Thursday, April 14, 2011

Crazy Good Granola

Sometimes I find recipes in unexpected places. Sometimes not. But most of the time, a recipe will pop out at me and say, "TRY ME!" And so, I have to try it. I don't know if it's the recipe that's talking, the actual food, or some other voice in my head ... but regardless, it usually results in something yummy (or some kind of experiment.) This recipe here is one of those yummy results: Indulgent Granola or what I'd call "Crazy Good Granola!" The post, which I found on NPR's website, has some other yummy sounding granola-type recipes but I only tried one ... the one that spoke.

I've vowed to keep this stuff in a jar at home and so far, I've been successful. It's great for a quick, filling breakfast and perfect for company! This recipe makes a lot so be sure you have a large glass jar or other air tight container for storage. We dehydrated some strawberries and they really contributed to a delicious batch of granola! I would say to go-all-out on your favorite additions because that's what makes it! Of course, experimenting is always fun and it can easily be split into two for different tastes.

This is what I added: dehydrated strawberries, sweetened dried cranberries, banana chips, and coconut shreds (remember to add dry fruit after the granola has cooled) ... Nuts (raw, unsalted): pistachios, pecans and sunflower seeds. Extras: Carob powder and/or Flax Seeds (ground flax should be added after the granola has cooled as well). Serve with yogurt or your favorite milk beverage (my favorite is Silk Coconut Milk). Mmmm, I think I'll have some right now.

Please post your own ideas or suggestions below and enjoy!!!
Courtesy of Eve Turrow for NPR slightly altered by Me
Makes about 10 cups
8 cups rolled oats (not quick-cooking or instant)*
2 cups nuts, chopped**
1 cup golden brown sugar
2 teaspoons salt
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground cardamom
1 Tablespoon unsweetened Carob powder (optional)***
1/4 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup honey
2/3 cup butter
2-4 cups dried fruit

*Rolled oats are steamed then rolled, providing the flat texture best for granola. Instant oats are partially cooked, and quick-cooking are finely cut, much like steel-cut oats, which are thinly sliced by steel yet retain some bran. Rolled oats will provide the right texture and will cook properly in granola recipes.
**Use any nuts you want in any combination — pecans, almonds, pistachios, hazelnuts, etc. Get the untoasted ones. Chop by hand, with a nut chopper or with a few pulses in a food processer.
***Carob powder is a chocolate substitute and is super yummy, but it takes some time to get used to (and some don't like it at all). I love it! Carob comes from a pod off a tree from a Mediterranean evergreen. It can be purchased in a wax paper can such as you would find cocoa powder but some health food stores offer a bulk option. Cocoa can be substituted if desired but I haven't tried it.

1. Position racks in middle of oven and preheat to 250 degrees. Lightly spray 2 large baking sheets with nonstick spray.

2. Mix oats, nuts, brown sugar, salt, cinnamon, cardamom, and carob or cocoa (if using) in an extra large mixing bowl.

3. Combine granulated sugar, honey and butter in small saucepan. Bring to simmer over medium heat, stir to combine and remove from heat. Pour hot liquid over oat mixture and stir well. Toss mixture until thoroughly mixed. 
(Option: Caramelize white sugar with a little water, then add honey and butter. To do this, add white sugar to a small saucepan over medium heat and spread evenly across the bottom of the pan. Add a little water and stir until the mixture reaches a boil. Keep the mixture moving until it begins to turn brown. Then, add honey and butter. This process will add a caramel flavor to the granola.)

4. Spread granola on prepared baking sheets. Bake until golden brown and fragrant, for 20-30 minutes. Rotate pans halfway through and watch for browning on the edges-DO NOT LET IT BECOME DARK BROWN (burnt granola does not taste good)!

5. Cool granola completely. Break it up into clusters.

6. Add dried fruit and ground flax seeds (if desired) after the granola is cooled.