I admit to a longtime fascination with healthy homemade granola; the blog bears me out. I make it about once a month and it’s the only breakfast cereal in my kitchen besides the whole oats I keep for oatmeal. We eat granola on yogurt with or without fruit, in a bowl with milk, as a grab and go snack, with ice cream, on vegetables, sprinkled over eggs and pancakes…the list goes on. It’s so simple to stir up and bake a batch that I invited Alaena and Josiah (above) over to make some to take home for their own breakfasts and to see what THEY might do with granola. (One of their thoughts was with carrots. Yum!)
While the basics of the recipe remain close to the same--low heart-healthy fat, no granulated or brown sugar, lots of plant-based protein– the end result is always different. Either there are a few sweet dried cherries added before it goes into the big jar or I’ve done all almonds and no walnuts, and sometimes it features chocolate (1/4 cup finely chopped and added after the granola cools), flaxseed, or seasoned pepitas–like today. If my favorite version had a name, it would be Chocolate Cherry Pepita. You might like Cinnamon-Raisin, Apricot-Almond, or even Ginger Date Pecan.
Definition of pepita – a pumpkin seed, typically hulled and roasted and eaten as a snack or used in cooking
(More on pepitas later…)
It all depends on what’s in the pantry and what the season is. In other words, do as you please here; make it your very own granola. In fact, the children and I divided that batch in half so that Aleana and Josiah each had granola exactly to their personal desires–cherries and peanuts for Alaena and just raisins for Josiah.
WHY HOMEMADE GRANOLA? Granola is among the simplest foods to create at home and is a wonderful kid’s cooking activity as it’s creative and tastable at every stage. It’s shelf-stable at room temperature for a good month, so is around for a while for everyone to gobble up with little hassle. I’ve always thought if kids made nutritious foods, they’d eat them and it appears I’m right!
I’d call it one of original no-cook breakfasts and, whether you have cooking kids or not, no-cook sounds good for busy mornings. (Skip the protein bars.) I’m convinced that whole grains are a necessary and vital part of our diet, and if you make your own cereal, it will definitely contain fresh (how old is that granola in the bag on the grocery shelf?), heart-healthy, yummy additions. You’ll save a bit of cash, too. Nothing wrong there.
Snuggle your great oats sweetly beneath a mound of fresh berries or on top of David Lebovitz’ recipe for fresh vanilla ice cream as the kids, their mom, and I did;
Top Health Perks
Eating oats is linked to an average 7% drop in LDL cholesterol, research shows. Many other things also affect your heart‘s health (like what else you eat, how active you are, and whether you smoke), but oatmeal is a simple heart-smart start.
top fresh vanilla pudding with a big spoonful plus a quick splash of brandy if you’re all grown up. Take a little bag when you travel or go to work to satisfy your crunch attacks. (So much for those chips!) Put some in a ribboned jar for a birthday or thank-you gift. Sprinkle a bit of granola on top of cooked oatmeal as a texture treat. A waffle with a dollop of sour cream, a drizzle of maple syrup, and a spoonful or two of granola might be very close to heaven. Dip a banana in honey for your kiddoes or partner and roll it in this munchy mixture— for here, at least, granola is not an unhealthy snack, it is truly tasty food that provides energy and fiber in a way only good carbs can.
Savory Granola? Try my Light Winter Vegetable Gratin with Savory Granola (above) and see what the fuss is about.
Fourth of July or Bastille Day Breakfast? Sure and is there much prettier than this?
I THOUGHT GRANOLA WAS FATTENING? A lot of commercial granola is. A few years ago, though, friend Meg put my low-fat granola into the Weight Watcher point counter; it’s 4.5 points for half-cup with the full ration of fruit–about 250 calories. Leave off the dried fruit and/or chocolate (or cut back) and it’s even less. While oats with nuts and fruit will never be one of the lowest calorie foods, there’s a big punch of nutritional value for the calories spent and breakfast is the best time to take in carbs!
Granola on Pancakes and Eggs? Yep. This meal, great for a Father’s Day splurge, is from my blog, Dinner Place, and while I no longer blog there, it’s a sweet place for recipes–particularly if you’re cooking for one or two.
AROMA! AROMA! One word to the wise: baking this granola in your kitchen will make your house smell like the best oatmeal cookie bakery on earth. Sniff, sniff. “What’s THAT?” someone will say after opening the front door or maybe even while standing outside on the porch. Yeah, that makes a lot of it worthwhile; I know. The UPS person will love coming to your door on Granola Day.
