toasted vanilla bean muesli {day 149}

I'm sitting here, pounding away at the keyboard when I should be sleeping. It's not too late, just shy of 11:00pm, but I had two back-to-back baking flops, and don't take defeat lightly.

I've also had muesli on my mind, and figured I could go out on a high note with a no-cook recipe before showering and tucking in.

But then I decided to toast the muesli, so there went the no-cook idea. Truth is I tried to like muesli a year ago, last January in fact. I decided to start 2011 on a healthy note. It was more about listening to my body—it was in need of a makeover. I decided to get more daring with whole grains thanks to inspiration from galleys of Heidi's Super Natural Everyday (that cookbook, by the way, is a must own). I began with an oat soda bread, wet my feet more using whole wheat pastry flour in these brown butter pear and meyer lemon muffins, oat ricotta pancakes, and cheddar rye muffins. I even started an affair with kale which is going strong to this day (this soup is still one of my favorites, and the girls love it too).

I spent the first quarter of 2011 eating vegetarian. I simply no longer craved meat, and lord did it drive Isabella crazy. The girl's first love, next to her daddy, is bacon. I still cooked meat, and bacon, for Mikey and the girls, I just made sure to include lots of vegetables and sides to satisfy my own tastes.

I also started waking up early to meditate and go running. In order to do that daily, it meant going to bed early, long before my night owl Mikey lay his head to rest beside me. I felt really good then, I remember it so clearly. It's as though someone had stuck a bobby pin into the reset button hidden in the recesses of my mind and body.

I've had this nagging feeling lately, and I know I need a jumpstart like that again.

Except everything is different now.

And yet I can still stay in control, right? I just have to shed the "all or nothing" attitude. I need to accept just because things are fundamentally different, I don't have to give up on that energizing, centering feeling I captured a year ago, albeit with a much heavier heart.

I know the meditation will be good for me. My nerves are a mess these days, and I often feel like I will burst at the seams. There is a lot going on right now, more than I want to share or burden your thoughts with. Some of it not so great, but the truth is some of it is really amazing. The only way I can manage it all is to take deep breaths—it's meditation my body is craving. My inner core needs to find a place of peacefulness since it was plunged into the unimaginable on August 7th.

For now, I'm not going to beat myself up for staying up too late, again. I'm going to give myself a break because writing here offers me so much peace and solace. You may not realize it, but if I had more hours in the day I would answer every one of your emails and comments personally. It pains me to see how you all take the time to care and check in, yet I don't have the moments needed to say two simple words personally: thank you.

I can see a glimmer of my old self peeking out in this post, as I've completely digressed from I what I set out to do—share a new recipe, so back to the muesli!

Tried as I might last January, I couldn't fall hard and fast for muesli—it was meh, compared to granola or poached eggs. But still, it's been on my mind, and as I was reading through some of Heidi's older posts, I came across one with a recipe for toasted muesli. The recipe was from Michele Cranston's The Essential Guide to the Kitchen, and while it sounded intriguing it had too many ingredients.

I need simple right now, and my mind needs easy. The recipe did give me an idea, though, on how I could change my muesli from meh to magical—toast the oats and nuts, well seeds in this case. It was an easy step, but I had a very good feeling about it.

Hard to believe, but my pantry is in need of restocking, so there was no fancy dried fruit to use. My choices were a pitiful amount of dried cherries, which would've been my first choice, cranberries or raisins. Since I love a bowl of hot oatmeal with plump raisins, I figured they'd make a nice pairing with my muesli—I fully intended to add some steamed milk to it in the morning.

On first glance, this seems like a humble bowl of oats, pumpkin seeds and raisins, an oddball combination really. A little flare in the form of vanilla bean, cinnamon and fleur de sel, give this muesli street cred, though, and in my book it's a good first step for finding the old me under the new circumstances.


