Over the past year I have quit buying boxed cereal. So much of it is unhealthy anyway, and though I had been carefully clipping coupons and buying Kashi boxes on sale, I realized I could save more money and eat healthier (and usually yummier) cereal by making my own. And really it is not hard.
(That’s what I’m rediscovering about all of baking—most if it really is not that hard. Once I get myself in the kitchen actually doing it, the ingredients assemble and the thing is in the oven pretty quickly. David “helps” and Elanor watches from the high chair while stuffing herself. I should do this more.)
I absolutely love my granola recipe. I got it from my family, and it took years for them to find a good one (I remember the sticky, burnt failures). I’ve adapted it further a little bit. Before I give you the recipe let me talk through the ingredients I use.
(And I feel like I should apologize now for no pictures. I am obviously not a great food blogger. But really, you don’t need pictures to make granola, and I’m doing well to make it at all with two little ones underfoot; there’s no time messing with a camera. So no pictures, sorry!)
Oats: You can use rolled or quick oats; I prefer rolled. You can save even more money if you buy oats in bulk. Right now I buy big bags at Sharp Shopper.
Nuts and Seeds: The recipe I use calls for sunflower seeds and almonds. You can leave these out entirely either to save money or if you have a food allergy. But including them if you can gives your granola a more varied texture, and makes it higher in protein and just healthier all around. You can experiment of course with different kinds of nuts and seeds—I would like to try flax, chia, or sesame seeds, and I’ve used pecans instead of almonds before.
I’ve recently been researching (which is my fancy name for reading a couple blog posts) about the benefits of soaking nuts to get rid of the enzyme inhibitors that keep our bodies from fully digesting them and getting their nutrients. For us right now, soaking and then dehydrating or roasting all the nuts we eat is just too time-intensive. But I’ve found that soaking the almonds I use in granola adds hardly any work to the process; I just need to plan ahead (which if you’re me is of course the hard part).
The day before I plan to make granola, I soak 1 part almonds in 4 parts water and just let them sit all day. That night, I drain and rinse the almonds and soak them a second time overnight, this time adding a little salt to the water. The next morning first thing, I drain and rinse the almonds again and lay them out on a baking sheet so they can dry a little. Today was a hot sunny day, so I put them outside on the deck for a few hours until I was ready to start baking in the mid-morning.
Your nuts won’t be all dry before you start your granola, but that’s okay, since you bake your granola and then store it in the refrigerator—no danger of mold or anything gross. Maybe the almond soaking process sounds complicated, but seriously doing it before making granola takes probably about 5 extra minutes of time all told. To chop my almonds, I usually pulse them in the food processor so that they are in very small pieces—not almond flour, but headed that direction.
Sugar: I think my family went wrong in original granola recipes by trying to use honey rather than sugar, which meant sticky granola that burnt in the oven and formed impossibly hard rocks when cool. I don’t like using sugar unnecessarily, but in this granola I think it’s the best way to go.
The original recipe calls for 3 cups sugar for every 8 cups oats. As we’ve gotten used to things less sweet (and after all, this is breakfast, not dessert), we’ve cut the sugar to 2 cups and then to 1½. And though honey messes up granola, adding liquid stevia to the water won’t affect the texture. Your granola will also be sweetened by any dried or fresh fruit you add later.
The original recipe called for brown sugar. I use organic raw sugar, and then add a tablespoon of molasses to the wet ingredients—just enough to darken it, not enough to make it sticky.
Oil: The original recipe called for canola oil; these days I use coconut oil that we buy from Tropical Traditions. You can also use light olive oil or vegetable oil. Coconut oil is healthiest but also a little difficult in that it gets hard when cold, and the wet ingredients need to be cool when you add them to the oats so you don’t cook the oats instantly and find yourself with oatmeal on your hands.
Since coconut oil melts at just above about 76 degrees, the trick is that you want your water/oil mixture to be about that temperature—warm enough your oil is liquid, cool enough not to cook your oats.
Okay, now that I’m making all this seem more complicated than it actually is, here’s the recipe:
8 cups oats
1½ to 3 cups sugar
2 cups chopped almonds
2 cups sunflower seeds
1½ cups oil
1½ cups water
2 tbsp vanilla extract
1 tbsp molasses (optional)
1-2 tbsp cinnamon (optional)
1 dropper full liquid stevia (optional)
In one bowl, stir together oats, sugar, nuts, and seeds. In another bowl, use a whisk or electric mixer to mix oil, water, vanilla, and molasses, cinnamon, and liquid stevia if you’re using them. Pour liquid ingredients over dry ingredients and stir until all the dry ingredients are moistened.
Spread the mixture into two shallow pans—you can use 9x13” glass pans, a cookie sheet with a small rim, the bottom of a broiler pan, etc. Bake in a preheated 325 degree oven. Stir every 15-20 minutes (more frequently the longer the granola bakes).
How long the granola takes to bake can depend on what kind of pan you’re using, how thinly it’s spread, and of course how crispy you like it. Ours is in the oven usually about an hour. Cool on a wire rack.
When granola is completely cool, you can either eat as is, or add shredded coconut or any kind of dried fruit. Our favorite dried fruit to add has been dried cherries, chopped dried apricots, or craisins. We were out of dried fruit today when I made my granola, but especially since it’s summer, I plan to just add fresh fruit like blueberries and sliced strawberries when I serve it. This granola is great with milk, of course, and also with yogurt (the better option for David since it’s less messy).
Store your granola in the fridge or freezer. (I usually put 1 bag in the fridge to use first and the 2nd bag in the freezer.)
For our little family of three granola eaters, I actually double this recipe, and it is often gone in a couple weeks. Something about having a healthy snack on hand in the fridge—we love it and it goes fast.
So, I hope you enjoy this recipe as much as we have!