Thursday, February 25, 2016

Granola Happiness!

Earthiness + Sweet + Chewy + Crunchy = Granola Perfection!  I do not think that all granola is created equal.  Granola needs to soften in yogurt without getting soggy.  It needs to be the perfect 3:00 pm sweet craving without throwing your healthy eating under the bus.  Granola needs to be oat based but have layers of other treasures like toasted coconut, dried fruit, and nuts to make it interesting.  For such a sleeper food it has to preform like a star.
Granola is so versatile and with the recipe below you can keep changing the layering ingredients to your heart's content.  I never make it the same way twice.

For this round, I used rolled oats, flake coconut, and peanuts.  I mixed the three ingredients in a large bowl and tossed them together with the Tovolo Dough Whisk.  (The dough whisk is my granola secret weapon; it mixes all the ingredients without breaking them and keeps my hands clean when mixing in the wet ingredients into the hot, dry ingredients.)  I spread the dry ingredients out onto a half sheet tray lined with a Tovolo Baking Mat.  In a 350F degree oven, I let them bake together for about 10 minutes.  A good indicator of doneness at this point is that your kitchen will smell the best it has ever smelled and that the coconut flakes will start to get some color to them.

While all that goodness is in the oven, you can chop about 3/4- 1 cup of dried fruit into small bites.  A combination of dried fruit really makes it all pop with flavor and helps create chewiness.  I like dried apricots, golden raisins, and prunes.  Prunes get a bad wrap but they are so good for you and super yummy.  They are really earthy and deep in flavor. Not dissimilar to a fruit that has been poached in red wine.  I encourage you to open your tastebuds and give them a whirl.  Plus, apricots and plums are perfect compliments.  I often use sliced almonds or pecans or if you are feeling especially fancy you can use pistachios.  In this batch I chose Spanish peanuts because...umm, they are AWESOME!

For the wet ingredients, you can use butter and brown sugar for sure but I like to pretend to be healthier than that by using a combination of coconut oil, honey, and a little maple syrup.  I melt the coconut oil in the microwave, add the honey and maple syrup, and stir in about 1 teaspoon of vanilla extract to the sweet mixture. 

When the oats, nuts, and coconut come out of the oven, place back into the original large mixing bowl and add any spices you like.  I usually add about 1 teaspoon of cinnamon, a sprinkle of nutmeg, a pinch of cardamom, and a healthy dash of salt.  Stir the spices into the oats along with the dried fruit and then add your wet ingredients.  Using the Tovolo Dough Whisk, mix until glossy and combined.  Then spread that all back out onto your lined cookie sheet and bake for another 25 minutes.  When the granola comes out of the oven RESIST eating it for about 2 hours.  This time lets everything set and later when you go to break the sheet of granola you get lovely clusters of granola as well as just loose granola, perfect for yogurt.  
Experiment with seasonal flavors.  Make this recipe your own.  I guarantee you will be very happy with the result and your family and friends will think YOU make the best granola!

Granola Ingredients

2 cups old-fashioned oatmeal
1 cup sliced almonds or any nuts
1 cup shredded coconut, loosely packed **used unsweetened chips – not shredded
1/2 cup toasted wheat germ or  pumpkin seeds
1/3 cup coconut oil, melted
1/3 cup honey
1/4 cup maple syrup
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1/4 tsp ground cardamom
1/4 tsp ground nutmeg
1/2 cup chopped prunes
1/2 cup chopped dried apricots or dried blueberries, cherries, and strawberries 
1/2 cup dried cranberries

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Line an 8 by 12-inch baking dish with a Tovolo Baking Mat
Toss the oatmeal, nuts, and coconut together on a sheet pan and bake for 10 to 12 minutes, stirring occasionally, until lightly browned. Transfer the mixture to a large mixing bowl and stir in the wheat germ or pumpkin seeds.
Reduce the oven temperature to 300 degrees F.
Place the coconut oil, honey, maple syrup, vanilla, and salt in a small saucepan (or microwave) until melted together. Cook and stir for a minute, then pour over the toasted oatmeal mixture. Add the dried fruit and stir well.
Pour the mixture into the prepared pan. Wet your fingers and lightly press the mixture evenly into the pan. Bake for 25 to 30 minutes, until light golden brown. Cool for at least 2 to 3 hours. Serve at room temperature.

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