Granola (insert eye roll)

 granola1 

Sometimes during the day, I need a snack. The vending machine calls to me, but I stroll by with a quick glance. I try to bring my own healthy snacks. Well, sometimes. Licorice is healthy, right? Chocolate? The whites of hardboiled eggs are kind of stinky to my student workers. I decided to try something new and make some granola. It can very expensive to buy and is usually full of fats and sugars that are not healthy. They advertise themselves as health foods, but read the labels. If you make your own granola you can control the sugars and fats. Plus, granola is very easy to make. I won’t say it’s inexpensive, but you can reduce the ingredient costs. I bought my seeds and nuts at Whole Foods. I purchased just what I needed from the bins, and it was not very expensive. The most expensive part, for me, was the dried fruits. They can be costly, but I think they really make the granola special. I replaced some oil with homemade applesauce and used a combination of maple syrup and honey for sweetness. Spices were a bonus as the kitchen smelled like a bakeshop.

So let’s talk about granola basics. First you need a grain. Most recipes call for rolled oat such as the “old-fashioned” kind, not the instant or quick cook oatmeal. I use about 3 cups of oats. Nuts add texture, flavor and many nutrients. Use about 1 to 1 ½ cups of nuts. I love cashews, but almonds are fabulous. You can use any nuts. Sweeteners like honey, maple syrup, and agave or rice syrup work well as they coat the granola. I like to heat the liquid sugars and add some brown sugar for caramelizing and crunch. Oil is important to get the granola crispy and prevents stickiness. Try to use neutral oils like canola or grapeseed. Melted coconut oil adds flavor. It’s the rage now. Just as in baking, you need salt. For granola you only need a teaspoon. Seeds like pumpkin, flax, sunflower and flax toast up and are very nutritious. Unsweetened coconut flakes toast up and add a wonderful flavor. Dried fruits in my opinion make granola delicious. I love to use dried apricots and dried cranberries. You can use any dried fruit, but remember to add it after you cook the granola. Dried fruit will burn; trust me. Spices are important. I like to use cinnamon, nutmeg and ginger. A little goes a long way, so I only use about ½ tsp. of each.  You can add ¼ cup of cocoa powder with your other dry ingredients before baking, or use 1 cup of chocolate chips after the granolas has been baked. You can replace some of your oil with one egg white beaten until frothy. Proteins help bind the granola and get it crispy.

So here’s my recipe:

3 cups of oatmeal

1-cup cashews

¼ cup flax seeds

1-cup pumpkin seeds

2 tsp. cinnamon

½ tsp. nutmeg

½ tsp. ground ginger

1 tsp. salt

1 cup dried cranberries

1 cup chopped dried apricots

½ cup applesauce

¼ brown sugar

¼ maple syrup

1 tbsp. honey

1 tbsp. oil

1 tsp. vanilla extract

Heat oven to 300 degrees.

Combine the oats, seeds, spices, salt, and nuts in a large bowl. In a saucepan, heat up the applesauce, maple syrup, honey, brown sugar and oil. Heat until the brown sugar has melted and the mixture is hot. Take off the heat and stir in the vanilla extract.

Add this warm mixture into the dry ingredients. Mix until the thoroughly coated. Spread the mixture onto a parchment paper covered cookie sheet.

Bake the granola for about 30-40 minutes, stirring every 15 minutes, until the granola has become golden brown. The granola will not be crunchy until it’s cooled, so don’t wait for it to be crunchy to remove from the oven.

Remove from oven and cool, adding the dried fruits.

Once it’s completely cooled, store in an airtight container. I love to mix it into Greek yogurt for lunch.

granola 2

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