Toasted Vanilla Bean Muesli

makes 4 cups

made on Tuesday, January 3, 2011—day 148

Feel free to make this based on what you have on hand or like. Swap in an equal amount of your favorite nut or seed for the pumpkin seeds, and same goes for the raisins. Next time, I plan on adding a tablespoon of flax seed too, and sesame seeds would no doubt add a nice crunch.

Oh, if you wondering how muesli is different from granola, it wasn't obvious to me at first either. Then I realized a key difference is sweetener. Granola is usually sweetened with syrup, honey or sugar. Muesli relies on the sweetness from the dried fruit and a little drizzle of maple syrup or honey when you serve it, usually with milk or yogurt. Most muesli recipes don't toast the oats either, but we already know how I feel about that approach.

One last note, if you want to make this dairy free or vegan, then try swapping in canola or grapeseed oil for the butter, and skip the melting step. While I haven't tried it this way, I'm pretty confident it'll work well (and leave a comment if you do, so we can all learn together!).

4 tablespoons (2 ounces) unsalted butter

3 cups (319 grams) old fashioned oats (not quick cooking)

1 cup (141 grams) raw pumpkin seeds

1 vanilla bean, split lengthwise and seeds scraped

1/4 teaspoon (1 gram) fleur de sel

1/2 teaspoon (2 grams) ground cinnamon

1 cup (130 grams) raisins

Turn the oven on to 300ºF. Place the butter into an oven-safe ramekin or small pot and place in the oven to melt while it preheats; remove and set aside.

In a deep bowl, combine the oats, pumpkin seeds, vanilla bean seeds, fleur de sel and cinnamon. Stir to mix well. Pour the melted butter over the mixture, and stir until well coated. Spread the oat mixture onto an 11" X 17" rimmed baking sheet.

Bake for 25 minutes, stirring once halfway through. Remove from oven, stir in the raisins, and set pan on a wire rack until completely cooled. Store in a tightly sealed jar for up to one week.


  • Kathryn

    I’ve never really been a muesli person but I can see how toasting it would add a whole different dimension. It’s lovely to see a recipe from you and I hope that 2012 brings you some peace and calm.

  • Anna

    Thanks for the reminder that we can all hit the reset button for ourselves when we need to. We can let go of things that are unnecessary, but we don’t have to let go of the things that really matter. Sometimes when I try to meditate or do yoga I fear letting go, but the things that are most important will stay with us, even through the personal changes that we need to feel better. I hope you can take the small steps that will make you feel more peaceful, whatever they are no matter how tiny.

  • Angel

    I love to cook elaborate meals from scratch they help me connect to myself, but the reality is that I also love my very demanding career. This means that by the time I get off of work, squeeze in some exercise and stumble into the kitchen, an intricate meal isn’t always possible. I love these simple, wholesome recipes because they give me a way to still feel human and yet not be up until all hours. Thank you for that.

  • coachwife6

    I recently joined Instagram and your daily photos of meals inspires me to cook for my family. Thank you for doing that.

  • SuzyMcQ

    Hi Jennie,
    I think we all know you don’t have the time to answer our emails and I really view you and the readers here as friends or kindred spirits, and, the kind of friend that is still a friend even when time and circumstances make it hard to keep in touch. I would suspect that your posts and recipes and your sweet reminders that you are thinking of us are all most of us ever really need. That your free time is much better spent with your girls, your past, your present and your future.
    I continue to wish you and yours all the best!

  • Kristin

    This looks great, I’m going to try a nutty version tonight for breakfast tomorrow. I have to say that I love the raw oats version too. I mix raw oats, chopped dried apricots, almonds, vanilla, sea salt and milk and leave it in the fridge overnight. I like the coldness in the morning and the apricots make it sweet enough for me. I’m excited to try toasting the oats though, will make a nice change!

  • Lauren from Baklust

    I actually just bought vanilla bean for the first time this past weekend to make cupcakes, and I still have some leftover, so I’m totally gonna make this! Great idea for that leftover vanilla!

