Thursday, February 16, 2012

Homemade Granola

Homemade granola is the ultimate comfort food/ breakfast food as far as I'm concerned.  My family always wants "fruit cereal" which averages $4 a box or so.  Homemade granola can be made in large batches, so lasts longer, tastes better, and probably is better for you.  I haven't priced it but I'm pretty sure it's cheaper, and it definitely uses less packaging.  As an additional benefit, it makes your house smell even better than baking bread does while you're making it.  Try some!  A sort-of recipe follows:
Here's how I do it: Preheat oven to 375; spray 3 9x13" pans with Pam, and fill them with a mix of grains: mostly old fashioned rolled oats (I buy these in 25# bags and store in a bin in the pantry), 5-grain or 7-grain cereal from the bulk bins at the store, and maybe a little flax seed.  Just about that much, I've no idea of actual poundage or cup quantity.  See that spoon over in the right pan?  You'll be doing a lot of stirring.
Now get your liquids heated up.  I didn't measure, but you want about a cup or 1 1/2 cups of honey, a cup or so of oil, and maybe a little (1/2 C or so) flavorful juice if you like.  Apple juice, orange juice, cranberry juice can all work; I used Mongo Mango juice this time.  Heat in the microwave until it's bubbly.  A little cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves, etc, can be added to the liquids here, or stirred in with the grains.  You can also go exotic with orange or lemon peel, lemon juice, orange liqueur, vanilla, cocoa powder -- whatever enhances the flavor theme you are trying to develop.  Add anything with alcohol or subtle flavors AFTER microwaving.  Pour the liquids evenly over the grains.  Stir, stir, stir.  Pop the pans into the oven for 20 minutes.  Take out and stir, stir, stir.  Put back in for another 20 minutes; stir; add any nuts you would like to have toasted along with the grains; return to oven for a final 20 minutes.  At this point it should be nicely toasted and you can remove from the oven and let cool without stirring; or you might decide it needs another 10-20 minutes of baking.
You will need to fend off the snitchers for awhile until it cools.  Then add your chosen dried fruit and nuts (if you didn't add them earlier).   Again, I don't measure but go for a large handful of fruit and slightly smaller handful of nuts in each pan.  This batch used slivered almonds and dried blueberries (and a tiny amount of golden raisins I had leftover).  By waiting to stir it for the final time until after it's cool, you will end up with a few more clumps of grains stuck together -- which is a good thing in granola.

When I make granola, I plan in advance when I'm doing my weekly grocery shopping.  I buy the mixed-grain cereal, the honey, nuts, and dried fruits to fit whatever flavor theme I want.  Some themes you might like to try:

dried apples, raisins, dates, walnuts
coconut, pineapple, mango
apricot, golden raisins, pecans
dried cherries and blueberries
orange honey, orange peel, orange liqueur, cloves, cinnamon, raisins, pecans

Kitchen shears are great for snipping larger pieces of dried fruits into bite sizes.  Store in an airtight container and watch it disappear fast.

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