April 2, 2012

Everyday Granola

Work has gotten the better of me for the last month or so, but I'm back! And I have a backpile of recipes to share. First, granola! I have granola for breakfast almost every single day. I eat it with plain yogurt and, occasionally, with fresh berries. Because I have it every day, I prefer a lighter granola. Almost everything store bought is too sweet. Or, if not too sweet, it has too much going on. I like to keep it simple.

My granola is NOT clumpy. It is more like a muesli I suppose. But I think of muesli as not being particularly crunchy. My granola is crunchy. The crunch comes from the maple syrup. I used to pour the syrup straight into the oats cold, but recently I adopted my mother's strategy of bringing the syrup to a low boil before adding it. Heating up the syrup seems to loosen it, so a smaller volume can coat more oats.

The only fat comes from the almonds; I don't add any oil or butter. Some recipes suggest the oil is necessary to prevent the granola from sticking to the pan, but I have never had a problem with this. I'd say I usually lose about twenty-five to thirty oats to stickage. In other words, nothing to get too worried about. That said, I used to make this with half the volume of syrup and an equal amount of vegetable oil. It was good that way too.

Granola is very personal. And this recipe is endlessly customizable to suit your tastes. You can change the fruit/nut combination. You can add coconut or flax seed or your other favorite superfood of the moment. You can use a different sweetener--agave or honey. You can add chocolate. Finally, of course, the spices are customizable. I've settled into a ginger/cinnamon combination that I love, but you could changes the proportions or ditch both.

Recently, I've started added finely chopped butternut squash seeds. Next time you make a butternut squash, save the seeds, carefully rinse and dry them. Spread them out on a baking sheet and stick them in the oven once your squash is done roasting and you have turned the oven off. Leave them in there a few hours to dry and roast slightly (I've left them overnight before).

It also has a lot of eating possibilities. As I said, I have it for breakfast with plain yogurt. But sometimes I stir it in with some cheerios and milk. Sometimes I sprinkle it on top of vanilla ice cream and douse it with chocolate sauce. Yum.

- Franklin

Everyday Granola
Sweetness Factor: 4; Indulgence Factor: 4; Difficult Factor: 3; Chance I'll Make it Again: 10.
Total Time: 1 hour.

6-8 cups rolled oats (not quick oats)
1/2 cup maple syrup (preferably grade B)
1/4 cup toasted almonds, finely chopped
1 tablespoon roasted squash seeds, finely chopped
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
dash of cinnamon
dash of salt
1/4 cup dried cranberries
1/4 cup golden raisins
1/4 cup raisins
1/4 cup dried apricots, finely chopped

Preheat the oven to 350. Spread the oats out on a cookie sheet with a high rim (I use a jelly roll pan). I usually use enough oats to cover the pan completely and fill it up about half of the way to the rim. If the oats on the pan are too thinly spread, they tend to burn. Put the oats in the oven for 15 minutes, stirring about half way through.

Chop up the nuts and whatever seeds you want to add. Prepare the syrup spice mixture. Heat the syrup in a small saucepan. Add the spices and salt to that mixture and stir. Remove from heat as soon as the syrup begins to bubble.

Combine the toasted oats, nuts, seeds, and syrup in a large bowl and stir until thoroughly combined. Spread the mixture back out on the cookie sheet and bake for twenty minutes. Stir occasionally.

The oats crisp up a bit as they cool, so take them out after twenty minutes even if they are still soft. Leave them in only if they aren't quite toasted enough for your taste (colorwise). I go for a very light golden brown.

Wait for the oats to cool and then stir in the dried fruit. Store in an airtight container 1-2 weeks.

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