I'd say I fit the “granola” stereotype pretty well...a nature loving health nut. I suppose then it is fitting that one of my favorite foods is granola, especially when it is homemade. Making granola fits well with my “kitchen sink” approach to cooking: a little bit of this, a little bit of that…mixing and matching whatever is on hand in the pantry.
Granola is such a terrific food to help start the day and “break the fast” offering a perfect balance of complex carbohydrates, fat and protein. Although there are a few good commercial granola options, making granola from scratch allows one to customize the batch based on flavor preferences and to boost nutrition with a few bonus add-ins. If you like cinnamon a lot, great, add more. You love the taste of nutmeg? Super! Add some in. Not a fan of almonds, no problem, add a different nut…you get the picture.
The main ingredient for granola is of course the oats. I used organic rolled oats from Shirk’s Country Market, a Mennonite store located in Centertown Missouri. This quaint market offers plenty of options in bulk for great prices, as well as nuts, candies, bakery and deli items.
Granola also usually includes some type of sweetener. Using natural sweeteners such as agave nectar, honey, molasses or pure maple syrup help boost the health properties. For this batch, I used a mix of all four since I had all of them available. Adding dried fruit to the mix will add sweetness as well. Again anything goes with dried fruit. This batch included goji berries, raisins, cranberries, dried blueberries and sour cherries. Other great options would include chopped dates, apricots, banana chips, papaya, etc.
Other star ingredients in granola include nuts, seeds, wheat germ and flax meal- all offering a powerful punch of really healthy fats. Use a combo of slivered almonds, chopped walnuts, pecans, cashews, pine nuts, macadamia, pistachios, etc. Seeds can include sesame, pepita, sunflower. Tip: store nuts, seeds, wheat germ and flax meal in the refrigerator to help prevent the natural oils from turning rancid.
It does not take much time to prepare a big batch of granola that can be enjoyed for weeks to come.
5 cups rolled oats (Shirk's Coutry Market, Centertown, MO)
1 cup of any type of nuts (pecans came from Nevada, MO)
¼ to ½ cup any type seeds
¼ cup of ground flaxseed and wheat germ
1 tsp of ground cinnamon (other spices such as nutmeg, cloves, pumkin pie spice, cardamom would work well too)
3 egg whites
1 tsp of salt
¾ cup of any type natural sweetener (honey from Hilty's Bee Yards, Bowling Green, MO)
1/3 cup oil
1 cup any type dried fruit
1. Combine oats, nuts, seeds and flax, wheat germ and cinnamon in a large bowl.
2. In a separate bowl, whisk the egg whites and salt until a froth forms, then mix in the oil and sweetener.
3. Combine the liquid mixture with the oat mixture and mix well.
4. Spray a rimmed baking sheet with cooking spray; spread the mixture evenly on the baking sheet.
5. Bake at 350 for about 15 minutes; stir then lower the temperature to 300 degrees and bake about 10 minutes more until nicely browned. Allow to cool, add the dried fruit then dig in!