First, I want to apologize to those of you disappointed in my recent hiatus from The People’s Gourmet. I had some stubborn computer problems which are finally fixed, and of course I got out of the habit of posting on the blog. So, little by little, I’m getting back to it. Today I’m featuring one of my favorite make-it-yourself things: granola.
It’s hard to find ready-made granola in the supermarket that’s reasonably priced and doesn’t have a lot of crap in it. Check out the ingredients list sometime, you’ll see what I mean. If you DO find granola without a lot of sugar and processed ingredients, it’s pretty pricey. The best part is that making good, wholesome granola for yourself is very uncomplicated–just make sure you can set aside about an hour and ten minutes for mixing the ingredients and toasting in the oven on low heat.
Making your own granola takes a bit of time, but most of it is the time it takes (about 50 minutes or so) for baking, so you can do other things for the vast majority of the preparation time. You can make a lot at once and have it ready to go whenever you need it. I enjoy eating it with soy milk, or adding plain yogurt and fresh fruit for a nice, filling breakfast. Granola makes for a truly instant breakfast, and it’s good for you too. I haven’t bought boxed breakfast cereal in years, and this granola is one reason I haven’t missed it. Who wants to eat corn flakes when you can eat this granola??
This recipe for granola is really a very loose template. One of the best things about it is that the actual ingredients you use are entirely flexible based on what you happen to have lying around your pantry and what your preferences are. The basic formula is composed of three things: 1) oats and other grain-based ingredients, like wheat germ, oat bran, millet, amaranth, etc., 2) dried fruit, and 3) a syrup for coating the granola to sweeten it a bit. To this basic formula you can add any of the following: nuts (I use almonds or walnuts most frequently), seeds (sunflower seeds or pumpkin seeds are good options), and coconut. Amount here are flexible as well. I happen to like my granola heavy on the dried fruit, but it doesn’t need to be.
4-5 cups of old fashioned or quick-cooking oats
1/2 cup amaranth (amaranth is a tiny grain with a grassy sort of flavor–read more about it here)
1 cup walnuts (or almonds, peanuts, pistachios, etc.)
1/2 cup sunflower seeds
1/2 cup pumpkin seeds
1/2 cup dried, shredded coconut
2 cups dried fruit (the options are here are extensive: dried cranberries, chopped apricots, raisins, golden raisins, dried papaya or pineapple, chopped dates, and on and on)
Preheat the oven to 300 degrees.
For the syrup:
1/2 cup brown rice syrup (if you can’t find it or don’t want to use brown rice syrup, use an extra 1/2 cup of brown sugar plus 1/2 cup water, or 1/2 cup of honey or maple syrup)
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup water
2 tablespoons of butter
First, prepare the syrup. Heat a small saucepan over medium heat with the brown rice syrup, brown sugar, water, and butter. Combine with a whisk, and heat until the brown sugar and butter dissolve into the liquid. Set aside.
Next, combine all ingredients except the dried fruit. You don’t want to include the dried fruit because it will get hard and possibly burn in the oven. Next, stir in the syrup, trying to evenly coat the oatmeal/nut/coconut mixture.
Place the mixture on a cookie sheet, spreading evenly.
Bake for 30 minutes. Then, take out of the oven and stir the mixture around so that all parts of it have a chance to toast evenly. Bake again for 20-30 minutes. The mixture will look about like this when done:
Allow it to cool for about 20 minutes or so. Then, stir in the dried fruit. Store in the refrigerator.