Saturday, April 02, 2011

JOT #10: Granola

I am SO granola. Last year, we were in the throes of another grocery-store meltdown, when yet another trip to the store for Flax Pumpkin Seed Granola was in order after less than a week. The tiny boxes are among the most expensive at the store, and hold (for us) only about 4 bowls of cereal. Not sustainable.

Later, I found it in the bulk foods aisle, not quite as expensive but at least I could buy as much as I wanted. So there we went, until one day while cookbook-browsing (a fun activity, if you have a spare minute and are near one of your cookbooks), I came across the recipe for granola out of Vegetarian Cooking for Everyone (a book I highly recommend - covers all sorts of veggies and grains). This is my generic adaptation of this simple recipe, and I make up a batch every two weeks, or a half-batch weekly for a fraction of the cost of the store-bought variety. Nowadays, we only buy store granola when I'm feeling lazy or ill.

The funny thing is that nearly everything in this recipe is optional, so you could end up with just toasted grain, if you like that,or you could have flax-hemp-pumpkin-quinoa-cherry-chocolate-coconut granola, if that's what you're craving. Variations are noted at the end.

Here's also another fun granola recipe to try from my friend ricekernel.

yields 8 cups

6 cups any combination of rolled oats or flaked grain (kamut, spelt, barley) or toasted grain (quinoa, millet)
1 cup wheat germ (optional)
1 cup chopped nuts (optional)
1 cup raisins or chopped dried fruit (optional)
1/2-1tsp spices (I use 1tsp cinnamon, 1/2 tsp nutmeg, 1/2 tsp cardamom)
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 cup safflower, canola, or olive oil
3/4 cup maple syrup or honey

Pulse 2 cups of grain until crushed. Preheat oven to 300oF. Toss the dry ingredients except the raisins or fruit together. Add oil and sweetener and toss again to coat thoroughly. Spread mixture on two sheet pans and bake. Stir every 10-15 minutes until done, about 30-45 minutes. Remove from oven and add raisins or fruit. Let cool. The granola will become crunchy when fully cooled. Store in an airtight container.

Variations: The variations are endless. My general rule is to try to use what I have in the pantry.
  • Spices - besides cinnamon, nutmeg, and cardamom, you can use powdered ginger, allspice, vanilla or almond extract, cocoa powder, fennel seed powder, mace, even spicy cayenne for a kick! Start with 1/2 tsp or less before you commit.
  • Nuts and seeds - chopped walnuts and pecans, slivered almonds, crumbled peanuts, exotic nuts like brazilnuts, macadamias or hazelnuts, seeds like sunflower and pumpkin, sesame seeds, flax seeds, cashews, pistachios, hemp seeds, really anything goes. If you need to use salted nuts, leave out the salt in the recipe.
  • Grains - besides the standard oat flakes, you might find multigrain flakes in a bulk aisle, or flaked wheat, kamut, spelt, or barley. You can toast millet, pop amaranth, or rinse quinoa before adding, as well as adding puffed rice or rice flakes. Consider also adding some other cereal (o's or crisped rice or something else your family likes) to granola.
  • Fruits - using enough fruit, you can cut down on sweeteners. Try plump chopped medjool dates, pieces of dried apple, pear, papaya or apricot, banana chips, candied orange or lemon peel, dried berries or cherries, even pieces of fruit leather.
  • Sweeteners - a maple syrup is lovely, but you can use plain old sugar (white, brown, turbinado, or anything else), agave syrup (use less), honey, molasses, or even some flavored syrup you've forgotten. Cut the sugar in half if you like. Leaving it out is fine, too, but everyone might reach for the sugar bowl.
  • Oil - you can cut the oil in half or leave it out, as you wish, to make a fat-free version. Any kind of edible oil should be okay, but if you use butter, you may wish to store your granola in the fridge. Alternatively, use 1 cup pear or apple juice instead of oil (in addition to sweetener).
  • Yummies - coconut flakes, chocolate chips, peanut butter chips, even candy can turn your granola into a trail mix.
  • Wheat germ - it adds a good dose of protein and nutrients to your granola and also helps it clump nicely. You can also use wheat bran, oat bran, or rice bran. I like to powder some of my oats instead, which helps the clumping even without the wheat germ.
Let me know how yours goes!


Anonymous said...

Thanks for all the ideas - I've never used toasted quinoa (or considered it). I came across a recipe using a mashed, ripe banana as the binder (no oil or water). Sounds great in theory - let you know how it goes!

rani said...

you can just rinse the quinoa without toasting if you like (it'll toast in the oven) - certainly crunchy. ooh let me know how the banana goes, i have a bunch of overripe ones sitting in the freezer.