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By Diane Eros
Granola is not always what it claims to be: It seems like a virtuous breakfast choice – that is, until you look at the label. With the store-bought stuff, you’re likely to get a dose of high-fructose corn syrup and gummy cereal-like nuggets. And while there are some brands that put nutrition first, they may have put taste last.
What you really want is a nutritious, fiber-rich breakfast that tastes neither like candy nor like cardboard and that will keep you going until lunch. You want something you can feel good about eating every day.
Just So Granola
4 cups rolled oats
1 cup raw almonds, coarsely chopped into halves
1/3 cup raw shelled pumpkin seeds
1/3 cup raw shelled sunflower seeds
1/3 cup coconut shreds
1/3 cup wheat bran
1/3 cup wheat germ
1/3 cup flax seeds
1/2 cup honey
1/2 cup canola or sunflower oil
a few drops of vanilla
a pinch of cinnamon
1 cup raisins or other dried fruit
Preheat your oven to 325 degrees Fahrenheit. In a large bowl, combine the first eight ingredients. Set aside.
In a saucepan, gently heat up the honey, oil, vanilla and cinnamon, stirring occasionally. It doesn’t need to boil, but the honey must melt. Whisk with a fork, being careful not to splash or spill the hot liquid.
Pour half the liquid into the dry ingredients and mix well with a spoon. Pour in the rest of the liquid and mix again until everything is very lightly coated. It should be sticky, not glistening. If you find a pool of liquid at the bottom of the bowl, add rolled oats until you reach the right consistency.
Transfer the mixture into a large, ridged baking tray. (I use the bottom part of my broiling pan; it’s as big as a cookie sheet and about one inch deep.) Spread evenly.
Bake the granola for about an hour or until golden. It’s crucial to keep an eye on it and give it a good stir every 10 minutes or so to ensure that it bakes evenly and doesn’t burn.
When it’s a deep golden color, and the kitchen smells amazing, take the granola out of the oven and let it cool. Add the raisins. When it’s completely cooled, store in a dry, airtight container. Serve with yoghurt or milk.
Save for the rolled oats, any of the dry ingredients can be substituted, or even omitted. Try to keep the total amount to about eight cups with the oats making up roughly half of the quantity. Remember to add any dried fruit only after baking, as dried fruit has a high sugar content and can burn easily. Here are some of my favorite alternatives:
* almonds: Any nut will do. For a little salty-sweetness to your granola, try salted cashews, chopped into halves.
* pumpkin and sunflower seeds: Sesame seeds are also a good choice. You can even try buckwheat. In fact, it’s a seed, not a cereal grain as its name suggests. It adds loads of texture and develops a deep nutty taste when baked.
* coconut shreds: I use sweetened coconut, but you could also go for unsweetened. A teaspoon or so of fresh lemon zest is also very nice. Make sure to zest a non-waxed lemon.
* wheat bran, wheat germ, flax seeds: These are ultra nutritious components of any granola. Try also pulsing half of the flax in a food processor. Nutrients in ground flax are easily accessible to your body. You can also use oat bran and germ.
* raisins: Here’s where you can really get creative: dried cranberries, bananas, apricots, strawberries, dates, mango – even crystallized ginger! If you’re using larger fruit bits, chop them up into spoon-sized pieces before mixing them in.