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marge granola’s perfect pairing to start your mornings feeling happier: brighten up for spring

Mornings are all about getting fueled & energized.  So who better to help us get energized for spring than Megan Gordon, breakfast-loving founder of Marge Granola & author of Whole Grain Mornings!

Megan Gordon

Why we love her:

What do you get when you combine an English teacher with an amazing cook?  Enter Megan Gordon, founder of Marge Granola, who can not only create and photograph amazing recipes, but write about them with such beauty that you start salivating at the words.  She combines her love of prose with her joy of food effortlessly.  Just read this excerpt from her blog, A Sweet Spoonful: “It’s impossible to separate food and cooking from the other parts of our lives: from the ins and outs of our time with family, from car breakdowns, apartment hunts, cramped kitchens and road trips.  It’s all one, really.”

This California native turned her love of breakfast into a blog, then a successful granola company, and now an immaculate cookbook, Whole Grain Mornings.  Despite the hundreds of breakfast recipes she’s crafted, her favorite morning food remains Polenta with a soft egg on top (and she’s still reading, of course; her go-to novel is currently The Goldfinch).  We wanted to see what this breakfast-loving teacher could create with Simple & Crisp to help us brighten up for March—and she came up with the perfect springtime breakfast to help us break out of those winter blues!

When did your passion for food begin? 

I come from a family of home cooks and no matter how busy our lives got as kids and teenagers, my mom always set a precedent that we’d sit down and eat a homemade meal together.  Dinner was very important in our house, and I’d often sit at the counter and help my mom bake a batch of cookies or put together lasagna.

Why did you start A Sweet Spoonful?  Why the emphasis on whole foods, seasonal ingredients & whole grains?

I started the blog in 2009 as a way to begin documenting my experiments, trials, and errors in the kitchen.  It’s evolved to focus most on whole grains and baking with natural sugars and seasonal ingredients because that’s what I’m drawn to in our home kitchen and how we really eat at home.  I wanted the blog to be a reflection of my life and how I eat – and not aim to fit it into what I felt people wanted to read about or cook…that can always change on a whim with trends and passing fads.  But if you stay true to what you’re really excited about, I find that readers will respond to that and come along for the ride.

Marge Granola

We love the phrase on your blog: “It’s impossible to separate food & cooking from the other parts of our lives.”  Could you elaborate on this a little more?

What I love about cooking and sharing meals with family and friends is that it truly brings people together – it becomes part of the fabric of our life.  I can remember a lemon pie I had after a grueling hike in Colorado like it was yesterday or the way a cold beer tasted after my first marathon.  Food is definitely an important part of my everyday life – I’m generally either planning our next meal or talking about something we just made together.

You used to be an English teacher—how did you turn your career towards food?

I started baking more professionally when I was laid off from my job teaching high school English.  At the time, I began working in a restaurant just north of San Francisco in their catering department and became fascinated by the work the bakers were doing. I apprenticed one day a week down in the bakery, and eventually decided to start my own small baking business, Marge Bakery, in the fall of 2010.

Though a different subject, you’re certainly still a teacher through your blog!  Do you find any similarities between teaching & food?

Thank you!  Yes, well I feel lucky that food has actually brought me back to teaching in so many ways.  I teach a wide range of cooking classes focused on whole grain baking and seasonal brunches.  The bonus this time around: we all get to sit down to a meal after the class is over.  Oh, and often a glass of wine.  That doesn’t happen in 11th grade Global Literature classes.

What was it like running & operating your own bakery?

Marge Granola is named after my grandmother on my mother’s side.  At first, running the business was really difficult.  I worked in shared commercial kitchens and didn’t have a customer base when I first started, so it was very stressful and tenuous – I wasn’t sure it would all work out.  But once we began at farmers markets and started to make a name for ourselves in the Bay Area, things started falling into place.

You now specialize in just Marge Granola—why the change of focus?

A few reasons: we started receiving a great deal of national press for the granola and that part of the business was just growing and growing and it was undeniable that it needed much more attention (or, all attention).  It’s also so much easier than pies or cookies because it’s shelf-stable, so if you don’t sell a few boxes of granola one week, it’s no big deal and you’ll sell them the next week.  With pie, it’s heartbreaking to see the amount of waste and the profit margins were really tough.