  • Treasa

    I am going to have to try this….. I think my girls would love snacking on this. I am glad you are starting to see pieces of yourself again. Sending you strength to see more of those pieces.

  • Kenda

    Your attitude sounds so upbeat. Glad to hear it. I’m sure Mike would want you to be happy. Peace.

  • elizabeyta

    I make vegan granola using olive oil on the stovetop instead of using butter. I find the only difference is flavor so make sure you like the flavor you are using with your other ingredients.
    I find that I never do a true restart at the beginning of the year. I do try to remember to breath, look at the sky and smile, bask in the sun.
    I am happy for you that your seeing glimpses of your old self in your writing. It will be interesting to see who the lovely new self will be.
    (((hugs))) and blessings,

  • Shannon Caleval

    I also am not a muesli fan but this does look good and I will try it, thanks Jennie.
    I’m sure you don’t remember me writing to you about a friend of ours who passes away in Nov and left a wife and two daughters. I had told you that I passed on your blog to her. She just wrote me today, this is the first time I’ve heard from her since the funeral. She is starting to do a bit better, she said she feels like half a parent now instead of no parent. She said she read your blog and this is what she had to say “I read the blog you sent my way and I did find comfort in hearing her story. It is amazing how parts of ones grieving process can be so similar to that of a stranger. It also helped me realize that I am not going crazy, lots of what I think and do is “normal”. So thank you again, your words do help others.

  • Wendy in Oz

    this is my approach to muesli too – whatever is in the cupboard. In recent times I’ve added chia seeds, linseeds, sunflower seeds and always coconut.
    Another thing you could try, instead of adding butter is to use your favourite juice to add moisture before baking for a delicate perfume too – altho I guess this moves towards the granola idea.
    It is good to hear you are feeling a tiny bit like yourself – altho life will never be the same, it can still be good/great/fabulous, just in a different way.

  • Mairi @ Toast

    Beautiful post & you do remind me always to appreciate what I have now 🙂 So thank you 🙂 And I do remember that soda bread well as that is what started me on all sorts of seedy incarnations, hard to believe it was a year ago.

  • Hannah

    Jennie, I am recovering from a searing loss as well, It has been a year and 2 months. I remember that feeling, a glimmer of my old self. Only it isn’t your old self, a new one. A different one. Good luck in your journey. You will make it, which is almost the saddest thing of all.

  • Angela

    I’ve never tried muesli, this is something I will have to add to my ‘to try list’. I’m sure it’s great, I love breakfast!
    I hope that you had a restful night Jennie.

  • Elizabeth

    Your words have inspired me. As a mother of a severely disabled sixteen year old, I live under extraordinary stress, and I found your comment about “shedding the all or nothing attitude” resonant.
    Thank you. And the muesli sounds good (although my very Swiss chef husband might object to the toasted oats!).

  • Maria

    Jennie in one of my former posts I said I was going to eat healthier in 2012 and get this weight off…again! I have been doing well theses first couple of days of the new year. I am determined to feel better and look better too. I don’t have to tell you that being Italian sure doesn’t help matters…like everything else its in the genes. But I am counting calories and getting some walks in here and there…
    You have mentioned some good stuff happening, that is great, focus on that…
    I really hope a book is in your future, you write so beautifully…oh and your welcome, there are good people everywhere who care…

  • patty

    Thank you once again for putting things into perspective. I check your blog every day to see if something new is on there. I have to say I think Hannah put it best. Sadness is so heavy sometimes. An awful lot to carry around. I wish you nothing but a wonderful year with wonderful food.

  • Kim in MD

    Another beautiful post, Jennie. One day at a time…one day at a time. This looks and sounds so healthy and delicious! I was going to ask what the difference between granola and muesli was, and was glad that you explained the difference!

