Posts Tagged ‘granola’

Rice-A-Roni Co-creator Judges Ultimate Chef America, Shares Granola Recipe

January 28, 2010

Lois De Domenico knows a thing or two about food.

Lois is the co-creator of Rice-A-Roni, the iconic convenience food remembered around the country as The San Francisco Treat.

That’s why the folks at Brookdale Senior Living, one of the nation’s largest operators of senior living communities in the U.S., asked her to act as a judge for  Ultimate Chef America, a series of cook offs showcasing Brookdale chefs in several retirement facilities around the country this year.

The focus: Healthy cooking for elders. Think Iron Chef for the senior set.

The first event is today in Phoenix and you can watch the competition, which kicks off at 4:30 P.M. MST, right here.

I know Lois will return from Arizona full of stories. She’s a natural storyteller. I know this because for the past year I’ve spent most Thursday mornings interviewing her for a memoir she’s writing for her four children, five grandchildren, and great-grandchild.

It was during one of these sessions that she recounted the story behind the birth of Rice-A-Roni. She first learned the recipe for this pilaf dish (rice, vermicelli pasta, butter, and chicken stock) in 1946.

Then a 19-year-old Canadian immigrant, she had recently married Tommy De Domenico, who hailed from an Italian pasta-making family. The couple rented a large room in a San Francisco apartment from an elderly Armenian, Pailadzo Captanian, who years earlier fled the genocide in her country in search of a better life. They shared a tiny kitchen.

Mrs. Captanian made yogurt, baklava, and chicken soup. And Armenian rice pilaf. Lois learned how to make the pilaf and, to this day, still makes it from scratch. She served up the side dish to the De Domenico brothers of the Golden Grain Macaroni Company, who put it into a box and, with hard work and the help of some pretty savvy marketing, well…the rest is food history.

To hear more about the back story behind the Armenian-Canadian-Italian Treat, listen to an interview with Lois by the Kitchen Sisters as part of their wonderful Hidden Kitchen series for NPR.

A major Bay Area philanthropist, Lois is also an avid yoga practitioner and instructor. Every Monday she teaches a group of women at her home and, later the same day, she holds a class for middle school students at Northern Light School in Oakland, in what she refers to, glowingly, as hands-on philanthropy.

How many other octogenarians can claim such impressive physical feats and second acts?

She credits yoga and a nutritious diet to her continued good health.

And part of her healthy eating regimen involves starting the day with a bowl of homemade granola. Since this is Lois we’re talking about, there’s a story to go with this dish.

I’ll let her tell you the tale in her own words:

“About 40 years ago I was going on a hiking trip and I needed some hiking boots. I went to a store in Berkeley and I sat next to a young girl. Today you’d call her a hippie. Somehow we started talking about food and she gave me her recipe for granola. Well, I’ve been making it ever since and I think it’s about the best granola in the world. It has five kinds of grains and three kinds of nuts, as well as sesame and sunflower seeds, wheat germ, sesame oil, and honey. It’s just delicious.

In 1965 or so I approached Tommy and his brothers with the idea of making this granola at the plant and packaging it as Golden Granola. They said no. They didn’t think it would be a big seller. Well, look how popular granola is now. It wasn’t so well known back then. But I couldn’t convince them to try. I’m not so sure they were right.”

Golden Grain’s loss is our gain. Lois shares her granola recipe below.

What do you think: Did the De Domenico brothers pass up another surefire supermarket success?

Lois De Domenico’s Crunchy Granola

(Note: This recipe reflects revised measurements, updated on January 29, 2010. Lois says she mixes the dry ingredients and stores half in the refrigerator, unbaked, for future use.)


1 pound rolled oats
1 pound rye flakes
1 pound wheat flakes
1 pound barley flakes

1/2 pound bran flakes
1/2 pound wheat germ

1 pound chopped almonds
1 pound chopped cashews
1 pound chopped walnuts

1 pound sesame seeds
1 pound sunflower seeds

1 cup sesame oil

2 cups honey


1. Mix grains, seeds, and nuts altogether.

2. Bake in two pans at 300 degrees F for at least one hour, while slowly adding sesame oil and heated honey.

3. Bake until golden brown.

Granola: A Sweet Start to the Day

January 8, 2010

Fresh starts. New adventures. The whole unexplored landscape that is the year ahead. I welcome January, when anything seems possible.

Except, of course, when there’s transition week. Anyone else having a transition week? Come on, you know you are.

I can see it in my son as he struggles to get back in synch with the school schedule. (And not just him; it was tough to return to the early morning, make breakfast, pack lunch, check homework hustle). I can see it in other kids at school as they squirm in their seats during reading or space out during lessons.

I can feel it in myself as I scramble to set up work systems for the year, finish writing projects that didn’t quite get squared away before the holidays, and pitch new stories for 2010.  All in a week when the Los Angeles Times reports that the freelance writer’s life is in dire straits.

But right now, just for today, I refuse to give in to doom, gloom, and ennui. It’s a new year. Ripe with potential. Let’s begin at the beginning.

