Mensa Granola and a trip down memory lane...

Jason and I spent 4 months living in a 15th century Carthusian Monestary in Lower Austria.  It was as amazing as it looks.  I have a lot of debt from University.  It's like a huge gaping wound that just won't heal!  But the four months spent frolicking around Europe made it aaaaalllll worthwhile!  I knew before I applied to Franciscan University that I was only going there for the Austrian semester abroad...okay, and the Catholic boys...but mostly Austria. 

(My roommate took this photo.  I was the only student there with 35 mm!  Everyone else had digital!)

Here is a story for you.  I was 24 when I finally went to Franciscan University.  I completed my Associates' Degree at the community college here in MD.  With my associate's completed, I needed 2 more years of school for a bachelor's degree.  I didn't care if I had to tack on 12 more years though - I was only concerned with how soon I could get on that plane and get to Austria!  Maybe my motives weren't the best, but hey!  I have my degree now!

I arrived at Franciscan University and they gave me a map to my dorm...clear across an abandoned wing of the underused hospital???  No joke.  If you parked your car in the garage, you had to walk past the morgue to get to our wing.  We didn't park there often...  (I would like to add that Franciscan has expanded the campus since.)

I found out that the Trinity East dorm was for the "non-traditional" students - all the old people!!  Lucky for us ladies, it was a co-ed dorm *wink wink*

A few days into school, I was smitten.  This guy played the djembe, was not concerned with his clothes (dickies and a T-shirt everyday) AND he could bowl?!?!  I wasn't sure, but I thought with a little effort, I could land him.  He was kind of clueless about the sea of girls around him and didn't pay any attention to us!  One of my favorite activities was to grab a bag of popcorn and watch his younger classmates try to get his attention.  I was really just researching what worked and what didn't.  This guy was tough to figure out...

With a little effort (some make-up, a few witty comments and an air horn) I finally got his attention.

Just when he and I were starting to hang out frequently, I had to make a quick decision.  The sign-up for Austria Spring Semester was approaching.  So far, I hadn't met anyone who wanted to go.  If I wanted to graduate with the least debt, I only had one chance to go: Spring 2005.  My love interest was thinking of possibly going in Fall 2005.  That meant I wouldn't see him for a full year and things would definitely fizzle until he completely forgot about me. 

I prayed about it in the Port and after an hour of trying to make a decision, I decided to stop stressing about, go to Austria and let God take care of everything.

I walked out of the Portiuncula and headed toward the cafeteria.  I was tired, famished and a little depressed.  Going to Austria without even knowing ONE person was causing my introvert to take over.  With my head down I started to open the door of the caf when I heard familiar laughter.  Jason and his two best friends were just walking out of the cafeteria.  Great...just who I wanted to see...NOT!  (Wait...Is that still "hip" to say?)

I tried to slink past them without being seen but he spotted me and called out my name. 

"Lisa!  Hey, do you know anyone who is going to Austria Spring 2005?" 

"Uh...yeah?  Me?"

"Oh cool!  The three of us just signed up!"

Trying to keep it together..."Oh right on.  Awesome."

I screamed internally for a couple of hours.  I was so pumped!!

Now we are happily married.  I found out later that Jason has almost no memory of the first time we met.  I recounted it to him so many times that now he claims the memory as his own.  I know better though.  Once he finally spotted me, we were inseparable.  And Austria was everything I thought it would be.  There are a few great stories from Austria that I just might have to share someday.  But for now I'll stick to the point of the story: Mensa Granola.

Granola is wicked expensive.  Jason and I discovered our love for granola in the Mensa.  The mensa was our "cafeteria" in Austria that served granola and yogurt every morning.  The yogurt was unsweetened perfection.  There was a sugar bowl next to it to sweeten if if you like.  I miss that yogurt and I have not yet found unsweetened yogurt like it!  The breakfast was so simple but soooo delicious.

(This is my only picture of the Mensa!  This was the farewell party where, traditionally, the girls all wear authentic dirndl's and those are my adorable roommates on the left!)

And since I know you are all DYING to see me in a dirdl...

So, after many years of talking about our favorite breakfast, Jason finally asked if I would just make it for him.  Here is the recipe we compiled:

Mensa Granola
4 cups rolled oats
1 cup sliced almonds
1/2 cup shredded coconut
1/2 cup coconut sap sugar
1 tablespoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon dried ground ginger
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup ground flax seed
1/3 cup coconut oil
1/2 cup raw honey or little bit more
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

Directions: Preheat the oven to 250.  Mix together the oats, almonds, coconut, brown sugar, cinnamon, ginger, salt and flax seed.

In a separate bowl, mix together the oil, honey and vanilla extract.

Mix all the ingredients together

Take a brief photo-op break with Leo: Photographer Extraordinaire...

Spread your granola out on parchment paper in a thin layer over two large pans
If you don't have parchment paper...I recommend either wax paper or not opting for something elseJust buy some.

Bake your granola for 7 minutes at 250, stir it around and bake it for another 7 minutes
(We did ours for 10 minutes and then another 10 and some bites taste burnt.  7 should be perfect.  The temperature and timing depend on how thick you spread out the granola so please check it often so it doesn't burn!!)

Either mix the granola with some milk or yogurt and ENJOY!

UPDATED: April 2011 - My good friend Jennie at Pure Homemaking tweaked this homemade granola recipe to make it healthier and even more flavorful.  Her steps are a little more in-depth and oh-so-good-for-you!!  Check out her blogpost on The Best Granola. EVER. and give it a whirl!  Also, check out all of her awesome recipes.  She has been my inspiration for healthy and pure foods and homemade cooking!


  1. nice story. austria looks cool...

  2. Delish - I thought they did more the Muesli thing, but that must be the Swiss. We love anything with oats though. Thanks for sharing your adorable story.

  3. Mensa granola!! I've gotten down the runny ranch-like salad dressing, but I haven't quite captured the bacon-wrapped cheese stuffed sausages ;)... a.k.a. "cardio dogs." Nobody can do pork chops like those Austrian ladies!
    Aah!! Good times!

  4. This sounds wonderfully easy and delicious. I've been wanting to try a granola recipe, and this sounds like just the one! Thanks for sharing. One of this week's questions from 5 Question Friday was "how'd you and your husband meet?" I love reading about others' love stories! Have a great weekend and thanks for the recipe. I recently saw a recipe for homemade yogurt made in a crockpot. Sounded pretty simple. May go perfectly with your yogurt as you could make it unsweet to your liking! If I remember where I saw it, I'll send you the link.

  5. Here's that link for the homemade yogurt:
    You may even find some more tasty stuff if you take a look around! Bon apetit.

  6. I love this post! How romantic!!


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