This is the time of year when any semblance of good eating habits gets thrown out the window. We may have struggled with making healthy choices all year, but now we just don’t care any more. Bring on the holiday cookies, the egg nog, the cheese platters. The diet starts in January.
But with every bite we take we don’t just pack on the pounds, we pack on the guilt, and guilt is no fun. It’s no fun to give, either. Knowing how many butter-packed treats friends and family are given this time of year, we really feel bad adding more to the pile, and their waistlines. So instead of a tin filled with cookies, we’re giving everyone homemade granola.
Granola has so many things going for it. The really good stuff, the kind that’s packed with nuts and fruit, is expensive to buy but cheap to make. It’s also fast — just stir it all up, no special equipment needed. You can customize it according to your recipient And if you have gluten-free eaters on your list, it’s perfect as long as you buy oats processed in a gluten-free facility.
And it’s so simple, even little ones can make it. If your kids are looking for something to make for their own friends, family, neighbors, teachers, granola is the answer. Take them on a trip down the bulk aisle to make their own special blend.
Some tips to consider when making granola:
1) Add diced fruit at the end of cooking, otherwise it gets hard and leathery
2) If you want clumps, you need to add something fine-grained like quick oats, wheat germ or flaxseed meal, and moisture, like juice, applesauce or water.
3) Liquid sweeteners like maple syrup or honey result in a more chewy texture. If you want your granola more crunchy, use sugar.
4) Bake low and slow to prevent over-browning, particularly when making clumpy granola that needs more time in the oven to dry out.
Spiced Apple Granola
Makes about 7 cups
This makes a very healthful, protein-packed and omega-rich clumpy granola. I’ve used as little as 1/2 cup of brown sugar, but my kids prefer it sweeter. Feel free to add more spices and as many diced fruits as you like.
1 1/2 cups rolled oats
1 1/2 cups quick oats
1 cup pecans, broken into pieces
1/2 cup wheat germ or flax seed meal
1/2 cup to 1 cup packed brown sugar
1/4 cup virgin coconut oil
1 cup applesauce
1 tablespoon cinnamon
1 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons vanilla
2 cups diced dried apples
1 cup raisins
Preheat oven to 300 degrees. In a large mixing bowl, combine the oats, pecans, and wheat germ. In a large glass measuring cup, combine the brown sugar, coconut oil, applesauce, cinnamon, and salt. Microwave for about 1 to 2 minutes to liquify the oil and dissolve the sugar. Stir in the vanilla.
Add the liquid ingredients to the dry ingredients and stir to coat evenly. Spread mixture evenly in a baking sheet and bake for about 30 minutes. Use a spatula to stir the granola and break it into large clumps. Add the diced apples and raisins. Continue baking for another 10 to 15 minutes, or until the mixture is toasted and almost dry. The granola will continue to dry out and crisp up as it cools. If it ends up not as crispy as you like, you can always return it to the oven and bake it some more.