Saturday, February 20, 2016

Morning Crunch

Granola is not "good for you".  I remember the pangs of disappointment and loss I felt when I learned that my high school go-to-breakfast of bowls filled with granola (a.k.a. Nature Valley Oats 'n Honey bars broken into pieces) was not the breakfast of champions.  Store bought granola is packed with sugar, not to mention all the processed grains, dried fruits etc.

Being gluten-free, I have a burning desire to try everything labeled as such and so have had my fair share of unhealthy granolas -- gluten free is not a euphemism for health -- pass through my kitchen (and into my mouth). The options have increased tremendously -- Udi's, Purely Elizabeth, Bare Naked, KIND -- and if you want to find gluten free granola, there is a spectrum of choices and health qualities you can choose from.

In an effort to minimize my grocery store spending and maximize the health benefits of my food but still enjoy the sweet delicious crunchy goodness of granola, I set out to make my own.

If you think there are a lot of options for store bought granola then beware of searching for recipes online.  Gluten-free, grain-free, paleo x 1,000,000.

Luckily, college BFF Emily has been cooking up homemade granola for ages.  I had tasted hers years ago and loved the crunchy, nutty, fruity, not-to-sweet blend her granola always had.  Her recipe is simple and adaptable depending on the exact flavor profile you are craving.  My favorite combination includes dried cherries & walnuts or figs, prunes & cashews.  Where will your granola take you?

Easy Homemade Granola 
(from "Baked: New Frontiers in Baking" by Matt Lewis and Renato Poliafito)

[Maddy's Note: One thing I absolutely love about this recipe is that I eyeball all of the measurements and it always yields tasty granola.]

Ingredients:

2 cups rolled oats

1 teaspoon cinnamon

1 teaspoon salt

3 tablespoons plus 1 teaspoon vegetable oil

1/4 cup honey [Maddy's Note: Sometime I do a blend of honey/maple syrup]

1/4 cup firmly packed light brown sugar [Maddy's Note: For my health-conscious granola, I typically leave this out.  Still plenty sweet.]

1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

1/3 cup whole almonds [Emily's Note: I used slivered almonds, and they worked fine.]

1/3 cup whole hazelnuts

1/3 cup golden raisins

1/3 cup dried cherries

Preheat the oven to 325 degrees F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.

In a large bowl, toss the oats with the cinnamon and salt.

In a medium bowl, stir together the oil, honey, brown sugar, and vanilla. Whisk until 

completely combined.

Pour the honey mixture over the oats mixture and use your hands to combine them: 

Gather up some of the mixture in each hand and make a fist. Repeat until all of the oats 

are coated with the honey mixture.

Pour the mixture onto the prepared baking sheet. Spread it out evenly, but leave a few 

clumps here and there for texture.


Bake for 10 minutes, then remove from the oven and use a metal spatula to lift and flip 

the granola. Sprinkle the almonds over the granola and return the baking sheet to the 

oven.

Bake for 5 minutes, then remove from the oven and use a metal spatula to lift and flip the 

granola. Sprinkle the hazelnuts over the granola and return the baking sheet to the oven.

Bake for 10 minutes, then remove from the oven. Let cool completely. Sprinkle the 

raisins and cherries over the granola...

and use your hands to transfer it to an airtight container.

The granola will keep for 1 week.

[Maddy's Note: If I'm feeling lazy, I don't separate the baking into 3 sections (10 minutes, 5 minutes, 10 minutes).  Flavor is still delicious and you can eyeball the baking/dryness to get the optimal crunch.]


Enjoy over thick greek yogurt or in a bowl with probiotic-filled kefir!