dazzling and interesting on a shoestring
Think the cupboard is empty? It’s amazing what you can make when you really look around the kitchen. You can make something out of nothing. Here’s what I do when I want granola: Granola is one of the most expensive over-rated items on the grocery store shelf. Do you know how easy it is to make? So easy, really. And the variations are endless. The only two things you must have are oats and oil—peanut or canola oil is best.
My grandfather used to make his own granola with these basic pedestrian ingredients, but you can swap out the peanuts for almonds or the raisins for cranberries, or any other chopped nut or dried fruit, depending on how fancy you want to get, or what you happen to have on the shelves or in your nearly empty pantry. Put it on yogurt, eat with your favorite cereal and dairy or dairy substitute or heat it up to make fancier oatmeal. Plus, when you make it, you get the added benefit of having your house smell all toasty and cozy when it’s cold outside.
Here’s my Grandpa Alden’s list of ingredients for granola:
4 cups old-fashioned oats
1 ½ cups coarsely chopped peanuts
1 cup sunflower seeds
1 cup wheat germ
½ cup bran
3 ½ ounces flaked coconut
½ cup peanut oil
½ cup honey
½ teaspoon vanilla extract
1 cup raisins
As you can see, the ingredients are cheap and healthy, though not for the peanut allergenic. I made this recipe for my family, and my husband thought the peanuts were weird, because he has a somewhat European sense of breakfast food. I don’t particularly like flaked coconut, either—it’s a texture thing. We also happened to have a rather large amount of flax meal, leftover from a pumpkin pie recipe gone terribly wrong.
So here’s what I did to make my own granola recipe:
4 cups oats
1 cup chopped almonds (to replace the peanuts, though they do cost a bit more)
1 cup flax meal
½ teaspoon ground ginger
½ cup canola oil (to replace the peanut oil, since that’s what we’ve got)
¼ cup honey
¼ cup maple syrup (to replace ½ the honey, because we were poor in honey but rich in syrup)
½ t. vanilla extract
1 cup chopped dried apricots
As you can see, any nut or dried fruit can be swapped out, you can add any number of lovely fall spices (cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger, cloves) to the dry ingredients and the ½ cup of honey can be traded for any sort of sweet, sticky medium—agave, maple syrup or any combination of what you’ve got, provided it doesn’t get too weird. The flax meal or bran could be any combination of these or some other roast-able ingredient to add a bit of flavor, health and digestibility.
Once you’ve got your ingredients all decided on (I always pull everything out and put it on our tiny acreage of counter before I begin, that way I don’t discover that I’m missing something halfway through the process) here’s how you’ll mix it up:
Combine oats, nuts, flax meal (wheat germ, bran, etc.) and coconut (if you like it and have it) and spices (if you choose) in a large bowl. Heat oil, honey (or other sticky stuff to equal ½ cup) and vanilla to just below boiling—you’ll start to see bubbles form on the bottom of the pan, when you do, take it off the heat.
Pour your sticky stuff over the oat mixture and toss/stir it all to coat the oats and stuff thoroughly. Spread it all evenly into two (or three) roasting pans (in my Grandpa’s recipe they call them ‘jelly roll’ pans, which just make me think of Leadbelly songs… but I digress).
Roast it all for 30 minutes in the oven at 300 degrees, stirring it up every 10 minutes to have it cook evenly, or until it’s a light brown (or a little darker as I prefer, or if I’m in the middle of changing diapers and forget to take it out in time). Remove from the oven and let it cool, then stir in the dried fruit.
Voila—your very own homemade granola!