I’m living in Charleston during the week this summer and commuting back to Charlotte for the weekends. I could go on for hours about the pros and cons of this arrangement, but I don’t want to cry over spilt milk. No, I’ll keep my complaints to spoiled milk. Not easy to cart back and forth in the car, I can’t drink my milk fast enough and I’ve had many a breakfast ruined by sour milk. Determined to keep my mornings happy and have my money not go to waste, I’ve given up my favorite breakfast of cereal with milk and have switched to yogurt, which holds up longer in the fridge. This transition has brought about my current obsession with granola. Yogurt may be yummy, but it’s not breakfast unless it’s topped with granola.
It’s easy to make granola and even easier to make a large batch of it. This is a good thing; because once you find your perfect combination of ingredients you’ll find yourself wanting to eat it all the time. In the morning, you might enjoy it with milk or yogurt, in the afternoon a handful serves as a hunger-abating snack, and at night, your ice cream indulgence gets a healthy kick with the addition of this crunchy topping.
The recipe for the granola I made this past weekend is below, but I suggest you use it only as a guide. When thinking about ingredients, you should first check your cabinets to see what you’ve got on hand. Now would be a good time to use those almond slivers that have been stored in your freezer since December!
Once you know what you have, it’s time to do what I call “bin shopping.” For me, this means driving across town to my local health food store where they have row upon row of bins filled with possible granola ingredients. Why go to a store with a bulk foods section? The ability to buy ingredients in bulk means you get to decide how much you want to buy and that means you are only buying what you need. This in turn saves you money and reduces the amount of unused product in your cabinets. Take flaxseed. Interested in adding flaxseed to your granola, but not sure if you will like it? A bulk section allows you to buy 5 cents worth of flaxseed and try it out before committing to a larger purchase.
Bulk sections are also wonderful when in need of a little inspiration. If you can’t figure out what you want to put in your granola go to a store with a bulk section, stand in front of those bins, and I promise you’ll hit on something. After all, an assortment of dried fruits, oats, seeds, grains, and nuts are just a scoopful away.
Selecting your ingredients is the hardest part of making granola. Once you’ve gathered your ingredients, everything gets combined in a large bowl (except the dried fruit, if using) before being spread out on baking sheets and then put in the oven to toast. Do stay in the room while your granola is toasting as it can go from perfectly toasted to burnt quickly. Once it’s toasted to your liking, the hardest part is waiting for it to cool enough to pop that first handful into your mouth.
4 1/2 cups rolled oats
2 tablespoons flaxseed, ground*
1/4 cup pumpkin seeds, raw and hulled
1/2 cup sliced almonds
1/4 cup sunflower seeds, raw and hulled
1/4 cup macadamia nuts
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon salt
Ground nutmeg, to taste
1/4 cup maple syrup
1/4 cup honey
1/2 cup vegetable oil
Dried fruit (I added banana chips, dried cherries, and apricots.)
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Put a rack in bottom and top third of oven.
Combine ingredients in a large bowl, adding liquids last. Stir to combine and then spread granola out on two baking sheets.
Place each baking sheet on a different rack in the oven. Set timer for 5 minutes. Remove from oven and using a spatula, toss granola. Switch positions of baking sheets and bake for another 5 minutes. Keep checking at 5 minute intervals until granola is toasted to your liking.
Remove from oven and cool granola on racks. Add dried fruit if desired and store in an airtight container. Extra granola can be frozen for use at a later time.
*Flaxseed is rich in omega-3s and has become quite popular recently. If you decide to use flaxseed, be sure to grind it as the nutrients are easier for your body to absorb when ground. A coffee bean grinder is great for grinding spices or things like flaxseeds. Some people recommend that you have a grinder for spices and a grinder for coffee. I think this is a bit excessive and have a grinder with a removeable cup that is easy to clean when switching between the two.