Discover more from Fine Kettle Of Fish
Health food or junk food? It depends.
Granola had its heyday in the 1960s and 1970s. A mixture of grain, fruit, and nuts, it evoked feelings of simplicity, healthfulness, and nature in a “back to the land” sort of way. It became, and still is to some extent, as synonymous with hippies, pacifism, and free love as a well-worn pair of Birkenstocks.
Sorry to harsh your mellow, but it was kinda bullshit.
Despite its healthy appearance, granola got “health-washed” in much the same way as fat-free cookies. When you actually do the math most granola is soaked in sugar and fat, because of course that’s how you get what is essentially animal feed to taste so good. It seems like a great wholesome snack but when you look at the nutritional information it’s pretty shocking. Most people freak out when they realize that an appropriate serving size measures in tablespoons. Not groovy at all.
That said, my job is to teach you how to make delicious food, not to ensure your pants fit. And granola is something you can easily make at home, in which case you are responsible for its healthfulness or lack thereof. It can be as sweet and decadent or as wholesome and silage-like as you choose.
Basic granola follows a simple formula with a lot of flexibility. Once you understand how it comes together you can alter the ratios a bit or even wantonly disregard them (though do try to keep the sweetener and oil in similar proportions to help avoid burning). You can create bespoke flavour combinations or use up little bits of this and that in your pantry. You can serve it with milk, sprinkle it over yogurt and desserts, or use it to add crunch to a salad. Or eat it by the fistful to satisfy the munchies.
It’s hard to give the ratio with weight measurements because they vary so much depending on your ingredients - a cup of nuts can vary greatly in weight depending on the type, seeds and fruits the same. So volume measurements it must be - but the proportions are very forgiving, so don’t worry if you’re winging it a bit.
Fresh, toasty granola less than an hour? Let’s go!
Rimmed baking sheet
3 cups large flake rolled oats
1- 1 1/2 cups unsalted nuts and/or seeds of choice (almonds, pumpkin seeds, walnuts, coconut flakes, etc.)
1/3 cup (78ml) liquid sweetener (honey, maple syrup, agave, etc.)
1/3 cup (78ml) oil (canola, sunflower, coconut, etc.)
2-2 1/2 teaspoons spice (cinnamon, pumpkin pie spice, cocoa powder, etc.)
1 teaspoon flavouring extract (vanilla and/or almond)
Large pinch salt
1 cup chopped dried fruit (optional)
2 egg whites (optional, but helpful if you like big clumps in your granola)
Pre-heat your oven to 325F/160C and line your baking sheet with parchment paper.
Combine oats, nuts, and seeds in one bowl.
Combine sweetener, oil, spices/extracts, and salt in second bowl. Add egg whites to wet ingredients if you want extra large/firm clusters in your granola.
Pour wet ingredients into dry ingredients and stir to coat thoroughly.
Spread oat mixture on baking tray and press firmly into an even layer.
Bake for 20-25 minutes, stirring with heat-safe spatula and pressing back into even layer after 10-12 minutes. Stirring ensures that everything toasts evenly - the edges will toast a lot faster than the middle!
Remove from oven and stir in dried fruit (if using) and press back into firm even layer. Allow to cool completely.
Store at room temperature in an air tight container. An old peanut butter jar works great!
And as mentioned above, this recipe is almost infinitely flexible and forgiving. So long as you don’t burn it you’ll have something edible. Like it sweeter? Add more sweetener. More nuts or no nuts? Go ahead. Want to replace the oats with rolled rye or quinoa? Why not? Add savoury flavours like curry powder if you want sometime completely different for a salad or gratin topping. Sprinkle chocolate chips over your still-warm granola for a super sweet fix. Let your freak flag fly, ya dirty hippy.
My granola today was a mix of leftover bits from the cupboard. A handful of slivered almonds, a few pecans, sunflower seeds, and a few peanuts. Basic oats with cinnamon and honey. Sunflower oil because it’s what I have open. No fruit because my kiddo and I disagree about the merits (or lack thereof) of raisins and their ilk. But I have a jar of crunchy, toasty deliciousness that, honestly, isn’t too unhealthy. It will keep a few weeks too.
So stick it to the Man and make your own granola. It’s groovy, baby.