Guilt-Free Granola

I’ve come to the conclusion that it’s virtually impossible to make a batch of granola without sampling as you go.

Oh, is that an errant chopped walnut? Find me a person who isn’t going to throw caution to the wind and follow the five-second rule.

Oh, is that a perfectly swipe-able swirl of honey left in that measuring cup? Find me a person who is going to stick it into the top rack of the dishwasher without sticking their pinky finger in first.

I suppose such individuals must exist. But I don’t think they’d make for very good friends.

Let’s talk about granola. Who doesn’t love granola? Granola is a good way to make friends.

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In theory, anyway. To be quite honest, if you’re out to make more friends [and who isn’t, now that college is over], I’d think twice about bringing along little Ziplocs of this homemade granola. Or, at the very least, I’d have a big bag of trail mix in the car for backup.

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How come?

  • For one, the ingredients in this granola are a little too unconventional [think raw quinoa and uncooked steel cut oats] and the taste is…well…a lot too healthy – for a purist.
  • Is it le top du top [French for “the best of the best”] for a more nutritious version of a beloved sweet? There’s no real way to sugarcoat this: no.
  • Does it require babysitting while it bakes for the span of a feature film? Unfortunately, yes it does, with active attention every 15 to 20 minutes.
  • Would a cluster connoisseur rave about it? Only if you’d consider “raving” to be a generous 2 out of 10.

You’re really about to scurry over to your pantry to see if you have all the essential ingredients now, aren’t you?

But hold on just a minute. We’re going to talk about a breakfast granola that will make you feel like you can still have cheese at lunch and dessert after dinner. It’s chock full of feel-good ingredients [think old-fashioned oats, chia seeds, and flaxseed meal] and every single spoonful has a remarkable crunch. We’re miles away from the kind of one-dimensional glazed oats that wash down unnoticed on a dollop of yogurt.

The method isn’t too far from the norm – you still need to start by pulling out two bowls, one for dry ingredients and one for wet ingredients. You do need to step on the gas once you’ve melted the coconut oil though [it will re-solidify if you go around scrolling through your Instagram and picking at the dry ingredient bowl].

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Have a baking sheet covered in parchment paper ready to go, and evenly distribute the combined mixture in a single layer.

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After about an hour, if you’re at all human, you’ll sneak your first toasty warm honey-covered almond. You’ll have your first hint that this granola is going to be incredibly nutty [not just from the almonds and the walnuts, but also from the toasted grains], and only subtly sweet. If you don’t add a lot of Stevia, you’re really only going to be relying on coconut oil, honey, and vanilla extract. But that’s okay – the addictiveness of the more decadent granolas is there; it’s just not as aggressive.

After you have ten more taste tests, you might find yourself really itching to add more salt.

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And with 10 minutes of baking time to go, you might decide to go ahead and add dried fruit too. This would be very wise. I suggest raisins, apricots, and the miracle that is the medjool date. Together, the chopped pieces of sticky soft fruit offered a nice contrast [think of the occasional sweet little tug] from the overall crispiness that sets this granola apart – lowly though it may be.

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As an added bonus, it stands up really, really well in a bowl full of milk. No islands of soggy here. Who cares if the in-crowd is eating Greek yogurt and big chunks of granola that really taste more like candy?

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Recipe [Serves 6]:

1/2 cup rolled oats, dry

1/4 cup chopped walnuts

1/4 cup chopped almonds

1/4 cup steel cut oats, dry

1/4 cup quinoa, dry

1/2 tablespoon flaxseed meal

1 tablespoon chia seeds

½ square [14 g] unsweetened baking chocolate

1.5 tablespoons virgin coconut oil

1/6 cup honey (halfway up a 1/3 cup)

1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

Pinch of kosher salt

Stevia, to taste

2 medjool pitted and chopped dates

1/4 cup chopped dried apricots

1/3 cup raisins

Method:

Preheat an oven to 250°F.

Line a large baking sheet with parchment paper and set aside.

In a large bowl mix all of the dry ingredients together [except the salt and dried fruit].

In a small microwaveable bowl, melt the coconut oil.

Mix together the oil, honey, and vanilla extract.

Combine the wet and dry ingredients.

Spread the mixture onto the lined pan and sprinkle with kosher salt.

Bake in the oven for a little less than two hours, stirring every 15-20 minutes, or so to toast the grains evenly.

Add the dried fruit with about 10 minutes to go until 2 hours are up.

After 2 hours, remove tray from the oven and let the granola sit, untouched, until it has cooled.

Adapted from Relishing It 

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