Slightly sweet. Crunchy. Chewy. Slightly spicy. Nutty. There is no arguing in this house that granola makes a great topping. Most frequently it is probably enjoyed atop yoghurt in some form or another. Although this weekend you would have found us enjoying some inside our pancakes ala the Granny Cakes at The Rainbow.
I’ve been toying around with making my own granola for over a year. I enjoy store bought granola, don’t get me wrong. We can get some great ones in bulk at our food co-op even. But have you looked at the calories? It isn’t uncommon to see 1/4 cup of granola coming in at 200-250+ calories! Then I think back to my days in college when I’d enjoy a bowl topped with milk and shudder. I definitely ate much more than a 1/4 cup worth in those bowls.
By it’s very nature granola is calorically dense since it is most often made up mostly of rolled grains, nuts, and dried fruits. Then to make it yummy and crunchy it is doused in extra fats and sugars like most processed foods we can buy. When I actually stop to think about what granola is, I’m not so surprised by the nutrition facts.
You can’t deviate from the core of what makes up granola too much, but healthier versions can be made at home. Like I said, I’ve been making batches of homemade granola for over a year now and I only recently settled on a recipe I don’t feel I have to keep tweaking. That isn’t to say that other variations aren’t rolling around in my head. But, this is a great, everyday granola that goes well with any flavor yoghurt or in our whole wheat pancakes. And the numbers are such that I can enjoy some in moderation daily if I wish. We are heading soon into fresh berry season and I love a dessert of yoghurt, berries and a bit of granola for crunchy!
There were two ways I saw to lighten up granola. First, make it less dense by using some puffed whole grains in place of some of the rolled grains. Second, use fruit puree for some of the sweetening. You still need some sugar and some wet sweetner to bind things and form a crunchy coating that keeps those puffed grains from going soggy when added to wet things like yoghurt but fruit can boost the sweetness and bring some fiber and additional vitamins to the granola party. Here I keep it a bit simpler by using quality prune baby food that is made only of prunes and water.
In my experiments I discovered a crucial step in getting it to clump a bit was to use a smaller dry ingredient - not quite as fine as flour. Here I’ve chosen to use wheat germ which boosts the fiber and protein a tad. I’ve used oat bran and flax seed meal too depending upon who I think I may end up sharing the granola with and their particular dietary restrictions. The recipe is really quite adaptable and flexible to adjustments for food allergies and specific dietary needs.
In exploring other granola recipes I also discovered the trick of adding any nuts and seeds to the granola part way through the baking cycle to ensure they did not get over toasted. I took that a step further and held back a bit of the wet binding ingredients so the nuts and seeds would get plenty of that yummy flavor but also so they’d incorporate into the existing clumps and chunks of grain instead of remaining segregated and falling to the bottom of the jar.
Once I get the grains all evenly coated I pat them out onto a baking sheet lined with a silpat. I work from the center out trying to keep a thin, solid layer of granola. This is what helps form the clumps. Then the first round of baking before stirring is a tad longer than the rest. Because I use a rimmed baking sheet I try to keep the granola away from the very edges. I found heat would reflect off those edges and kind of overcook the granola that was lying too close. Frequent stirring helps prevent that though.
I kept the flavor here simple - just cinnamon in addition to the sweeteners and a pinch of salt. I think that is part of this Everyday Granola’s ability to go well with everything. I have gone more complex and done gingerbread, adding ground ginger, clove and all spice to the cinnamon. With the prune puree I call for here, adding some cocoa powder would be delicious I’m sure. I’d be inclined to keep some of the cinnamon but cut it back - maybe in half?
Of course by switching up the nuts and seeds and the fruit used to sweeten it the flavor combinations are almost limitless. Here I opted to use mostly pumpkin seeds as they are a good source of magnesium, a mineral my body is often low on which can cause muscle cramping and sleep difficulties. I also boosted the magnesium and iron by making my own organic dark brown sugar by mixing 1 cup organic evaporated sugar cane crystal with a 1/4 cup of blackstrap molasses. If I’m feeling particularly low on either of those minerals I’ll add 2 chopped, dried apricots to the granola when serving.
At roughly 4 cups, this is a small batch size compared to many. I prefer it for our household of two since we don’t usually eat granola daily. It is not unusual for myself to enjoy it in 2 tablespoon servings on days I haven’t done much cardio. I can bake this size batch in our toaster oven when it is too hot to turn on the big oven which is another big plus for me. But the recipe is very easily doubled or even tripled for larger households.
yields approximate 4 cups depending upon clumping size
Laced with trace minerals from pumpkin seeds and the molasses in dark brown sugar, spiced with cinnamon which may help reduce blood sugar spikes, partially sweetened with fruit puree, and lightened up with puffed grains, this is a granola that can be enjoyed everyday with no guilt. It is also simple to modify to suit your family’s nutritional needs.
- 3/4 cup old fashioned rolled oats
- 1/2 cup puffed brown rice
- 1/4 cup puffed millet
- 1/4 cup wheat germ
- 3 tablespoons dark brown sugar
- 1 teaspoon cinnamon, ground
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- 2.5 oz prune baby food (2 ingredient, organic if available)
- 2 tablespoons honey
- 1/2 tablespoon coconut oil, melted
- 1/2 t vanilla extract
- 1/2 cup pumpkin seeds, raw, unsalted
- 1/4 cup walnut pieces
- Preheat oven to 300 degrees F. Line a baking sheet with a silpat liner or parchment paper.
- In a medium bowl, mix rolled grain, puffed grains and wheat germ.
- In a small bowl, mix together the brown sugar, cinnamon and salt, being sure to break up any clumps of brown sugar. Add the fruit puree, honey, coconut oil, and vanilla extract and mix to combine.
- In another small bowl combine the nuts and seeds with roughly 2 tablespoons of the wet ingredients. Add remaining wet ingredients to the grain mixture and stir gently until evenly coated.
- Pat the coated grains out onto the lined baking sheet. Bake about 12 minutes, then stir. Bake an additional 8-10 minutes, then add the reserved coated seeds and nuts and stir to combine. Continue baking another 8-12 minutes. Remove from over, stir slightly to achieve desired clump size then let cool. It should crunch up as it cools, but if it still looks quite light in color one more round of 8-10 minutes of baking may be done.
- Once cool, transfer to an air tight container. To maintain freshness and crunchiness add any desired dried fruit when serving.
Nutrition Info (per 2 tablespoon serving): 46 cal; 2.1 g fat; 0.2 g sat fat; 6.1 g carb; 0.9 g fiber; 3.2 g sugar; 1.3 g protein.
Your nutritional value may differ depending upon yield which is greatly impacted by clump size. Also, any changes to ingredients will change the values as well.
What are you favorite flavors of granola? I could definitely see adding some large coconut flakes to this one. How about adding some peanut butter? I bet DH would like that!