  • SB

    Meditation and running seems like a great combination! I will definitely be trying this muesli recipe 🙂 And never worry about burdening us, your readers – this is your blog and, as I have found through some experiences in my own life, writing is very therapeutic 🙂 Hugs and happy 2012 to you.

  • Carol

    Love your blog Jennie. It makes me thoughtful, sad, happy & inspired all at the time. Today you read my mind. I was wondering the difference between granola & museli when I came upon the next sentence. Thanks sweetie & I look forward to reading more & more. xoxoxo

  • Rachel Willen@Foodfix

    Sounds like you found the “muse” in meuseli! And it sounds creative and delicious. I hope you do give yourself permission to feel energized and centered and alive…my mom was a holocaust survivor…I watched her struggle with a level of survivor’s guilt…always holding back a little with what she could allow herself to have…maybe because she felt bad in some way that she got to go on, when her mom, her brother and so many others didn’t. I always Life is not fair…but it’s there to seize. I’m rooting for you!

  • Diane

    I always look forward to your posts but these days mostly to see how you and your girls are doing.
    I’m sure we all know you don’t have the time to answer each and every comment and you spending that extra time with your girls is most important anyway!
    As you and your girls start this new year and a new adventure I wish you all the best in finding the new you and what will be your new normal.
    I’m sure your making Mikey proud with every step you take!

  • Patsy Witchey

    Bless you. You’re thoughts are important to us, we all think we’re your personal friends now. Because we care, because the hand you dealt stinks and we’re sorry. If you need to vent – VENT. It’s good for you and will make your “friends” feel like they’re helping by listening. Love and Peace.

  • joanne nixon

    i need to hit “re-set” as well. you have a wonderful way with words, jennie…you are an inspiration to many and the subject of many heart to heart conversations with whoever is in charge of the universe…

  • Kara

    You are nothing short of amazing! Thank you for sharing this journey with us – we are all routing for you. Can’t wait to buy your cookbook one day!!

  • AntoniaJames

    Great recipe! I’ve never been keen on muesli, for the reason that the raw oats are just so, well, bland and unappealing. Toasting the oats is, of course, the perfect solution. I plan to try your recipe, throwing in a few pecan pieces and toasted flax seed (the latter ground with mortar and pestle), with dried cherries stirred in at the end. Love the idea of stirring steamed milk in before eating. I’ll use unsweetened vanilla almond milk, for the perfect breakfast. Many thanks. ;o)

  • Miranda

    Fabulous, all around. Thank you for the recipe and the links to the other recipes (soup, muffins, etc.) I am finding cooking to be a great way to nurture myself, not the dreaded chore it’s often made out to be. Your blog helps encourage me, in all sorts of ways.

  • Julie

    Awesome post! I love your entheusiasm…and muesli! My favorite way to eat museli is to mix it with 50% greek yogurt & 50% milk (coconut milk rocks) and let it soak overnight. Breakfast is ready and waiting for you in the morning. Just add whatever toppings you want. Sliced banana, coconut flakes, and a dollop of nut butter is a favorite combo!

  • Kathleen @ fittitudefreedom

    Running is what I call my cheap therapy. I do it every morning to clear my head and to start fresh. There is something about those endorphins kicking in and sweating that do it for me. I’m not so good with meditation but I keep trying. Thank you for sharing the muesli recipe-sounds and looks delish! I have never made from scratch but will certainly give it a try.

  • Wendy

    I have been following along since your beloved has died. Shana posted on Gluten free girl. My heart broke for you at the time and we made peanutbutter cream pie in Mikey’s honor, which has become a family favorite. Thank you for sharing your pain and growth with us. I do believe you are going to make it. You sound stronger every time you write. Even if you want to stamp your feet, you should allow yourself that once in a while.
    Now, this muesli sounds wonderful, but it needed something besides cinnamon. So instead of the cinnamon I used 2 tsp. of vanilla and it really rocked my breakfast. just thought I would share.