Cooking local foods is not the easiest thing in Colorado, at least in Colorado Springs. I joke that we can steam or broil tumbleweeds as there’s seldom enough rain to grow much, but the truth is we do have some lovely and delicious local foods statewide. Lamb, bison, trout, corn, chiles, cantaloupe, craft beer, and potatoes are among my favorite Colorado products. Right here in Colorado Springs, we have a company called Juanita’s Pepitas that produces scrumptious tiny pumpkin seeds in several different flavors (Think Lime or Hot! or Honey Roasted) and while they’re calorically-dense, they’re oh-so-healthy and really add a punch to granola if used judiciously. The pepitas I use in my granola recipe are the basic “Seasoned and Roasted” variety. Check out my pumpkin bread with pepitas, but meanwhile, grab a couple of kiddoes and get busy with some make ahead breakfast. A mom will thank you. Try this:
MAKE YOUR OWN GRANOLA
Servings: 10 cups Time: 60 minutes Difficulty: easy
If you’ve been making any of the More Time granolas a while, you’ll see I’ve changed my directions a bit. This recipe makes a bigger batch and I now add the dry fruit after baking so I have softer, more chewy fruit. If you like, you can still stir it all together at the beginning for a crunchier breakfast. Three rimmed half-sheet baking pans lined with foil or parchment paper are needed to make the whole batch. Want less? Decrease ingredients by 1/3 and make just two sheet pans of granola.
- 2/3 cup unsweetened apple sauce
- 1/3 cup agave syrup*
- 3 tablespoons maple syrup or local honey
- 3 tablespoons olive oil
- 7 cups whole or old-fashioned oats
- 1/4 cup flaxseed, optional
- 1 tablespoon each: ground cinnamon and ginger
- 1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt
- 1/2 cup each; choose 1 or 2: chopped walnuts, pistachios, pecans, peanuts or almonds
- 1/4 cup each; choose 1 or 2: pumpkin seeds, seasoned pepitas, sunflower seeds, or plain sesame seeds
- 1/4 -1/2 cup total chopped dried fruit: apricots, cherries, cranberries, currants, dates, prunes, or raisins (any/all) — optional (chop larger fruit in half)
- 1/4 cup grated or finely chopped dark chocolate — optional (add after baking/cooling)
- Pre heat oven to 300 degrees Fahrenheit. Place three racks evenly to divide the oven into thirds.
2. Mix together the applesauce, agave, maple syrup/honey, and oil in a small sauce pan; heat until simmering. Remove from heat and set aside.
3. In a very large bowl or soup pot, mix together the oats, flaxseed-if using, cinnamon, ginger, salt, nuts and seeds. Spoon the applesauce mixture into the oats mixture and stir to mix very well. Turn out onto three rimmed, foil or parchment paper-lined 1/2 sheet baking trays, spreading evenly. (I like foil.)
4. Bake 45 minutes or until golden brown and crispy, checking half-way through to be sure the bottom pan isn’t getting too crispy, switching the pans and stirring if needed or taking it out of the oven should it become too brown. Remove from the oven and sprinkle with the dried fruit; stir the granola a bit to keep it from sticking. Let cool completely before storing or adding chocolate, if by chance you’re using it. Otherwise, granola may be eaten hot, warm, at room temperature, or cold. If you like very crispy granola, leave it out a few hours before putting away, making sure the dog or cat can’t get into it.
*You can sub honey or maple syrup for the Agave syrup if you like.
To store: Place totally cooled granola in large glass or plastic container with a good seal. Do not store in plastic bags; they don’t keep the granola well. Will keep a month or more on the counter.
Cook’s Notes: My granola recipe is adaptable and quite forgiving. It can be made without several of the ingredients listed, though it won’t “make and bake” without the liquids –apple sauce, oil, syrups (though you might try different proportions) and the oats. Change out or skip spices, nuts, fruit, flaxseed, etc., to create the right mix for your kitchen. If you’d like you can bake the pans at 275 degrees convection.
above: While I make granola, our 3-year old couch potato Rosie (F1B Labradoodle) is on guard in our comfy chairs moved in front of the windows to discourage her jumping on screens and windows and saying big bark hellos to the passers by. These include a variety of people, dogs, and other animals such as skunks, coyotes, bobcats, squirrels, bunnies, birds, including the baby Towhees in the boxwood outside the window, and occasionally bears. She’s excellent cooking company as she cleans up the floor so I don’t have to sweep.
What are you reading this summer? I just finished James Comey’s book, A HIGHER LOYALTY: TRUTH, LIES, AND LEADERSHIP and am starting Jon Meacham’s newest, THE SOUL OF AMERICA: THE BATTLE FOR OUR BETTER ANGELS. Trouble is, the newest volume by one of my favorite cookbook authors, Susan Herrmann Loomis, — FRENCH GRILL; 125 Refined and Rustic Recipes– arrived yesterday and I’m leaving it right on the kitchen island so I can figure out what I’m cooking first! Luscious gift for June weddings or Father’s Day.
Sing a new song; make some granola with a friend or two, if you can