Holy Granoly.

Most of my life I’ve been like, “What’s the big deal about granola!?” Even when we made it at Local Harvest, I thought “this is good, but….I don’t get it.”

Until recently when I couldn’t afford $4 boxes of cereal (and frankly didn’t want to eat that sugar laden, preservative filled, GMO’d stuff) and needed another option. Once I made my own granola, I was blown away by how delicious it was. Maybe because I made it myself, or maybe because I took care in choosing the ingredients – but whatever it was, I hadn’t eaten granola so satisfying before.

Since I started making granola in my own kitchen, I can’t stop eating the stuff. And I can change the flavor as much as I like and I control the ingredients completely. After about five months of eating it, I’m not sick of it yet.

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Granola is simple. Generally it is just oats (old fashioned rolled oats – not instant or steel cut) and nuts, covered in a mixture of sweet (sugar, molasses, honey) and fat (oil, butter) then baked for a short time. I recently made three different granolas, to show you the range of fats and sugars you can use – as well as the different things you can throw in, from nuts to dried fruit. These recipes yield a very small amount of granola, I usually make about 3 or 4 times this much and it lasts for at least a month in an airtight container.

The basics of granola making are: heat sugar and oil mixture (with other flavors if you desire), stir into oats and nuts, spread on cookie sheet(s) and bake at 250 – 300 degrees for about an hour, mixing and rotating often. Once it has cooled, mix in dried fruits, chocolate, or anything else you want to use raw.

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Honey Butter Granola

This is a light granola with a subtle flavor, the honey gives it just a slight sweetness.

1/2 c honey

4 Tbl butter

1/2 tsp vanilla

pinch of salt

2 c oats

1/2 c pecans (raw and chopped)

1/4 c sunflower seeds (I used roasted, but you can use raw)

1. Place honey, butter, vanilla, and salt in a small pot – heat until butter is melted and everything is combined.

2. Place oats, pecans, and sunflower seeds into a bowl – stir in honey butter mixture.

3. Once well mixed, spread onto cookie sheets in a thin layer and place into a 250 degree oven.

4. Turn pans stir granola every 20 minutes for an hour. The granola will still seem soft, but once it dries it will harden into perfectly crunchy granola.

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Molasses Hazelnut Granola

This is a darker granola, with a richer flavor. I love using unsulphured molasses for it’s complicated flavor and it nutrients. Reminds me of gingerbread a little bit. 

1/4 c brown sugar

2 Tbl unsulphured blackstrap molasses

2 Tbl grapeseed oil

1/2 tsp cinnamon

pinch of salt

2 c oats

1/2 c hazelnuts (chopped)

1/4 c flax seeds

 

1. Place brown sugar, molasses, oil, cinnamon, and salt in a small pot – heat until everything is combined.

2. Place oats, hazelnuts, and flax seeds into a bowl – stir in sugar oil mixture.

3. Once well mixed, spread onto cookie sheets in a thin layer and place into a 300 degree oven.

4. Turn pans stir granola every 20 minutes for an hour. The granola will still seem soft, but once it dries it will harden into perfectly crunchy granola.

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Super Seed Granola

This is called Super Seed, not only because I used a couple different kinds of seeds, but I also used a Garden of Life product called Super Seed to add flavor and fiber to this granola. This granola uses coconut oil and agave, giving it an interesting flavor.

*Note: you can replace the 1/4 c brown sugar with 1/4 c agave.

1/4 c brown sugar

2 Tbl coconut oil

2 Tbl agave

pinch of salt

2 c oats

1/4 c Super Seed

1/4 c sesame seeds

2 Tbl pinenuts

1/4 c pepitas

1. Place brown sugar, agave, coconut oil, and salt in a small pot – heat until everything is combined.

2. Place oats, Super Seed,sesame seeds, pine nuts, and pepitas into a bowl – stir in agave oil mixture.

3. Once well mixed, spread onto cookie sheets in a thin layer and place into a 250 degree oven.

4. Turn pans stir granola every 20 minutes for an hour. The granola will still seem soft, but once it dries it will harden into perfectly crunchy granola.

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Go crazy! Try anything! Let me know how it works out.

