Make Granola Bars From Scratch With Nana Joes GranolaBy Geana Sieburger |
Wow, did this really happen? Did I get to chat with Michelle Pusateri of Nana Joes Granola about granola (of course), health, illness, business, inflation, values and more over a long, fun, and vulnerable phone call? Yes, it happened and I couldn’t be more excited to share it with you!
Please share your pictures and tag us when you make her granola bar recipe. I made it myself and took it on a camping trip. It was our favorite snack during the entire trip–no exaggeration.
Dive in! Enjoy! And have fun–Michelle would want it no other way. :)
Geana: So what recipe are you sharing with us?
Michelle: We have an awesome granola bar recipe called the Adventure Bars that I really really love. When I was a kid, I was absolutely in love, love, love with the Nature Valley, granola bars. The green package. I just really really like them. And I tend towards crunchy granola bars. I'm not a fan of, just for me personally…
Geana: The ones you need to chew on forever?
Michelle: Yeah. Yeah. Yeah, I think too that I just I like that. I've been a crunchy person my whole life. I love chips. I like anything that gives a snap. So those were always my favorite bars. And these Adventure Bars are like that where they're kind of crispy and just super super duper tasty. They got a lot of really good stuff in it. And I think one of the things that really drives Nana Joes Granola’s popularity is that we're very transparent with our ingredients and that we only use whole food ingredients. So these bars have cherries and they have almonds, flax meal, ginger, pecans, rolled oats, cinnamon. What else do they have in them?
And we only sweeten with maple syrup. So maple syrup is a great energizing sweetener because it's low glycemic, lower on the spectrum than let's say brown rice syrup or sugar. So your body holds it a little bit better.
And they're really easy to make. They’re kind of crumbly and they kind of fall apart a little bit. But I like that because no granola bar makes it through any sort of travel without becoming mush with all the oil coming out of it or it breaks up a little bit.
Geana: It's the thing in the bottom pocket of your backpack at the end of a hike and then you're like, yes, I still have a snack–amazing! It's all broken and it still makes you so happy.
Michelle: Yeah, totally, exactly like that. So I like them too because they're really easy to make. It takes like 25 minutes to bake. It takes maybe 10-15 minutes to kind of get the ingredients together and mix. So they're super easy, you can cut them when they're warm so they get a nice cut to them.
Geana: I’m excited! Okay so getting to know you personally a little bit better, do you mind sharing what your morning ritual is with us? Also, as an entrepreneur, what rituals and routines help to get your day started?
Michelle: Sure. Yeah, I used to be the person who would wake up and be out the door within 15 minutes, but last year, I got really sick. I was diagnosed with Colitis and had my first flare up on February 6th. I was pretty much bed bound for a little bit. It was the most awful thing I've ever experienced in my life. My body just said F-you to me. I've always struggled with having a lot of inflammation and gaining 10 pounds weekly, and losing 10 pounds, but it was all inflammation. I was getting super frustrated and really hating my life and my body and then my body just said, I can't do this anymore.
So I struggled through that for most of 2021. During that time I discovered that I needed a morning ritual. I needed a morning routine that really helped me mentally and also helped me physically. With the pain of everything that was going on with my belly and my insides, I found that moving was the best way for me to manage it . I've always loved working out in the morning, but it became a little bit different where I just needed that time to do a little bit of yoga and really listen to my body.
I wake up at 5-5:30, and spend an hour working out. I get up right away and I move my body. I'll do a mixture of weightlifting. I'll get on the Peloton bike. I am absolutely an advocate and in love with Peloton. I firmly believe in their programs–that exercise bike saved my life last year because just the instructors and the way that they walk you through stuff and the way that they're compassionate and accepting of everybody. It could just be me in my living room, listening to somebody say “you've got this, just keep going,” that was something that I really needed in that time. So I've fallen in love with the strength classes and the bar classes. And if I woke up and I was in a lot of pain, then I would take it a little bit easy and do yoga with any of the instructors really.
