Most often, my snack of choice is a box of cereal. I do have a few criteria though - it has to be on the healthier side with lower sugar, and it has to have a mixture of flakey pieces with smaller crunchy clusters for variety, and bonus points for having extra ingredients like nuts and dried cranberries.
Since I always have a hard time finding a cereal at the grocery store that matches those requirements, I finally decided to make my own mix, and I couldn't be happier with the results!
The inspiration to make my own cereal came from a recipe I saw on Pom Wonderful's site. It sounded pretty easy once you have the right ingredients, and I knew that I could customize the recipe a bit to make a personalized cereal mix.
When I went to the bulk bins of the nearest organic store to pick up my ingredients, I had a bit of a setback when I couldn't find any bran flakes other than the ones that come in a giant bag. Since I didn't need a huge bag, and the packaged variety also contained more sugar than I wanted, I changed directions a bit and decided to make my own bran flakes!
Using a recipe I found online, it was actually easier that I would have thought to make bran flakes using common pantry ingredients like whole wheat flour, wheat bran and ground nuts. The trick is to make sure you roll your dough out really thin so that you end up with light and crispy flakes, shown below:
Once you've made the bran flakes, you combine them with a mixture of other dry flakes and sliced almonds with a healthy dose of cinnamon and vanilla for flavour. The process is basically the same as making your own granola - mix the dry and wet ingredients, then bake in the oven - except this cereal stays looser rather than clumping up like a crunchy granola.
The only sweetness in the cereal comes from a bit of pure maple syrup, plus some dried cranberries that I added after baking. I loved that I was able to control all of the ingredients that went into my cereal, as well as the amount of sugar. I thought it had just enough sweetness and I loved the notes of cinnamon and vanilla that came through.
This makes a great snacking cereal (my favourite bits were the larger bran flakes!), but I also tried it as a breakfast cereal with almond milk and really liked it that way too.
While I don't think I'll be making my own cereal all the time from now on, I learned that it's easier than you may think, and it's fun to be able to customize your own mix yourself!
Bran Flake Cereal with Almonds and Cranberries
Adapted from PomWonderful and Mr. Breakfast
1 cup bran flakes, purchased or homemade from this recipe*
1 cup other mixed dry flakes (I used 1/3 cup each of rye flakes, spelt flakes and barley flakes)
1/3 cup oat flakes
1/2 cup rolled oats
1/2 cup wheat bran (can substitute wheat germ)
1/2 cup sliced almonds
1 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp salt
1/4 cup pure maple syrup
1 tsp vanilla
1 tbsp melted coconut oil
1/3 cup dried cranberries
Preheat oven to 275ºF and prepare a large baking sheet by lining with parchment paper.
Mix all the dry ingredients (bran flakes through to salt) in a large bowl. In a separate bowl, mix the maple syrup and vanilla. Pour the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients and add the coconut oil. Gently mix everything together.
Spread cereal in a single layer on the prepared baking sheet and place in the preheated oven. Bake for 40-45 minutes, flipping once halfway through. Remove from oven and add cranberries. Let cool completey, then transfer to a sealed container to store.
Makes 1 large batch.
*Note: I cut the bran flake recipe in half, which gave me 1 cup. If you prefer a higher ratio of bran flakes in your cereal, feel free to make the whole bran flake recipe and reduce the amount of other flakes in your cereal.