The Gift of Healthy Granola

As I have mentioned, I’ve had a few health issues of late. So I have found myself sitting around the house, not able to drive because the pain medications I’m taking strongly advise against “operating heavy machinery.” And I’ve also found myself a bit out of sorts because said medications are making me a bit groggy at times. So – combining my inability to drive to the store with a general restlessness and you get a not-so-happy foodie. I am not, at present, able to control what is in my refrigerator. I have had to learn to rely on others to take me to the store. Or, even worse for a control freak like me, I have had to provide a shopping list for friends and neighbors to shop for me. Gone, for the time being, are the days when I can select the brand of parmesan cheese or choose which package of strawberries to purchase. It has been, not to be overly dramatic, agony.

In the midst of this situation, my dear neighbor brought me a bag of homemade granola. I don’t typically purchase granola because of its high caloric count. And a number of store-bought brands use hydrogenated oils as binders – which just won’t do. But when I tried this homemade variety – I was hooked. It is crunchy and flavorful and just the right balance of savory nuts and sweet, chewy dried fruit. My immediate instinct was to sprinkle it over my morning Fage yogurt and strawberries and blueberries. Heaven. It is without question my new favorite breakfast. And then…I ran out. Which brought equal amounts of despair and inspiration. Certainly I could make it myself, right? Sadly, moments later the drugs kicked in and I returned to the couch and took an afternoon nap. That was a few days ago.

Then – yesterday the boredom and agitation got the best of me. I asked my neighbor to pick up a few things from the market and I asked for her delicious granola recipe. It was time, finally, to bake. As soon as I saw the recipe in my inbox I pounced. And I was delighted to find that I had every single ingredient in my pantry – kismet!

I tweaked the directions from the 2006 USA Today recipe slightly – reducing the amount of oil and adding flax seeds. And I made my very own variety – adding orange extract and candied ginger and dried prunes (I ran out of dried cherries…). I mixed the ingredients together and placed the pan in the oven. Not 10 minutes later and my kitchen smelled of cinnamon and brown sugar and maple syrup. Then I added the fruit – the dried cherries and slivered candied ginger and the diced prunes. And I waited. And I peeked and smiled when I saw the oats begin to brown and crisp. Less than an hour from the time I received the recipe in my inbox and I was left with lovely, healthy granola.

I am including my version of the USA Today recipe below along with a number of the excellent tips featured in the original article. I am confident I’ll be making this frequently. As I know from personal experience, it will make a great gift. And considering I was able to take my mind of any discomfort and easily put this together in less than an hour, I figure it’s surely a keeper. What a gift.

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Master Granola Recipe

(Makes 1 quart)

Main Ingredients

  • 2 cups old-fashioned oats (do not use “quick” oats)
  • 1/2 cup wheat germ
  • 2 tablespoons dark brown sugar
  • 2 tablespoons flax seeds
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup Extra Ingredients (see complete list below)
  • 1/4 cup maple syrup
  • 2 tablespoons flavorless oil, such as vegetable or canola
  • 2 tablespoons water
  • Flavoring (see below) 

Instructions

Adjust oven rack to middle position, and heat oven to 275 degrees. Coat a 9-by-13-inch metal pan with cooking spray, and then set aside.

Mix oats, wheat germ, brown sugar, salt and Extra Ingredients — except dried fruit — in a bowl.

Bring syrup, oil, water and any Flavoring indicated below to a simmer in a saucepan over low heat. Drizzle over oat mixture, and stir to combine.

Pour mixture onto prepared pan. Working a handful at a time, squeeze cereal to form small clusters. Bake for 30 minutes.

Stir in dried fruit. The mixture will be quite warm – so work quickly. Continue to bake until golden brown, about 15 – 25 minutes longer. Let cool. (Granola can be stored in an airtight tin for up to two weeks.)

Variations:

Kathryn’s Version

Extra Ingredients: 1/4 cup chopped walnuts, 1/4 cup chopped almonds, 1/4 cup chopped dried cherries, 1/4 cup chopped prunes (or use all cherries if you have an adequate amount), 2 tablespoons chopped candied ginger
Flavoring: 1 rounded teaspoon ground cinnamon and 1 teaspoon orange extract

Nutty Granola

Extra Ingredients: 1/4 cup slivered almonds, 1/4 cup sunflower seeds, 2 Tbs. sesame seeds, 6 Tbs. currants
Flavoring: none

Tropical Granola

Add the coconut along with the cashews and banana chips.
Extra Ingredients: 1/4 cup chopped roasted unsalted cashews, 1/4 cup chopped banana chips, 1/4 cup sweetened flake coconut, 1/4 cup chopped dried pineapple
Flavoring: 1/2 tsp. ground ginger

Trail Mix Granola

Extra Ingredients: 1/4 cup chopped roasted unsalted peanuts, 1/4 cup sweetened flake coconut, 1/4 cup dark or golden raisins, 1/4 cup mini chocolate chips*
Flavoring: none
*Stir chips into the granola only after it has completely cooled.

Pear Granola with Hazelnuts And Vanilla

Extra Ingredients: 1/2 cup chopped hazelnuts, 1/4 cup chopped dried cherries, 1/4 cup chopped dried pears
Flavoring: 1 tsp. vanilla extract

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2 Responses to “The Gift of Healthy Granola”

  1. Tacy says:

    Oh yes! Kim has just started to make granola and I’m with you – fresh granola can be fabulous and healthy. She makes a special blend just for me with dried figs, pumpkin seeds, and no nuts.

  2. Carlin & Brian says:

    Yum. I want to eat your picture! Granola mixed with plain yogurt and a cut up apple is the best breakfast.

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