Granola: My Way
By Anne L. Desjardins
The other day I was practicing one of my favorite pastimes: patrolling the aisles of my supermarket in search of new wonders. Thatís when I fell on an entire row of granola morning cereals, many of them claiming to be organic, with the capacity to improve your overall health. Well, thatís a great marketing strategy... No question that any kind of cereals made of whole grains, nuts, dry fruits and good poly or mono-saturated oil (like canola or olive) canít be bad for you because they provide loads of fibers, minerals, proteins and good quality fats. They would also stick to your ribs for a long time, which is certainly convenient for good paddling performances.
Oats are known to protect against artery-clogging cholesterol and help lower hypertension; almonds or peanuts offer similar benefits. But letís figure how much a portion of those self-proclaimed functional foods (which means they are supposed to improve human health and well-being) would cost. Letís say that the average price for a 1 pound bag of a ready-to-eat organic granola mix costs on average 4 dollars and eighty cents. Divide that price by the number of portions, which is about four (4 oz for each portion). Thatís one dollar and twenty cents for a bowl of commercially-made granola. Wow! I just couldnít believe it, especially given the fact that more than 80 % of the content of the vast majority of the commercial (organic or not) granolas that I studied were made of oats. Isnít it a bit pricey for that humble cereal thatís known for its cheap price and high nutrient content?
Thatís when I decided I would do something about it. I would create my own recipes for granola that would cost half the price and, more importantly, would be more varied and tasteful because I would certainly not hesitate to add a bit of extra flavor with more nuts, fruits and little extras such as chocolate or coconut. Granola is so easy to make and it can be the perfect paddling breakfast. But it can also turn into a nice crunchy snack or a lovely garnish for a quick dessert at night.
The principle for creating good and nutritious granola is to choose a variety of good quality items and to try to come up with original versions. And since granola is appealing because it is made of chunks of toasted cereals, seeds and/or nuts, to which you add some dry fruits at the end of the cooking process, this means youíll need something make those ingredients stick together: oil, butter, and something sweet, like honey, brown sugar or maple syrup. Then, you roast your blend in the oven to the desired crunch. Et voilŗ! Granola will keep for at least one month in an airtight container. So I suggest you organize a granola party based on the same principles of a Christmas cookie exchange. That would provide you with all sorts of interesting versions of that good old breakfast-snack-dessert cereal. Now letís get going!
My Classic Maple-Almond Granola
Heat the oven to 350 F. In a large bowl, mix rolled oats, rolled buckwheat, toasted wheat germ, cinnamon and salt. Set aside. In a large measuring cup, using a whisk, pour maple syrup, then the oil in a thin, steady stream. Whisk together until well emulsified. Mix with the cereals. Using your hands, mix until all ingredients are blended.
- 4 cups rolled oats (do not use the instant version but the 10 minutes cooking)
- 2 cups rolled buckwheat
- 1 cup toasted wheat germ
- 2 tsp cinnamon
- Large pinch of salt
- 2 cup almonds, with skin, chopped
- 1 cup maple syrup
- 3/4 cup of organic canola oil
- 3 cups dried cranberries
On two large cookie sheets covered with parchment paper, sprinkle cereals evenly and cook for 20 minutes, mixing once with a spatula. Remove from oven, add almonds and cook for 20 more minutes, mixing once with a spatula. Remove from oven and add cranberries. Let cool and place in airtight glass jars.
To add a bit of oumph to this classic recipe, try these suggestions:Burst of fruit granola: replace cranberries with 1 cup dried cherries, 1 cup dried blueberries, 1 cup dried mangoes thinly diced, 1 cup dried cranberries, 1 cup currants. Add one cup raw pumpkin seeds. Remove cinnamon from the original recipe.
Exotic granola: replace almonds with chopped macademia nuts. Replace dried cranberries with the followings: 1 / 2 cup dried papaya, 1 / 2 cup banana chips, 1 / 2 cup dried kiwis, 1 / 2 cup dried pineapple, 1 / 2 cup grated unsweetened chunks of dry coco. Replace maple syrup with brown sugar. Replace cinnamon with 5-star powder. Add 1 / 2 cup sesame seeds.
Honey-apricot granola: replace maple syrup with liquid honey. Replace almonds with the same quantity of chopped hazelnuts. Add 2 tsp of pure vanilla extract; replace cranberries with 2 cups chopped dry apricots.
Dessert-like granola: add 1 / 2 cup brown sugar and 2 more tbsp of canola oil to the maple syrup mixture. Replace almonds with chopped pecans. Add 1 cup chocolate chips, 1 cup smarties, 1 cup mini marshmallows once granola is at room temperature.
Protein-packed granola: add 1 cup sunflower seeds, 1 cup unsalted soy nuts, 2 tsp packed brown sugar to the maple syrup mixture. When granola is at room temperature add 1 cup chopped dates and 4 tbsp dry orange and lemon rinds to the cranberries.
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