Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Maple Vanilla Granola

I have been making granola at home for a number of years.  I started with a recipe from Ina Garten (The Barefoot Contessa).  The recipe called for equal amounts of honey and oil and it never occurred to me to reduce the amount of oil.  In my mind, the granola I was making was pretty healthy, as compared to the store bought varieties, since I knew exactly what was in my granola.  I did, however, discover that I could add more and more dry ingredients with the same amount of liquid ingredients and I still had good results.  I also discovered I could use maple syrup or agave nectar in place of the honey.  I read a lot of recipes and I had a "light bulb" moment when I tried a recipe for a lower fat, crunchy granola... suddenly it occurred to me I was needlessly adding a lot of extra calories (in the form of fat) to my granola.  Granola can be made with out the added extra fat.

Over the past several months, I've been altering my granola recipe, tweaking here and there, and I am pretty happy with this version.  There is a lot of flexibility in this recipe.  Chia seeds can be used in place of flax seed meal and vice verse, or they can be left out all together.  One time I forgot the almonds. Another time, I was out of coconut so I added quinoa flakes in place of coconut.  Sometimes I use pecans in place of almonds. The recipe varies based upon what is in my kitchen.  When this granola bakes, it fools my son.  He smells the aroma of vanilla swirling about the house and asks if I am baking his favorite chocolate chip cookies.  "No, sorry!  I am making granola!" 

My coworker, Mrs. W, is a big fan of my granola so I keep a stash of granola in our office.  She bought me a HUGE (the HUGEST!) bottle of vanilla in Mexico a few months back and I love using it in this recipe.  Mrs. W and I both love yogurt with granola stirred in.  Some folks at work take "smoke breaks", but on occassion, Mrs. W and I take "yogurt breaks"... a much healthier alternative.  I got Mrs. W hooked on Oikos brand "Black Cherry" yogurt.  Some times we put more than just a sprinkle of granola in our yogurt... the granola dribbles all over our desktops as we attempt to stir gobs of granola into our tiny cups of yogurt. Sometimes we joke that the dish is best when it's 50% yogurt and 50% granola.  Good stuff!

Maple Vanilla Granola

In a large bowl combine the following ingredients:
4 cups rolled or old fashioned oats (not quick cooking or instant oats)
1 cup raw whole almonds, coarsely chopped
1/2 cup unsweetened coconut
1/2 cup raw pepitas (pumpkin seeds)
1/4 cup raw sunflower seeds
1/4 cup raw sesame seeds
1 tablespoon chia seeds (or 1 tablespoon ground flax seed meal)
3 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon ground nutmeg (freshly ground is super good)

In a small, microwave safe measuring cup or bowl combine the following ingredients:
1/2 cup real maple syrup (agave nectar or honey are good substitutes)
2 teaspoons vanilla
1 tablespoon water
1 tablespoon brown sugar, packed

Preheat oven to 300 degrees Fahrenheit.  Line two sheet pans (with rims) with aluminum foil. I use two large roasting pans; two jelly roll pans also work well.

Stir the dry ingredients in the large bowl.

Warm the liquid ingredients for 30 seconds in a microwave oven at HIGH (100% ) power; stir well until the sugar is dissolved into the liquid. 

Drizzle the liquid ingredients over the dry ingredients; stir well to coat.  I find a pair of kitchen tongs works well to toss and coat the ingredients.

Divide the granola into the two prepared pans and spread in an even layer.  Bake in oven for about 24 minutes; stirring every 8 minutes.  Turn oven off and bake an additional hour, checking and stirring approximately every 15 to 20 minutes.  Basically you are dehydrating the granola so that no moisture remains.  Cool until room temperature.  Store in plastic zip closure bags or plastic storage container(s) with tight fitting lid(s). 

If you like your granola with milk, you might wish to add in a few raisins or dried sweetened cranberries.  I like to add the dried fruit to each portion individually. I think the moisture content in the dried fruit can alter the texture of the granola and the dryness of the granola can change the texture of the dried fruit if the two are stored together for a period of time. 

Granola makes a great gift!

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