Jun 27, 2012

Gettin' Crunchy With It

I've told you about my hippie moments (read about my music festival days here), but now we're getting down to the real crunchy stuff. Granola, that is.

It's been a cooking sort of a week around here. And yesterday it was time to whip up a batch of homemade granola. I started making it few years ago and haven't stopped since. For breakfast, add a little almond milk and fresh fruit, and I'm a happy camper. I've tried several different recipes, tried making it in the slow cooker and in the oven, and adding wacky ingredients, but in the end, my favorite is a classic oven-baked granola.

Thanks to my friend Ally, for pointing me to a recipe from Earthbound Farms, available here, on her friend's lovely blog, Zoo House. After making many, many versions of this yummy recipe, I thought I'd share my favorite adaptation. I cut way back on the maple syrup and added extra sunflower seeds and almonds, to make a low sugar, high protein granola. It's very lightly sweet and crunchy, and super satisfying.

So first thing's first. It's important to have a helpful assistant...

Next, set the oven to 325 degrees, and assemble the ingredients...

5 cups rolled oats
2 cups blanched, slivered almonds (I've tried thin-sliced almonds, but they can burn in the oven)
1 cup raw sunflower seeds
2 tablespoons cinnamon
1/3 cup canola oil
1/3 cup maple syrup
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
raisins or other dried fruit
optional: 1 or 2 tablespoons ground flax seeds
optional: juice from one orange

I usually mix all my dry ingredients together first (except raisins). I keep ground flax seeds in the freezer and like to add a scoop or two for extra nutrients. I do not add raisins or dried fruit yet! Those go in after baking. I've made this mistake a few times, and you end up with raisins that are more the consistency of pebbles. Not so appetizing.

Once all my dry ingredients are mixed, I stir in the oil, syrup and vanilla extract. If I have an orange on hand, fresh squeezed juice adds a nice flavor kick and the sweetness helps compensate for the large amount of maple syrup I cut from the recipe. This can all be tweaked to personal preferences, and takes no time to throw together. Max loves him some raw granola. I love this photo where you can see him sneaking a handful from the cooking sheet.

The hardest part is the baking, because you really have to pay attention and figure out what works in your own oven. First, the whole batch needs to be evenly spread onto the biggest mamajama of a baking sheet that you have. I think mine is 17x24. Then, for me at least, the magic baking formula is the following (it's really much simpler than it looks!):

Bake 12 minutes, take out and stir
Bake another 12 minutes, stir again
Bake 12 more minutes to finish

So my total bake time is 36 minutes. The main trick is to be sure to stir the granola at least once, and to keep a close eye on it for the last five minutes, because it can suddenly burn! Pull out your finished granola and place it on a cooling rack - it should be only slightly crispy, since it gets crunchier as it cools. This is the point when those raisins can go in. I usually just toss in a handful or two, until it looks raisin-y enough.

And voila! Enjoy however you please, with yogurt, milk, fruit or just by the handful. Confession: sometimes I sprinkle it with chocolate chips and coconut flakes, add a little milk and call it dessert :) This size batch usually lasts close to two weeks in our house, with me eating it daily and Ben only a few days a week.

Do you have a favorite granola recipe? Or do you like something totally different for breakfast? I'm definitely a one-breakfast-food kind of woman. Guess I'm just predictable like that :)

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