Marge Hazelnut Cacao

What sets Marge Granola’s products apart from others?

Our granola is different from many other brands on the store shelves in that we don’t bake any of our cereals with refined sugar.  I was actually pre-diabetic when I started the company and I was so tired of not being able to find any good granola that I could actually eat.  Our blends are also really packed with nuts, seeds, and dried fruit – the opposite of dusty, oaty granola that so many of us have likely had the misfortune of buying.  Last, we use a little more salt than other brands and bake our granola with olive oil – low and slow – so it has a really nice, warm toastiness to it.

Do you have plans of expanding the product line in the future?

We do!  We just released a new Triple-Grain Muesli, which we’re really excited about and we have plans to do a porridge and hot cereal along with granola bars.

What’s your favorite product from your line?

Lately I love our Gluten-Free Blueberry Almond Flax.  It’s loaded with sunflower seeds, flax seeds, Pacific Northwest Blueberries, almonds, and a little ginger.  I find the combination kind of dreamy with a little yogurt in the morning.

What’s your cooking style?  When trying new recipes for A Sweet Spoonful, do you just create as you go or specifically look for new recipes to try?

I wish I could say that my cooking style is spontaneous and “fly by the seat of my pants” but it’s really not.  I research and plan things out pretty carefully.  For instance, I will want to do a brownie recipe on the blog because either I’m craving them (this is usually how things end up on the blog), it’s been awhile since I’ve done a good sweet recipe or I’ve come across a great brownie recipe in a cookbook that I’m excited to share with my readers.  But as for original recipes, they’re very much planned and many I’ll end up making a few times until I’m 100% happy with them and ready to post.

Whole Grain Mornings

Congratulations on your new cookbook, Whole Grain Mornings!  What was it like compiling a cookbook?

Thank you!  It was a pretty long process.  I had almost 9 months – which isn’t all that long – and it was a bit of a challenge balancing the cookbook with my work for Marge Granola.  The granola company got put on the back burner a little bit, which was okay in the big picture of things.

A few of my favorite recipes in the book are Smoked Salmon and Crème Fraiche Tart with Cornmeal Milet Crust, Zucchini Farro Cakes with Herbed Goat Cheese, Buckwheat Crepes with Sauteed Plums, and of course, the Dark Chocolate Hazelnut Spread.

Why did you choose to focus on mornings?

Breakfast is one of my favorite meals of the day, so much so that there are days when we’ll often even have breakfast for dinner.  I decided to write a breakfast cookbook because I felt so many of them were occasion-based or focused on brunches and I wanted to write a healthy, seasonal cookbook that had many “real life” recipes for the average, hectic Wednesday when you’re racing out the door to work and need something quick and doable.  So you’ll see a wide range of recipes in the book, from do-ahead and simple, to more special and weekend-worthy.

With spring on the way, what are some of your personal ways to brighten up?

One of my favorite ways to get energized is making small changes in the kitchen.  I wrote an article on The Kitchn, “Three Small Changes That Are Helping Me Feel Happier in the Kitchen,” which has some of my favorite tips for brightening up.

What’s your Simple & Crisp perfect pairing for a happy, springtime morning?

Here’s the recipe for my Pacific Northwest Breakfast Bites (makes 15).  They’re quick, easy, and fueling for an energetic day outside this spring.

Pacific Northwest Breakfast Bites

Ingredients:

Lay Simple & Crisp Apple on your favorite serving platter.  Dollop a teaspoon of yogurt onto each crisp.  Using the back of a spoon, gently smooth the yogurt across the tops.  Sprinkle ¼ teaspoon – ½ teaspoon (depending on your preference) of Marge Granola on top of each apple fruit crisp.  Drizzle with honey and serve immediately.

Pacific Northwest Breakfast Bites

Pacific Northwest Breakfast Bites

 

For more information on Megan Gordon, you can visit A Sweet Spoonful & Marge Granola, as well as follow her on Twitter.

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