And if you don’t want to make your own, Sarah Kate makes amazing granola for sale various times of the year – I suggest getting yourself a bag (she evens ships it).

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From Restaurant Chef to Home Cook

In my new life, the one where I live in the woods and my better half is in school (ie we are broke) I find myself cooking more at home than ever before in my life. I cook as much as possible to avoid buying things, as in I make granola so we don’t have to buy cereal. Not only is this cheaper, and usually tastier, but it also lets me control what is going into our food. My granola has organic oats, dried cranberries, nuts, organic flax seeds, honey, and coconut oil – that’s it, no weird preservative or packing gas or additives.

I have taken to this lifestyle quite quickly, probably on account of my cheffing background – the idea of making something from scratch that will last for a while (in quantity and quality) is not foreign to me. thinking in kitchen I want to share with you the tricks I have picked up over the last several months of my domestication.

I buy lots of milk on sale (which is usually close to it’s expiration date) then I turn it into kefir or yogurt after a few days of using it. Doing this extends the life of the milk and you can still use it for pretty much everything you can use milk for (the yogurt you make will undoubtably be the thin “drinkable” kind). I use it in place of any milk product for baking (great in scones, biscuits, cornbread), eat it on my morning granola (sometimes with a slash of milk to lighten the tartness of it), or add it to smoothies. The great news is, these homemade delights have the same nutritional value as milk, with the addition of probiotics (great for immune health and easier digestion), B vitamins, and phosphorus.

I buy all our beans dried. Canned beans are not only packed with salt and weird preservatives and other CRAP, but they usually have such a miserable texture, too. You don’t have to soak your beans if you don’t want to, just set them to boil and cook them until done – better yet, get acquainted with a pressure cooker. I like to cook lots of beans at one time and then freeze what I don’t use in small ziplock bags, that way I can just pull out a bag of chickpeas whenever I want to make hummus or a bag of kidney beans when I want to make red beans and rice.

Making granola instead of buying cereal. Holy smokes cereal is SO expensive. Granola is easy and relatively cheap to make – and much better for you than most of the cereals out there. (I am working on a granola/granola bar blog post.)

Don’t buy things in boxes: make your own crackers (they last for a really long time!), make your own cookies (it literally take 15 minutes to put the dough together), make your own granola bars!, make your own mac’n’cheese, make your own stock, and definitely don’t say to yourself “It’s too expensive/time-consuming/hard” because if it is nominally more expensive, it is MUCH better for you and your family – if it takes a little longer, then think about how this can become family bonding time (you can even still watch your favorite shows while you do it) – and everything is hard the first time, the more you do it the easier it becomes and the faster you get at it.

Think before you shop and cook. Plan at least some (if not all) of your meals ahead, to stop yourself from buying frivolous or unnecessary foods. I usually plan my meals for the week around the protein or a theme, like : Thursday we have that pork roast, so I’ll need sides for that & Friday I want to make Mexican, how about cheese enchiladas & etc. Think of how your ingredients can work from one meal to another – you have a lot of rice leftover from Mexican night, then make chicken and rice soup with that chicken stock you have in the freezer. Planning is really the key to saving money and your mind! Get everyone involved, have fun with it. (Check out my meal planning post!)

Make food you can enjoy all week long. On sundays I like to make one soup and one salad (like potato salad, quinoa salad, pasta salad), this way when someone gets peckish there is always something to grab in the fridge. And it’s even hearty enough to serve as the “I don’t feel like cooking tonight” dinner.

Freeze. Freeze. FREEZE! The freezer is your best friend when it comes to saving time and money. Making soup, stock, bread, beans, pastries (like empanadas or samosas), and sauces in bulk and freezing them gives you something made and ready to heat up for a quick and cheap dinner – or – buy big pieces of meat or meat/fish/chicken on sale and freezing it can save you lots of money.

You don’t need years of culinary training or tons of money to make great meals for you and your family – just a sense of planing and a few great recipes under your belt. Let me know if you want any simple recipes to get your foundation started – I suggest a soup or two, a great pasta dish, a great bean dish, a braised meat dish, and (of course) granola!