Homemade granola is a great breakfast staple to have on hand for those mornings when you are in a hurry to start the day.
This hand-me-down hippie food from the Birkenstock-clad ’60s has had a facelift with the addition of dried fruits, nuts and unusual spices to create intriguing blends that are sophisticated and, above all, delicious.
Some granolas are made with chocolate, yogurt, goji berries, grated coconut or even exotic seeds such as chia, flax or amaranth. Store-bought granola is easy to find, but a homemade version is much cheaper, and you can customize it to your heart’s desire.
Most of the ingredients are probably in your pantry, ready to be mixed together. The whole process takes about 45 minutes — the best part is the fantastic aroma wafting through your house while the granola bakes.
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You can make a big batch that will easily last you a couple of weeks if stored in air-tight containers. It will keep even longer in the freezer if you choose. The granola mix makes a terrific gift, packed in Mason jars and tied with a ribbon.
Granola is created from oatmeal, preferably old-fashioned, and an assortment of additional ingredients. It is often sweetened with maple syrup, honey, agave nectar or sugar. All these ingredients are usually toasted, giving granola its crunchy texture.
Add one beaten egg white to the mix to make granola that will stick together in clumps. Made this way it’s both a breakfast food and a healthy snack. The rolled oats and other grains in granola offer fiber, antioxidants and the nutrients and the nuts offer heart healthy fats, such as omega-3s and vitamins and minerals.
The dried fruit provides additional fiber, which can promote digestive health. Granola made with whole, natural ingredients has more health benefits than downsides, but it can still be high in calories and fat. For that reason, it’s important to eat it in moderation. Stick to servings of about 1/4 cup and enjoy granola with milk or yogurt or add to smoothies. It’s also nice sprinkled over vanilla ice cream for dessert.
Here are a few tips:
▪ Line a rimmed baking sheet with parchment, leaving a little extra at the ends. When the granola is baked and cooled, lift the parchment carefully from the ends to funnel the granola into a container.
▪ Make sure the ingredients fill the parchment-lined baking sheet, and press down firmly with a metal spatula to create an even layer. This helps to form the clumps we talked about previously.
▪ Add any chopped, dried fruits after the granola comes out of the oven, to prevent burning the fruit.
▪ Take the granola out of the oven and let it cool completely uncovered. When it cools completely it will be clumpy.
Nutty Coconut Granola
3 cups old-fashioned rolled oats
1/2 cup coarsely chopped pecans (or slivered almonds)
1/2 cup coarsely chopped walnuts
1/2 cup raw pepitas or sunflower seeds
1/2 cup unsweetened shredded coconut or sweetened shredded coconut
1/4 cup raw golden flaxseeds (optional)
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 cup pure maple syrup
1/2 cup coconut oil or canola oil
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
1 egg white, beaten until foamy (optional)
1 1/2 cups combined dried cranberries, dried cherries, dried apricots (chopped), and dried dates (chopped)
Heat oven to 300. Line a 13-by-9-by-2-inch glass baking dish or rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper.
Combine the oats, nuts, pepitas, coconut, flaxseeds (if using), cinnamon and salt in a large bowl; toss to mix well. Heat the syrup, oil and vanilla in a small, heavy saucepan over medium-low heat, stirring just until the syrup thins and the mixture is heated through, about 2 minutes. Pour the hot syrup mixture over the oat mixture; using a rubber spatula, fold the syrup into the dry ingredients until they are evenly moistened.
Stir beaten egg white into the mixture if clumpy granola is desired. Transfer the oat mixture to the prepared baking dish and press down with a metal spatula to flatten. Bake, stirring once halfway through. Press down with spatula once more and bake until the granola is lightly browned and fragrant and the nuts are toasted, about 45 minutes. Add dried fruit if desired. Let cool, then store in an airtight container at room temperature. Makes 10 servings.
Source: Adapted from “Meatless in Cowtow” by Laura Samuel Meyn and Anthony Head (Running Press, $22.00).
Per Serving: 393 calories (57 percent from fat), 25.8 g fat (12 g saturated, 5.4 g monounsaturated), 0 cholesterol, 7.2 g protein, 36 g carbohydrate, 5.2 g fiber, 310 mg sodium.