And where else to start but breakfast, that first meal of the day? I’m a big fan of brekkie, though I’ve yet to embrace the au courant trend of eating lunch or dinner foods first thing in the morning.

Good luck to all those folks who chow down on pho, pizza, or korean barbecue for breakfast, that stuff leaves me cold when I’m still shuffling around in my slippers. For my money, granola makes a great early morning, gotta-hightail-it-out of the house breakfast.

Discovering granola after growing up with sawdusty muesli ranks high on my list of culinary discoveries in my move from Sydney to San Francisco. Some sniff that granola is just a fat-, calorie-, sugar-laden treat, but it’s got serious hippie pedigree: old-fashioned oats, nuts, and dried fruit, along with maple syrup or honey and oil or butter.

Of the grocery store granola offerings, I’m partial to local, handmade, unfussy Cafe Fanny Granola, and Partners Gourmet Multigrain Granola, which comes in toasty chunks of nutty-grainy goodness.

My boy likes the Arrowhead Mills Breadshop Organic Vermont Maple Granola and, ever since I attended a granola tasting hosted by 18 Reasons, he’s become obsessed with the exxy and excellent 18 Rabbits Gracious Granola with pecans, coconut, and pumpkin seeds. (It was one of his fav stocking stuffers.) He likes to fix a bowl for dessert.

In our house, we prefer our granola served with yogurt; it makes for a pretty parfait, layered in a long glass with berries adding visual zing along with vitamins. And while some cafes serve their granola sprinkled on top of a generous mound of yogurt, we like to layer granola, yogurt, and fruit in equal measures. How ’bout you?

Everyone’s got an opinion about the best tasting granola on the market; for a comparison of other commercial brands check out this Serious Eats review. And feel free to let me know yours.

Truth is, though, it’s easy and cheaper to make your own granola and custom it to suit your palate. You can often significantly lower the amount of sweetener in recipes, I’ve found, without sacrificing flavor.

When I’m not feeling lazy, I make the Crunchy Fruity Granola from Mollie Katzen‘s Salad People cookbook, a simple, satisfying recipe popular with kids in the cooking classes I’ve taught.

Recently, I sampled a delicious batch of granola, recipe to follow.

But first, the back story.

I am fortunate to have a good friend, also a fellow freelancer, who covers the travel beat. Specifically, healthy, eco-travel on her blog Health * Conscious * Travel, mostly geographically centered in the Wine Country.

To do her job, my pal Melanie Haiken has the tiresome task of checking out high-end spas and resorts which she then writes about for her readers. Someone has to do it, right?

She visits said spas and resorts as a perk of the profession, and she’s often invited to bring a guest, known in the biz as a “plus one”. Do you know how delightful it is to be the plus-one person? You enjoy all the facilities without having to take the hard-hat tours or copious notes. And, if you’re lucky, you might eat some very good granola.

That’s exactly what happened recently when we stayed at the ultra-sleek Hotel Healdsburg, where we enjoyed a room with a super groovy green-tiled bathroom and — full disclosure coming — a comped breakfast that included granola that made us both happy.

It’s concocted by the chefs at the Dry Creek Kitchen, adjacent to the hotel. They graciously agreed to give me their recipe so I’m sharing the swag with my readers.

It’s very moreish. As in you’ll want to eat more of it. Trust me.

Let me know if you agree — or if you have your own granola recipe you want to add to the mix. Enjoy.

Dry Creek Kitchen Granola


6    cups    oatmeal
2    cups    sliced almonds
½    cup    pecan pieces
½    cup    walnut pieces
½    cup    peanuts
½    cup    shredded coconut
1    tbl        ground cinnamon
1 ½ tsp     salt

¼   cup   brown sugar

½   cup   honey

4    oz       butter

½  cup    maple syrup


1. Combine first 8 ingredients in a bowl.

2. Melt brown sugar, honey, butter & maple syrup in a pot.

3. Mix until well combined.

4. Pour over dry ingredients and toss until everything is coated.

5. Spray a sheet tray with non-stick coating.

6. Spread granola evenly on sheet tray.

7. Bake at 300 degrees F for approximately 30 min.

8. Toss granola every 10 min.

9. Bake until golden brown and all moisture has evaporated.

10. Continue to toss granola as it cools to avoid large clumps.

Photo: Courtesy Dry Creek Kitchen

Simply Delicious

September 16, 2009

Dudley’s Rhythm & Motion dance class on Sunday. Yogurt, granola, and berries for breakfast — topped off with a fig, no less — from around the corner at the architecturally splendid Stable Cafe, once the site of the San Francisco mayor’s carriage house in the 1800s, now adding some sparkle to an otherwise scruffy stretch of Folsom Street.

It’s the simple pleasures — dancing with the same community of movers & shakers for more than two decades, sharing a healthy breakfast with a friend (Beth’s line of the day: “Don’t you just love it when you crave a food that’s good for you?”), and enjoying eating outside in some sunshine after stormy weather — that make life grand. Don’t you think?