And then I'll do a 10 to 15 minute meditation. And just sit there. I'll do a 10 minute journaling, and then I'll get everything together and head to work. I normally don't eat. I also found that fasting–I don't really want to call it fasting–just like eating when my body is ready really helps me. I normally don't eat until like 10-10:30 but when I do eat, I'll have either one of the Swell Granola Bars, or I'll have like a light salad with some smoked salmon or something in it to get a little bit of protein in the morning. And then I'll have like roasted vegetables a little bit after that. So I get a little bit of food in my body and then I'll wait a little bit. And then I'll have a full blown lunch which consists of a lot of roasted vegetables and some protein. I've been really, really loving tofu lately. I think my body really likes it.
I think the most important thing for me and the most important piece of advice I could give to people is just listen to what your body wants. Sometimes feeding your body the healthy foods and restricting is what you think it wants. But if you really take a moment and listen, I think you discover what your body kind of actually needs from you. And I think that was a very important lesson because there's a lot of different autoimmune stuff going on, a lot of toxins, that our bodies aren't reacting properly to it.
Geana: Yeah. Yeah, it's so interesting hearing you say that. I think you're saying that we think it's dietary changes we need sometimes, but maybe it might be something else that the body’s needing, like in your case, exercise is really helping.
Michelle: Yeah, definitely. And I've always been–I mean, I weight lifted for a long time, played soccer for 18 years–I’ve always really moved my body. But the one thing that I needed the most when I was not able to, when I didn't feel good, was moving. I still knew that I needed to move my body to kind of help it heal.
Geana: Tell us how you got into making granola? What's the story there?
Michelle: Well, I started surfing with the … and I was out in the water and I was crashing out, like just literally crashing out, like an hour into the session. And I started thinking what am I eating before and why am I crashing out so hard and what the heck is going on? What was happening was that the granola and yogurt that I was eating, even though it was a dairy-free yogurt and even though I thought it was healthy, it wasn't. It was packed with a lot of sugars a lot of additives and preservatives, a lot of stuff that our bodies really can't digest all that well.
So I thought, you know what, I'm a trained pastry chef, why am I not making my own granola. So I started making my own granola. And as the story goes, friends and family loved it. My husband, Pete, said, “Why don't you sell this? It's really, really good.” And I worked as a pastry chef at Nopalito, which was right next door to Falletti Foods. I went in there one day randomly and I was like, “I want to start a food business and I think I want to sell granola,” and they're like, “We'll sell anything you make. Just bring it in.” So I basically got a store right out the gate, which was super lucky.
And that's kind of how it started. I knew that I needed something that had enough fat, had enough fiber, had enough protein in it to really sustain me without having all of that cane sugar and all the fillers that granola normally has. I think the biggest thing was just finding the recipe and just knowing that I had the ability to do it because I was a trained pastry chef.
Geana: So tell me a little bit about your proudest moment in Nan Joes history.
Michelle: Oh my God. Okay, so I just had it.
Geana: Wow. There must be so many. I can't believe you have a recent one that has topped all your other ones.
Michelle: It's really good. So I got to teach the new CEO of Whole Foods how to make his own granola blend.
Geana: Oh that's cool. Tell us about that.
Michelle: That happened last month. I mean there're other things but that's pretty high up there. So they came, 23 or 25 representatives from Whole Foods. I had everything on the table set up and I basically taught them how to make their own granola blend by giving them the liquid and the oats and they mixed it all together with the ingredients that they wanted to add to it. They got to make an oat variety and a paleo variety, but it was just so much fun.
I think the biggest thing for me about that event was I, just like you, do this and it's a grind. You're doing it day to day and you don't realize how much you’ve affected people's lives and how the store buyers like you–I mean one of the things that they said was that a lot of the stores in the North Cal region, one of their favorite local products was ours. And that means a lot to me because we do go out into the community and into the world and we try to do good and send positive messages.
I’m just really appreciating what's happening in that that relationship. At the end of it, they said a lot of really great, positive things like about the way that I run the business and our products. I think it finally hit me like how much we do positively impact people's mornings when they have our granola for breakfast. I think that was one of the first times that it really hit me.
Geana: Right. Yeah, I mean, I really admire you and I think this is maybe what Whole Foods’ is seeing. They probably know your behind the scenes–your work ethic, your relationship to your workers, and your vision for them that I've heard you talk about before. It's all super inspiring. And it's coming to fruition in San Francisco, one of the most expensive cities not even just in the country but in the world. So that's amazing. Yeah. Something to be proud of. Yeah, for sure.
