Sunday, June 5, 2011

Versatile Homemade Granola

Granola. The very word alone brings to mind Birkenstock footwear and hemp necklaces. Or maybe for you, it is hiking boots and a forest trail. Whatever conjures in your mind at the sound of this word, it probably has something to do with nature or being natural.

And, in essence, granola is very unrefined. What is it? Some whole grains, a sweetener and maybe some dried fruit or perhaps even some nuts all mixed together. There are recipes for stove top granola and oven baked granola. I bet there is even a recipe for a crock pot granola! Maybe a dehydrator recipe? Yep, I can see it happening. I've tried both stove top and oven recipes and I by far prefer the oven recipe so that's what I'm going to share with you here.

But the nice thing about granola is that it can easily be personalized. You can add what you like. Some people dig raisins and others dried cranberries. How about dried apricots, bananas, currants or cherries? Some people like almonds or sunflower seeds but why not pumpkin seeds? Or coconut? I like to use honey as the sweetener but brown sugar could also be used - maybe even maple syrup (now I've got another idea....)

So switch it up - here's a basic starter recipe - make it your own by filling in the gaps:

Basic Granola

3-4 cups old fashioned oats
1 cup chopped nuts (you pick)
1 cup dried fruit (you pick)
1/2 cup sweetener (honey is great, or brown sugar)
1/2 cup butter (some recipes even use canola oil)
1-3 tsp flavor additive (think vanilla extract, lemon extract, almond extract or even a citrus zested plus some of the juice!)

Preheat oven to 300 degrees F. Line a rimmed cookie sheet with parchment paper. In a large bowl combine oats, nuts and fruit. On a stove top (or even in a microwave!), heat butter and sweetener together until butter is melted and it is well combined. Take off the heat and stir in the "flavor additive." Pour the butter mixture over the oat mixture and stir until all is equally wet. Spread out wet granola on the parchment lined cookie sheet. Bake in preheated oven for 30 minutes, stirring every 5 - 10 minutes. Take out and allow to cool. Store in an air tight container in the pantry.

So with this recipe, I made lemon cranberry granola with sunflower seeds and almonds. But before I've made vanilla coconut date granola. And before that I made raisin cinnamon granola. The possibilities are really endless! Make what your family likes and enjoy it.

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