A few years ago, I decided that, given the overwhelming evidence that oats are good for the body, it was in my best interest to learn to love them. I started with quick-cooking oats, which was an unfortunate thing, because quick-cooking oats are rather gummy (regular old-fashioned oats are a better choice, I now realize), but even those were very tasty when I cooked them into the kheer-like and optimistic-sounding Sunshine Oatmeal. I graduated to eating hot oatmeal with different toppings, and I did learn to like oatmeal. My favorite oatmeal recipe for the past year or so: Peanut Butter Oatmeal, thanks to Alanna and Kalyn. I top it with a little honey for a sweet-salty taste.
For those who do not like the mushy taste of hot oatmeal porridge, there is always crunchy golden granola! The store shelves of gourmet stores and health food stores are simply groaning under the weight of granola of all different flavors. Most of these have one thing in common- they are ridiculously expensive!! Home-made granola is much better value for money, plus you get to control how much sweetener and oil goes in. You also get to choose your favorite combination of nuts, seeds and fruits to make your own signature granola.
I looked at several granola recipes and saw that they are all just minor variations on a theme. The general ingredients are:
1. Oats! Most recipes call for rolled oats or old-fashioned oats.
2. Nuts and seeds: eg. walnuts, pecans, cashews, almonds, pumpkin seeds, sunflower seeds
3. Oil: to toss with the oats before baking, ensuring that the oats gets golden and cunchy
4. Sweeteners: eg. honey, brown sugar, maple syrup
5. Flavoring: eg. cinnamon, vanilla
6. Dried fruit: eg. raisins, dried cranberries, dried apricots, dates, candied ginger
The general method is: Toss together oats and nuts and seeds. Mix together sweetener, oil and flavoring, then toss with the oat mixture. Bake until golden, then add in the dried fruit. Simple as that!
In addition to this basic formula, granola can be personalized in a hundred different ways. Some recipes call for the addition of soy protein powder to increase the protein content of the granola. Others add oat bran for extra fiber or flaxseeds for omega-3s. One could also add orange zest for a burst of citrus flavor. One look at the recipe will tell you that while it is full of natural goodness, granola has lots of calorie-rich ingredients. The secret is portion size: eating only 1/3 to 1/2 cup of granola in a serving. Here is how I made it, based on ingredients that were available in my kitchen:
3 C rolled oats
1/2 C chopped walnuts
1/2 C almond slivers
1/2 C sunflower seeds
1/2 C dried coconut flakes (I used the unsweetened kind)
1/2 t salt
1/3 C canola oil
1/3 C honey
1 t vanilla extract
1/2 C chopped dried apicots
1/2 C golden raisins
1. Pre-heat oven to 300 degrees F. Spray a large baking sheet with oil spray and set aside.
2. Combine ingredients from oats to salt in a large bowl.
3. In a small bowl, whisk together oil, honey and vanilla. Pour onto oat mixture and mix well with your hands, being sure to coat everything well.
4. Spread on the baking sheet in an even layer and bake for 20-30 minutes or until golden, stirring every 10 minutes.
5. Let the granola cool down. Then stir in the dried fruit and store in an airtight container.
Serving granola for breakfast...
V prefers it with some plain milk or soymilk:
I prefer it as a crunchy topping on some fruit-flavored yogurt (I simply mix plain low-fat yogurt with any ripe fruit I have on hand):
Granola can also be served with dessert: a friend recently made raspberry frozen yogurt, served with a raspberry sauce and a crunchy granola topping. It tasted wonderful! Finally, granola can be enjoyed as a snack, just by itself.
For delicious ideas for eating oatmeal for breakfast, go see Madhuli's round-up of this event.