Friday, January 10th, 2014

Winter Cooking Project #4: Make Your Own Granola

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I know that there’s a lot of granola out there. I think there must be an entire wing at Whole Foods dedicated to selling pricey bags of the stuff with every imaginable combination of ingredients. But despite it’s availability, I have several reasons why I prefer to make it myself, and why I think you should too:

First, granola is crazy-expensive. Why? I don’t know. Yes, if it’s made in an “artisinal” fashion, then there may be luxury-grade nuts and dried fruit involved; but having make it from scratch many times, using the best ingredients I could find, I can tell you that the mark-up on store-bought granola is huge. Especially when you open the kind that is packaged in a lovely hippie-Euro-Kinfolkesque box (I’m a huge sucker for packaging so I fall for it all the time) and there’s like a scant handful of granola inside, maybe enough to top a bowl of yogurt for yourself and one chipmunk.

Second, a lot of granola is full of crap. Why? I don’t know. Sugar, bad oils, dusty oats, chocolate twigs…you get the picture. Just because we think of granola as being inherently good for you, doesn’t mean it is. It’s too easy for SOME granola-makers to use less-than-healthful ingredients because it’s cheaper and easier and because it may still look wholesome, we the hapless granola muncher are none the wiser. But when you make it yourself, you can make sure you’re using a sweetener of your choice (say honey or maple syrup, versus corn syrup), fresh oats (not the kind they give old horses), good-for-you seeds (like pumpkin, sunflower, and sesame), nuts if no one is allergic (I like walnuts and almond), your favorite flavorings (like vanilla and cinnamon) and dried fruits galore (I’m partial to apricots and cranberries).

Once you’ve made your first batch of granola, you will see that although it’s a bit of a project, it’s kind of a fun, and a good one for including the kids because it feels like a bit of witchcraft— dipping into all of these jars of seeds, nuts, and fruits, sprinkling powders and pouring honey, and creating this lovely, crunchy, mess. I suggest making a big batch once you get the hang of it, because it will keep for awhile and you’ll want to put it on everything: yogurt, ice cream, directly in your mouth.

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Here is post I wrote awhile back about making granola as a Christmas gift and a RECIPE for granola adapted from the wonderful Rose Bakery Cookbook. It works every time and is completely delicious. Just remember to keep your eye on the granola while it roasts, even though it’s at a low temperature, because it will burn if you don’t toss it gently a few times.

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