Great Grains

Although my parents deny ever being hippies, I distinctly remember spending the 70’s going to the health food store, making our own yogurt, eating carob (YUCK!), and stirring up big batches of granola…lots of granola.

Unlike the disdain I had for its cereal cousin, oatmeal, I have always loved granola.  It’s portable, nutritious, and delicious.
Sometimes the brands seen in grocery stores pop up on “worst cereal lists” for their unnaturally high calories, sugars, and fat grams.  These can also be pretty pricy, and I don’t always like the combos they offer (I’m not a fan of raisins and have a slight nut allergy).  While Trader Joes carries a couple brands that are to die for – the ginger, almond and cashew is amazing and the mango, passion was so different from the norm that I had to try it and loved it – I enjoy making my own.  It’s easy and its fun, the kids can help, and I make any flavor I decide and choose organic ingredients too.  Plus, when I double the batch and need to use two cookie sheets, I am able to customize each according to personal tastes (one kid likes almonds and the other doesn’t, my husband loves raisins and no one else does).

I think I found the original recipe in the 1994 Cook’s Illustrated annual, but I’ve added and subtracted enough that I now feel free to call it my own.

I buy my oats in the bulk section of the grocery store – nice thick rolled oats, not the thin, flaky quick or instant types that would not hold their own against the add-ins.  As for those, I try to match their amount with the quantity of oats.  For example: 3 cups of oats = 3 cups of extras.

The tasty bits I mix with the oats vary by my mood, what’s in my pantry, or what looks good in the other bulk food containers.  The last bunch I made had dried cranberries, slivered almonds, raw shelled sunflower seeds, and sesame seeds.  Other favorites around here include coconut, walnuts or pecans, banana chips smashed into bits, diced dried apricots, and dates.  The fun thing about making our own granola is that the flavors are limited only by our imagination – and what won’t scorch in the oven (so far, so good on that one though). 

The following recipe makes about twelve half-cup servings, but I usually double it and end up with enough for a few weeks.  I store it in a sealed container (my Lock & Lock containers work well) in the cupboard next to the Cheerios, and it seems to last for at least that long without tasting stale.
Great Granola

3 cups rolled oats
3 cups add-ins of your choice (choose raw unsalted nuts when possible, chop dried fruits into small, uniform sized bits)
1/4c honey
1/4c maple syrup (real stuff!)
4T canola oil
½ t cinnamon or powdered ginger (optional)
1t vanilla (optional)

-Heat oven to 325 degrees
-Combine oats and add-ins in large bowl
-Combine honey, maple syrup, and oil in small sauce pan.  Heat over medium heat (but do not boil) until combined.  Remove from heat.  Add spices and vanilla if desired.
-Pour liquid on top of oat mixture.  Immediately stir with wooden spoon or silicone spatula (works best) to combine.
-Scrape contents onto parchment lined cookie sheet or jelly roll pan.
-Bake in oven for 15-20 minutes stirring every 5 minutes for even toasting and to check for doneness.
-Remove pan when granola is lightly toasted and immediately spread out evenly on parchment or a cool cookie sheet.
-When completely cooled, eat and enjoy.  Store unused portion in airtight container for up to one month.

I think when the current blend is gone, I’ll have to make my own ginger cashew granola.  I’d also like to hear what creative combinations you’ve tried!  

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