, next to the first house we ever owned. We loved that grey-frame house whose nursery became an office and reincarnated, years later, again as a nursery. And we loved Cathy and Bill, feeling that we had the good fortune of settling beside the protective watch of grandparents.

The "Isle O'Dreams Family Recipes - Second Edition" is exactly the resource you want to consult when there's fresh rhubarb at the market and you've determined to make a pie like your grandmother made. And the granola recipe featured on the first page of the "Breakfast and Brunch" section has now made its way into our family lore. Several summers ago, we had two college girls we knew from church live with us, and for all that may have been inconvenient or irksome about sharing a space with FIVE young children, it was quickly forgiven the moment warm granola was taken from the oven.

Here's the recipe in its original form, although I will also suggest the changes I've experimented with over the past several years. This granola makes a great gift, and when my kids wake up later this morning and realize it's on the menu for breakfast, I might be in contention for Mother of the Year.


4 C uncooked oatmeal

1 1/2 C wheat germ

1/4 C non-fat dry milk powder (I never have this on hand, so it's usually omitted.)

1 T brown sugar

2 T cinnamon (I use a little less.)

1/2 C honey (I prefer maple syrup as a sweetener. Audrey loves this recipe with molasses.)

2/3 C canola oil (You can also substitute half of the oil apple sauce as a low-fat alternative.)

1 T vanilla

1 C nuts or seeds (We prefer almonds.)

1 C dried fruit (Usually craisins or dried cherries)

* I also like to add 1 tsp, of almond extract.

*You can also add a couple of teaspoons of ground flax seed or flax seed oil.

Mix the dry ingredients. Heat the honey and oil in the microwave. Add the vanilla; pour over dry ingredients, and stir to combine. Spread in a jellyroll pan, (You'll be glad if you spray it with non-stick), and sprinkle with nuts. Bake at 350 for 20-30 minutes. (Keep an eye on it. It doesn't have to be completely crispy when you take it out of the oven because it will continue to get crispy as you store it.) Let cool, and sprinkle with dry fruit.

Serve with milk or yogurt. Enjoy!

Monday's Menu: Apple Cider Muffins

On Saturday mornings, as the city is wiping her sleepy eyes awake, we pile noisily in the van. The city blocks are just beginning to stir. As we descend into the Don Valley, concrete surrenders to green (or now, gold and red), and it's hard to believe that we're anywhere urban. The car hugs a corner, climbs again, and the Toronto skyline emerges, perching the landscape of green, the urban and the pastoral juxtaposed in a surprising and beautiful way. This is something I've come to love best about Toronto - it's a city in its own right, throbbing with culture and business and always, people. But here you're also sure to find trees.

Our destination is the old Brickworks factory where the bricks of Toronto's skyline were made. It has since been converted to a historical landmark and natural habitat. Some of the machinery has been preserved, with the historical photos and captions on display. Behind the buildings, paths lead through marshland and ponds and more spectacular views of Toronto.

We come every Saturday to shop for produce grown by local Ontario farmers. The market crowds with people smelling herbs, buying flower bouquets, and tasting fresh cheeses. I'm armed with a list, but I'm in no hurry. I'm captivated by my senses.

It's at the Brickworks that I'm learning the language of food. I'm acquainted with the woman from the Niagara Valley who grew the peaches we ate this summer and the apples we're enjoying this fall. One week, she describes the wind storm that swept through her sister's orchard, destroying all seven of her peach trees. The cheesemaker from whose dairy I'm buying fresh cheese tells me that she'll see my next week and will look forward to hearing how the beef enchilada recipe turned out. Here, I've discovered that brussel sprouts grow on a stalk, pea plants create the most delicious shoots to be eaten, and Ambrosia apples are even sweeter than Honey Crisp.

In celebration of good local food, go pick yourself some apples or find a local farmer from whom to buy them. And make a batch of these yummy muffins. Your kids will thank you.

This recipe is taken from the cookbook, Earth to Table, by Jeff Crump and Bettina Schormann. It's a great resource if you want to try and cook seasonal foods.

Apple Cider Muffins: Makes 12 muffins


1 cup white sugar (I used 1/2 C)

I cup brown sugar (I used 1/2 C)

3/4 cup grapeseed or vegetable oil

3 large eggs

2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour

1 1/2 tsp baking soda

1 tsp kosher salt

1 tsp ground cinnamon

1 cup pure apple cider

3/4 cup sour cream (I used plain yogurt)

1 1/2 tsp pure vanilla extract

2 medium apples, peeled and grated (I diced mine)


Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Butter and flour a 12-cup muffin tin. In a medium bowl, whisk together white sugar, brown sugar and oil. Add eggs and whisk to combine.

In another bowl, sift together flour, baking soda, salt and cinnamon. In a third bowl, whisk together apple cider, sour cream and vanilla.

In three additions, add flour mixture and apple cider mixture to sugar mixture, folding with a spatula to combine. Fold in apple, then pour batter into muffin cups. Fill the cups about 3/4 way to the top. Bake turning halfway, until muffins spring back to the touch, 20-25 minutes. Remove from oven and cool on a rack.