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Geana: So what’s the rest of 2022 like looking for you? This could be like a grim ending. I don't know, I mean, with inflation and potentially a recession…
Michelle: Well, yeah, the inflation is definitely sucker punching us. I don't know if you saw the front page of the Chronicle article that we had. We were talking about 52% increase in our COGS from 2019 until now and it's really fucking hard. It's really, really, really hard. And I think that's why I feel like the moment that I had with Whole Foods was so inspiring and empowering to me. I had a moment to really step back and revel in what I've created and just enjoy and appreciate what I've done and how I've created this business.
I mean, I think one of the things that I want to emphasize is that every business is different. You have to decide how you want to run your business. People always say you got to grow, you got to grow, you got to grow, and you won't get opportunities unless you grow really fast. Well, the only way to grow really fast is if you have a whole bunch of money to burn. I don't want to exclude people who have actually done this with their own money and grown to the point where they can get acquired, I don't want to exclude anyone like that. I want to be careful with my words.
But if you have enough money to burn, money that isn’t yours, and you have enough working capital to do all the trades, then yeah that's something different. But it all depends on what you want. Like for me, I want to build a business where hopefully one day I can pass it to my employees and I could do like a Bob's Red Mill and let my employees take over what we collectively have created. But I think looking at social media, looking at Facebook, looking at everything and really looking at the trending products and jumping on that bandwagon, I think for small companies like you and I, and some of the small companies that you and I know like Inna Jam, like Bread Srsly, and Just Date Syrup, you know. We need for people to support our brands in a way like no other right now because the algorithms aren't working in our favor, the Facebook ads aren't working, nothing is working, the only thing that's working is word of mouth about our products and taking them to friend’s houses and realty really talking about.
Every time I wear my apron, I tell everybody where I got it from. Everyone tells me I have the best aprons of the show, which I was told in Brooklyn and I was like, look her up, here's the website, you know? And get some of these aprons made for yourself because they're amazing.
So yeah, I think we've got to support our local producers. We've got to support our local businesses and we've got a step back from getting caught up in the corporate bandwagons. Without that word of mouth and without everybody supporting their favorite local products, I think it's going to be really hard for us to make it especially now, especially with this inflation crisis and the supply chain shock and demand.
Geana: Yes. I've been thinking about that so much and yeah I think that's just the perfect message to end on–support your local producers.
Michelle: You’re so welcome
Nana Joes Granola Bar Recipe
1 cup whole pecans
1 cup whole almonds
1½ cups rolled oats
½ cup flax seeds
1¼ teaspoons fine sea salt
½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
½ cup dried tart cherries
¼ cup chopped candied ginger (cut into ¼-inch pieces)
½ cup maple syrup (dark amber)
2 tablespoons olive oil, plus more for greasing the pan
Coarse sea salt, for topping (optional)
Preheat the oven to 235 degrees. Spread the pecans and almonds on a rimmed baking sheet. Spread the oats on a second rimmed baking sheet. Bake both for 15 minutes, until lightly toasted, stirring occasionally. Remove both baking sheets from oven and increase the oven temperature to 325 degrees.
In a food processor, finely grind the flax seeds. Transfer to a bowl. Transfer ½ cup of the toasted pecans and ½ cup of the toasted almonds to the food processor and grind to a medium-coarse flour. Add the toasted oats, salt and cinnamon and grind to a fine flour.
Finely chop the remaining chopped pecans and almonds and place in a medium mixing bowl. Add the flax seeds, cherries, ginger, maple syrup and olive oil and mix to combine. Add in the ground oat-nut flour and stir to combine; mix until you have a well hydrated, slightly sticky mixture.
Lightly grease a 9 by 13-inch rimmed baking sheet. Transfer the mixture to the pan and compress with your hand or the back of a spatula into a uniform thickness. Sprinkle with sea salt, if using, and bake for 20 to 25 minutes until the mixture is firm but not hard and golden around the edges. Let cool in the pan 5 minutes, then carefully turn the sheet out on a cutting board and cut into bars while still warm.
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