For years I thought muesli came in a packet, and would simply buy it at the supermarket. Then I found that a friend just made it up from some basic ingredients. She used raw oats (actually cooked in manufacture of course, just not toasted) when I preferred something more crunchy and granola-like. But spending time hiking made me change (see below) and I found you get used to untoasted oat flakes. I’ve never used any recipe, but just make it on the day (or night before), from what is at hand and with what I feel like.
I used to include dried fruit, but now use only fresh because its healthier and tastes better. I use whatever is in season, such as oranges, mangoes, stewed rhubarb, stewed quince, strawberries, pears, apples, kiwifruit, blueberries, peaches, plums… Banana goes well with oats but its a bit too high in carbohydrate for me.
Some sort of cereal grain is usually the basis of muesli, though doesn’t have to be. And then there are seeds and nuts. All of these things are actually seeds of course, but cereal grains are small, hard, starchy seeds from the grass family, while pseudo-cereal grains (such as buckwheat, chia, quinoa and amaranth), which can be used like regular cereals, come from broadleaf plants. Nuts tend to be oily and develop a hard, inedible shell when they grow. Their protein content is higher than cereal seeds.
My basic mix then is a base of oats usually and nuts/seeds, checking that I’ve got both insoluble fibre (say bran, shredded wheat, Wheetbix) and soluble covered (linseed, chia, psyllium), though most of the ingredients below have both. And that there is a reasonable amount of protein (nuts, wheatgerm, perhaps plant-based protein powder, though this rarely improves the taste and is better drunk separately in my view).
You need to avoid overdoing chia seeds, linseed or psyllium, as these all really swell up in your gut. (There is an internet story of a boy who was hospitalised with a blocked intestine due to eating too many chia seeds.) Try adding a teaspoon of chia, linseeds or psyllium powder to 100ml of water and you will see that after a couple of hours a thick, gelatinous glob has formed. There might be a limit to how much of this you want in your gut, and it certainly suggests that you need to take in extra fluid if you are consuming large quantities of insoluble fibre foods.
- Nuts and Seeds
- LSA (linseed, sunflower seeds, almonds) powder
- oat bran
- oat flakes (ranging in size from big and chewy to soft small ones)
- rye flakes
- buckwheat groats
- amaranth flakes
- amaranth puffs
- millet puffs
- wheat puffs
- shredded wheat or wheat biscuits
- rice bran
- Other stuff
- Plant-based protein powder
- freeze-dried berries
- psyllium husk
- cacao nibs
Hiking and Muesli
It was partly hiking that got me into preparing muesli this way. I want something that doesn’t involve mucking about with cooking in the morning, nor pots to scrub, so I can get away quickly and can cut down on fuel. Also that is light and compact to pack. Somehow a mixture of the above is lighter and more compact than supermarket muesli. I think this is because it hasn’t been toasted (the oil and/or honey adds weight), and can avoid cornflakes or puffed grains (which add bulk). As carrying fresh fruit adds weight I do relax my no-dried fruit rule and put some in the mix.
Eating on the Trail
You can just eat your muesli straight with water. Or you can mix up a milk with coconut, soy, or protein powder. You can even heat this to make it mix better and the whole taste nicer. You can let the muesli mixture soak overnight to make a sort of bircher muesli. Or pour hot water over it in the morning to make a form of no-cook porridge (wrap the container in something insulating to let it cook longer).
If you can’t find some of the above in the supermarket (try the health food or organic section if necessary) then a health food store will often be the best bet. Some things are hard to find though. Rice husk is easier to buy in Australia than New Zealand (I guess because rice is farmed there). Bran sticks have gone from the supermarket bulk bins, as has bran itself, though it is still in the bakery section of supermarkets (for making bran muffins). Alternatives are shredded wheat biscuits and Wheetbix, both with low sugar.
Wheatgerm (50g/100g protein) has also disappeared from bulk bins and even health food stores but can again be found in the baking section of supermarkets. Best to refrigerate it to stop it going off.
In Wellington, a fantastic place to buy cheap chia seeds is at Moore-Wilsons in the bulk groceries section. They also sell a remarkably cheap ‘Superfoods Breakfast Mix’ there too. And nearby is the GoodFor Wholefoods Refillery at 23 Jessie St, with a huge range of bulk grains, nuts, seeds and dried fruit. There are branches in Auckland and Christchurch too. And Bin Inn has outlets throughout New Zealand, including ones in Petone and Porirua for Wellingtonians. They are the only place I know where you can still buy bran sticks (sugar free) and plain bran flakes (as well as dried vegetable chips for tramping). Their products are pretty cheap too.