Monday, May 31, 2010

Going Granola

This may be the closest I ever come to being a hippie.

My mother in law and sister in law have always made their own granola and it has inspired me. I've tinkered around with various recipes.....they're all good, but I'm interested in using as little sugar & oil and a lot of the recipes still have more than I care to use. The end result always suffers if I don't use as much as recipes call for when it comes to sweetness and fat. Plus, the fat helps it bind more.

One of the most fun ways to try granola is in a crockpot. I tried this recipe last year and I burned it. But I have not given up in succeeding at it, so I may try again. However, if I'm going to be needing to stir it the way I do regular granola, why would I prolong that to 3-4 hours when I could get it over with in 45 minutes?

Granola is VERY EASY to make....if you can watch it closely. All you do is throw together ingredients, spread them onto a pan, throw them in the oven...and then watch, and watch, and watch the oven. Every 10 minutes or so, you need to stir the mixture around or flip it & then throw it back in and watch it some more. You almost don't even need a recipe. You can add and subtract nuts/seeds as you see fit according to your preference. And if you want to give some away at Christmas, I've noticed that adding the pumpkin seeds and cranberries makes it particularly festive. Just a recession thought.....

If you like dried fruit in yours like I do, I've learned my lesson----don't throw it in until halfway into the baking process. I've noticed it has a tendency to burn pretty quickly...maybe that's just my ineptitude though...

Since I'm not as organized as I'd like, I could not find my mother in law's recipe (though I've made it in the past), so I threw this together and I think it's a decent mix of balanced natural fats and sugars:


2 cups old-fashioned oats (not quick-cooking)
1/2 cup raw sunflower seeds
1 cup dried coconut (BIG flakes)
1/2 cup-1 cup raw almonds
1 cup raw walnuts or pecans (I used walnuts, but think pecans would be better)
1/2 cup raw cashews
1/4 cup flax seeds (don't use ground flax like I did)
1/3 cup pumpkin seeds
1/4 cup sesame seeds
1 tsp. salt
1 tsp. cinnamon (optional, but I like it)
1 tsp. vanilla extract
1/4 cup canola oil (at least it's "heart-healthy")
1/2 cup maple syrup (why use sugar when you can use agave or maple syrup?)
1 cup craisins or cranberries, raisins, or dried --OPTIONAL*

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Mix all ingredients together (except for the dried fruit).

Spread mixture onto a large baking sheet. Bake for 45 minutes---being VERY CAREFUL to inspect every so often and turn/flip mixture so that it bakes evenly and does not burn. It is very easy to burn granola.

*It's probably best to add the dried fruit in about 30 minutes into the baking process (just my opinion). My cranberries got a little darker than I had intended since I added them right at the beginning.
Makes about 6 cups of granola. Also, freezes very well!

Next time, I'm going to add more almonds and try an almond flavoring. AND, I recently read a recipe that included adding Grape Nuts cereal to the mixture after the baking process. What a neat idea--it would give it some really good crunch and you could just add milk for an easy, healthy breakfast!

What do we do with granola?
Oh, we add it to the top of pancakes and waffles after we smear them with peanut butter and applesauce. Or we make parfaits....mixed berries and possibly bananas and fresh pineapple with low-fat yogurt and granola layered together. It's a quick and special kind of breakfast--a really easy way to impress overnight guests (as if they need impressing--they'd probably be impressed you washed the sheets--if you have little ones).

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