Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Wicked Delicious Granola

Everything hinges on the first choice I make on Monday.  If I open the door on the left and choose an onion bagel toasted golden brown with a smear of cream cheese like a snow drift, my week can spiral down into a cycle of crap food, low energy, skipping my workout, and feeling generally foul.  Or I can choose the door on the right: something substantive and powerful, something that fuels my body and my mood, something that makes me want to choose a clean and healthy lunch that will set me up to kick everyone else’s ass in yoga after work.  (What?  That isn’t the point of yoga?)  Something that makes me want to choose food with lots of food in it.

But Mondays are hard and if I’m going to choose the door on the right I need to make sure that door is appealing as hell so that bagel has no chance to seduce me. As luck would have it, I’ve developed a strategy that is nearly no fail.  I make a batch of granola that smells like Christmas on Sunday afternoon and I look forward to getting to eat it the next day.  I proudly carry my week’s worth of granola and a container of Greek yogurt in on Monday morning knowing that I’m about to kick Monday’s ass, because I’m about to kick breakfast’s ass.  Take that bagel.  (And honestly, there’s not a bagel on the west coast that’s worth eating anyway.)

Make this – it’s easy.  One bowl, one very small pan, one baking sheet. Ten minutes to of prep time and 40 minutes in the oven.  You will be so proud of yourself and your co-workers will weep with joy when you share – trust me.

This was inspired by a few granola recipes I’ve tried and tweaked over the last year, but the recipe closest to my ultimate result is this one: Chunky Date, Coconut & Almond Granola, from Bon Appetit, via Epicurious.

Wicked Delicious Granola

2 cups old fashioned oats
¾ cup sliced almonds
½ cup whole pecans
1/3 c (packed) Muscovado sugar (substitution suggestion: dark brown sugar)
1 ½ tsp ground allspice
1 tsp cinnamon
¼ tsp ground cloves
½ stick butter (1/4 cup)
2 TBS honey
¼ tsp vanilla
1 cup packed pitted dates, roughly chopped
1 c unsweetened flaked coconut

Preheat oven to 325 F.   Combine first seven ingredients in a large bowl, breaking up and clumps of Muscovado sugar.  I also like to snap some of the pecans in half with my fingers while I’m stirring everything through.  Meanwhile, in a small saucepan over very low heat, warm the butter with the honey, swirling the pan occasionally to combine.  When honey/butter mixture is melted through and looks uniform add the vanilla and give it a few good swirls.   Pour the syrup you’ve made over your oat mixture and mix thoroughly with your hands or a flexile spatula.  It will take a little working over for the wet ingredients to coat the dry ingredients evenly and there’s no danger of over mixing here, so take your time.

Spread your oat mixture on a prepared cookie sheet.  I use a silicone mat because it will need to be stirred a couple of times and that way I don’t risk up-turning parchment or ripping aluminum foil, but either are a fine substitution, particularly if you’re more graceful than I am.

Pop the sheet in the oven and reduce the heat to 300 F.  After 15 minutes, add your chopped dates and stir to combine.  Return your cookie sheet to the oven for 10 minutes.  Add coconut flakes and stir to combine.  Your kitchen will smell like heaven, so don’t make granola when you’re hungry.   At this point, set a timer for 10 more minutes and check it again.  You’re watching the coconut – you want it to have turned a slight golden brown at the edges.  My total cooking time is usually 40 minutes, but you may find you want your granola more or less toasty – feel free to adjust to your liking.

Remove the cookie sheet from the oven and leave it alone to cool – no mixing.  This is when your tasty little nuggets are formed.  When it’s completely cool, transfer to a container, where it will remain fresh for about a week.

This recipe doubles well, however, you'll have to mix about half way through the initial baking time and it will be a bit cumbersome. 

My serving preference is to use it to top some hearty Greek yogurt and I like to add a little wheat germ and/or flax seeds to my bowl.  I used to include them in the recipe itself, but too often I’d find them resting at the bottom of the container at the end of the week.

Finally, it’s just come to my attention that I have a massive international readership (thank you, five to ten people in England, one person in Germany, and hello, South Africa!) so I need to move away from crazy American measurements and include weights.  None of this “cups” shenanigans.  Check back in on this recipe the same time tomorrow – I need to get batteries for my scale and then I’ll update this post.

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