Goodbye Porridge, Hello Granola

Each spring we switch back to eating granola instead of oatmeal. Really it is the same thing, just cold and with some sort of milk. I don’t like sharing recipes unless they are out of the ordinary, but making granola at home is easy, cheap, and as flexible as you like.

Granola has three categories of ingredients: oats, dry adjuncts, and liquids. You can go a few different ways with the oats: organic or conventional is the big decision. The difficulty is finding a large enough amount. I usually make 40 cups of oats in a batch because making 40 cups is about as much time and effort as making 10 cups, but you have to do it less often. Ask your local bakery or someone who runs a restaurant to buy you a 50-lb bag of oats. It will last you half the year and is worth the search. Otherwise, you’re stuck buying three or four oatmeal canisters at the same time. You can do quick or slow oats, rolled or steel cut; the granola will come out great regardless.

Dry adjuncts include everything from salt and spices to nuts, dried fruits, and coconut shavings. Go nuts! I choose a few of the following that seem to go together well: raisins, craisins, banana chips, mango chunks, dates, chocolate chips, yogurt-covered peanuts, chopped walnuts, chopped almonds, peanuts, or whatever other nut, fruit, or bits you have lying around. I usually add salt, nutmeg, allspice, and ground flax and chia seeds to all my granolas (some might go for wheat germ). Don’t neglect to grind flax or your body can’t absorb the nutrients. Sometimes I make a specific granola with a stronger spice profile, like chai or pumpkin spice in the fall.

Liquids consist of an oil and a sweetener. Oils can be as simple as canola, but well-sourced palm oil or coconut would be fine, too. Olive oil leaves a noticeable taste, which is fine in sautéd vegetables but not in breakfast cereal. For sweetener, you can use white or brown sugar, maple syrup, agave syrup, or honey, but my favorite is brown rice syrup because it has complex sugars that take your body longer to break down and thus don’t give you such a sugar high and low. The nice part about making granola at home is lowering the sugar content, as too many store-bought granolas are over sweetened to my taste.

I’m not giving you a straight recipe, as this is all done in proportions (but see some suggestions below the procedure).

10 parts oats
3/4 part oil
3/4 part sweetener (vary by taste)
1-2 parts dry additives

The Procedure

  1.  Toast oats and dry additives (nuts, ground seeds, flour, etc. but not dried fruit, coconut, or others that would dry out or melt) and spices in 300–325°F deg. preheated oven for 10 minutes in a pan big enough that the oats aren’t more than 1 in deep.
  2. While toasting, heat oil and sugars in a sauce pan until liquefied (if solid sugars) and bubbly but not burning (add peanut butter to this, if using).
  3. Dump toasted oats and additives into a big bowl, add heated oil and sugars, and stir until well mixed and all oats covered evenly.
  4. Dump back in pan, spread evenly, and put back in oven.
  5. Bake for ca. 45 minutes (not counting initial 10-minute toast), pull the pan out and mix the ingredients every 10-15 minutes. Make sure to scrape the bottom well and rotate pans from top to bottom shelf if using more than one pan at a time. If the granola is getting too dark, lower your temperature. Note that honey will turn it browner than other sweeteners.
  6. When time is up, pull out and mix in dried fruit, chocolate chips, or whatever non-dry flavor additives.  Mix well, let cool, and store (room temperature is fine).

Some Suggested Combinations

Chai is one of my favorites. For 10 C oats: 1 T ground-up cardamom pods, 4 cloves ground, 1 T cinnamon, 1 t ground ginger, 1/2 t freshly ground pepper, 3/4 C oil, 3/4 C sweetener, 1 C chopped almonds, 1 C chopped dates, 1/2 C ground flax and chia seeds, 1/2 T salt.

Another basic standby for me includes, for each 10 C oats: 1 T nutmeg, 1 T allspice, 3/4 C oil, 3/4 C sweetener, 1 C chopped walnuts or sunflower seeds, 1 C raisins, 1/2 C shredded coconut, 1/2 C ground flax and chia seeds, 1/2 T salt.

And then there’s chocolate hazelnut. For each 10 C oats: 3/4 C oil, 3/4 C sweetener, 1 C chopped hazelnuts, 1 C chocolate chips (these go in after it bakes but before it cools, mix well to distribute), 1/2 C ground flax and chia seeds, 1/2 T salt.

Finally, an all-time favorite: peanut butter banana. For each 10 C oats: 1/2 C oil, 3/4 C sweetener, 1 C chunky peanut butter (mixed in and heated with oil and sweetener), 1 1/2 C coarsely chopped banana chips, 1/2 C ground flax and chia seeds, 1/2 T salt.

If you make your own or try this out, please let me know how it goes or what combinations you created.

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