Granola: The Ultimate Healthy Breakfast
Most people who are even slightly health conscious know about granola and it’s health benefits. High in fiber, low in cholesterol, low-sodium, etc. However, most kinds of granola available are dripping with fat and oil. It makes it nice and tender-crisp, without a lot of work on the part of the manufacturer. So, the best way to avoid this, is to make your own.
Make my own, you ask, how do I do that? I don’t know how to cook, and if the manufacturers don’t want to do it, how can humble little me make a fat free granola? That’s what I thought, too, until I tried it. It’s really very easy, if you follow a few simple guidelines.
First, choose premium ingredients. I know, we’ve all heard it before, the best ingredients make the best finished product, but it really is true. If you get the cheaper oats, nuts, raisins, or whatever, you could be in for a surprise (not pleasant) when you find those raisin seeds in your granola (very tough to eat around…). Rolled oats are the standard base, though I’ve mixed this with other rolled grains for a little bit of variety. Add your favorite nuts and seeds, as well as some dried fruit (raisins, and other fruits cut in raisin sized pieces). Nuts should be coarsely chopped, unless you want to crunch down whole almonds in your granola (not very easy, trust me).
At this point, most recipes simply consist of honey and oil, which makes for a very easy, tasty, tender granola, but not exactly healthy. I use a recipe that blends fruits, water, and your choice of sweetener (you can use chopped dates, honey, maple syrup, sugar, fruit sweetener, condensed fruit juice, whatever). I am personally using maple syrup at the moment, though I’ve used honey, and will use others in the future. It’s nice to have the choice, and it adds variety in the flavor. Your fruit choices will also effect the flavor, so experiment.
After blending your liquid mixture thoroughly smooth, then pour it over your dry mixture, and use a rubber spatula to mix it very thoroughly. If you use oil, you can give it a quick toss, and it will turn out good. But oil-free requires a few minutes more time. Make sure that every oat flake is moist. Fold in the liquid until you can see that every bit of the dry mixture is wet. This step is crucial, or it just won’t turn out very good.
Baking is the next important step. Spread your mixture about a half inch thick on ungreased cookie sheets, and put them in the oven. Baking temperature should be around 200°F, or the lowest your oven will go. Low, slow baking is very important to the right texture and flavor. You should bake it at least 8 hours, or overnight (you can put it in the oven the night before, and take it out to eat fresh the next morning). If you are making this during the daytime, you can stir it about halfway through (use a spatula to turn it over and break it into chunks), though this step is not necessary. At the end of the baking time, you can turn the oven off, and let it sit while the oven cools, or just take it out and store (or eat) immediately.
Storing: Granola should be stored in an airtight container, free of moisture. This will keep your granola crisp and crunchy for when you want it. I don’t keep my granola in the fridge, but it never stays around for very long either. I can’t tell you how long it will reasonably store, since my family always devours it within a few days of making. You could keep it in the fridge if you want it to last longer, but it should be eaten withing a week or two if kept on the counter.
My Quick Granola Recipe
1-40oz bag Bob’s Red Mill Muesli
1/2 cup maple syrup
+/- 1 cup water
Pour muesli into a large mixing bowl.
Blend remaining ingredients until very smooth, adding enough water to make it a thick smoothy consistency. Pour over the muesli, and fold in with a rubber spatula.
Spread 1/2″ thick on 2 cookie sheets, and place in a 200°F oven. Bake for 8 hours, or overnight. Turn off oven, and leave there until oven has cooled. Remove from sheets, break it up, and put in a Ziplock bag, Tupperware, or other airtight container.
Enjoy with milk or your favorite milk substitute, fresh fruit, yogurt, or straight from the bag!
I hope this recipe works as well for you as it does for my family, and that you will give it a try. If you don’t have all the ingredients, go ahead and experiment, replace things, etc. Maybe you’ll discover a new flavor all your own, and create great memories for your family along the way!