Monday, May 30, 2011

Good Morning Granola

I'm always looking for ways to make staple items from the grocery store, like breakfast cereal, at home.  Cereal is one of those things that costs a ridiculous amount of money and often provides very little nutritional value.  I hate spending money on it, but the fact of the matter is that we're always in a hurry in the morning during the school year.  Inhaling a bowl of cereal is about all we have time to do.

But after hearing several friends talk about making granola at home, I decided that might be the solution to the Foodie Family's breakfast dilemma.  I love crunchy, fruit, nutty, healthy cereals--I left Cap'n Crunch behind a long time ago, and it's a very rare occasion when I'll let the Foodie children indulge in a bowl full of sugar for breakfast--but those are the cereals that tend to be ridiculously expensive. So a good, basic granola recipe seemed like it might be worth exploring.

I found a basic formula for granola at Chocolate and Zucchini, which you might also find helpful as a guideline.  Although (of course) I didn't follow it exactly,  I did use it as a guide for proportions because I have a tendency to go overboard on the things I love.  In this case, I still went slightly heavy on the dried cherries in an effort to make sure I'd included enough.  (The recipe below reflects my suggestion that you cut back to 3/4 of a cup, as the formula suggests, rather than mixing in a full cup of fruit, as I did.)  This isn't a super sweet granola recipe because I like to taste the spices under the sugar.  If you think you'd prefer something sweeter and slightly less spice-flavored, try leaving out the nutmeg and bumping up the honey by a tablespoon.

Finally, I added half a cup of cacao nibs to this granola because I happened to have them on hand.  I don't always, and I thought the granola was very tasty even before I added them--after I added them, however, it went miles beyond tasty.  Cacao nibs are just the unsweetened essence of chocolate, so they won't make the granola taste chocolatey at all; they aren't like chocolate chips.  They just create a complexity of flavor.   In fact, I can't say that the nibs add a particular flavor at all, but they change the overall taste of this granola in a very pleasant way.  (That's totally helpful, I know.  But just try adding the nibs and you'll see what I mean.)

Both The Girl and The Hubs were crazy about this recipe.  The Boy gave it a try and said "It's surprisingly good, even though I'm really not a cereal person."  (His loyalty to Eggo Waffles prevents him from considering any other breakfast option too seriously.)  It's great by the handful, as a healthy snack, as well as in bowl with a splash of milk. 

            
Good Morning Granola

Ingredients:

3 cups rolled oats (not quick-cooking)
1/2 cup sunflower seeds
1 cup whole almonds
2 T. vegetable oil
6 T. honey
1 T. vanilla extract
1 tsp. cinnamon
1 tsp. nutmeg
1 tsp. salt
1/2 cup shredded coconut
3/4 cup dried cherries
1/2 cup cacao nibs

Instructions:

Combine the dry ingredients.  In a large bowl, stir together the oats, sunflower seeds, and almonds.

Combine the wet ingredients.  In a small bowl, whisk together the oil, honey, and vanilla extract.  Pour this mixture over the dry ingredients in the larger bowl and stir well.  Sprinkle the cinnamon, nutmeg, and salt over this mixture and stir again. 

Bake the granola.  Line a baking sheet with parchment paper (or spray the baking sheet with vegetable oil--very important, unless you want to be scrubbing granola off your baking sheet for a very long time.)  Spread the granola evenly across the pan.  Place it in a cold oven and turn the heat to 300 degrees.  Set a timer for 10 minutes. 

Check and stir the granola. Every 10 minutes, pull the baking pan out of the oven and redistribute the granola.  make sure the stuff from the sides makes it to the middle and vice-versa.  The granola will not be crisp at this point, so you'll have to determine the proper baking time by appearance.  When the mixture is browned to your liking, take it out of the oven and let it cool on a wire rack.  (I baked my granola for 20 minutes, starting from a cold oven.  If you prefer your granola a little more toasty and crunchy, you might want to go for 30 minutes.)  

Let the granola cool.  When it's no longer hot to the touch, sprinkle coconut, cherries and cacao nibs over the top.  (Although toasted coconut is very tasty, its high fat content means it burns easily.  If you want to toast your coconut, I'd add it to the mixture during the last five minutes of baking time.  But untoasted coconut gives this granola a nice chewy element that I really like.)  The granola will crisp up as it cools, so don't panic if it seems a little soggy at first.

Store the cooled granola in a container with a tight-fitting lid, to keep it fresh. 

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