Friday, February 18, 2011

Great Granola

One of my favorite breakfasts is a bowl of Stonyfield Farm yogurt with some fresh fruit and granola. They sell a yummy yogurt cup with strawberries and some really great granola at Panera, but at $3.50 a pop it's not exactly an everyday treat. There's no way to decrease the cost of the yogurt (it's sooo worth it!), and the cost of fruit is so dependant on the market, but great granola is inexpensive, easy to make, and customizable to whatever flavors, tastes, and textures appeal to you. Check the bulk bins at your grocery store or food co-op to get great deals on the ingredients for your next batch of granola.

The base of your granola is, of course, rolled oats. I used a combination of regular rolled oats and thick oats. The thick oats, if you haven't guessed, are thicker and have a more solid texture than the regular oats, and are good for granola. You could use all regular rolled oats if that's what you like and if that's what's available.

Nuts are the next base ingredient.

I used a mixture of almonds, pecans, and walnuts, for variety.

Hazelnuts would have been really good here, too.

Other things you could add include (but are not limited to!) flax, wheat germ, seeds like pumpkin or sunflower, or puffed rice.
Unsweetened flaked coconut adds some natural sweetness as well as extra fiber. It's high in fat but it's the good kind of fat.

I wish I had had shaved coconut, rather than shredded. I like the big, wide pieces so you can see that there's coconut. But I had the shredded already at home.

Now mix the oats, nuts, and coconut together. Then set it aside.

In a separate bowl, measure out some brown sugar.

Drizzle it with (real!) maple syrup.

Add some vegetable oil. This will help your granola get crunchy. You could use butter instead, but vegetable oil increases the granola's shelf life, and since I'm usually the only one eating it, vegetable oil works to my benefit.

A few squeezes of honey will add more sweetness, and will also help your granola clump into bunches. If you're into large pieces of granola, I'd decrease one of the other sweeteners and add more honey.

I think honey has a very distinctive flavor and can sometimes be overpowering, so I kept the honey to a minimum, and because of this, my granola didn't clump at all.

Half a teaspoon of salt will tempt your taste buds.

The same amount of cinnamon will add just a little spice.

A big squirt of vanilla will give your granola a nice, home-y flavor.

Stir your wet ingredients together until everything is incorporated.

Then pour over your oat mixture.

Stir everything really well (make sure every oat gets some flavor!) and then spread your granola out on a baking sheet. If you only have dark baking sheets, I'd recommend using parchment paper, to keep your granola from getting too dark. I bought some homemade granola this week and I think the flax they added got a little too dark--there's a slight burned taste to it.

Put it in a 250F oven. Bake it for an hour and 15 mintes; set a timer for every 15 mintes to give your granola a stir.

When your granola comes out of the oven, stir in your dried fruit. I used dried cherries today. Next time I think I may do apricots--I love dried apricots!

Like I said earlier, I like to eat my granola with some Stonyfield Farm yogurt (vanilla or flavored) and fresh fruit. I used strawberries but I think there's a banana in the kitchen with my name written all over it.

Make your picky eater happy by making them their very own granola! Find out how easy it can be to make something that tastes so good.

Recipe: Great Granola

4 c. rolled oats
2 1/2 c. nuts
3/4 c. shredded unsweetened coconut

1/3 c. brown sugar
1/4 c. maple
1/4 c. vegetable oil
3 tbsp. honey
1/2 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. cinnamon
1 tbsp. vanilla

3/4 c. dried fruit

In a large bowl, combine oats, nuts, and coconut. Stir well.

In another bowl, combine brown sugar, maple, vegetable oil, honey, salt, cinnamon, and vanilla. Stir well.

Pour wet mixture over oats. Stir well.

Spread granola onto a baking sheet. Bake at 250F for an hour and 15 minutes. Remove from oven and stir every 15 minutes.

After removing granola from oven, stir in dried fruit. Let cool before eating!

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