Thursday, March 27, 2014

'Healthy' is not a four letter word...

Swimsuit season is not only inevitable, it's up on us.  Time to think about eating some cardboard and suffering the days away.  Well unless...

Unless you make your granola at home.  I have to say, granola has never been something that makes my mouth water.  But in my search for healthy things to put on the table, I tried making some myself.  It's high in fiber and protein, but low in sugar and bad fats, none more so than when it's homemade.  No unappetizing preservatives, colorings, or chemicals. 

And if that's not enough, you can control all of the ingredients so that it tastes exactly to your liking.  Hate raisins?  Ditch 'em.  Prefer walnuts to pecans?  You should totes magotes swap them out.  Many many options and alternatives.  

This makes a big batch.  If you don't have all of the ingredients at first, going out to buy them might seem expensive.  You could drop as much as $20 on the individual ingredients.  But chances are, you'll have some of them already, and even if you don't, there'll be plenty leftover for several batches.  

Some minor substitution also works.  If you have flax seed, you can toss some in a food processor to make flax meal.  The meal can replace the wheat germ, and the seeds can replace the sesame seeds.  Just a few hacks, but be sure to leave the wet to dry ratio mostly in tact.

I used six cups of oatmeal, half cup of sunflower seeds, a palmful of shredded coconut, a quarter cup of flax seed, quarter cup of sesame seeds, half cup of wheat germ, and a cup of pecans.  Blend it all together.

Isn't it pretty?  Mix 3/4 C honey with two tbsp vegetable oil, up to 1/2 tbsp cinnamon, and one teaspoon of vanilla extract.

Pour this over the oats and seeds.  Mix it in.  It will clump slightly, which is cool.  You just want to keep stirring to make sure there's not a massive clump of honey sitting on the bottom.

Spray a baking sheet (or two big ones if you have a big enough oven) and spread the granola in a very thing layer.  Stick it in an oven at 350 and check it every 6 minutes or so.  The first time you do it, I'd not take your eyes off of it for very long.  Every oven's different.  I burned half the batch the first time I did it.  

Anywho, it'll look the same forever, but when you notice it starting to brown, even a little bit, get ready to yank it out.  This is how granola looks when it cooks:

Same.  Same.  Same.  Same.  Same.  Same.  Toasted.  BURNT.

Okay so it's not all that bad, but it does go quick at the end.  Pour it in a bowl to let cool.  Once it's room temperature, toss in some dried fruit if desired.  I stick to raisins and dried cranberries, but I bet some dried apricots would be tasty.

If you're after the standard granola "clusters", be sure to let it cool in the pan completely before you remove it.  But I go ahead and shake mine out ahead of time, it's just super flakey.  No harm no foul.

This should last you a while, depending on your grain eating tendencies.  It's great in yogurt or even on ice cream.  It works as cereal, or in cereal.  You pretty much just can't go wrong with it.  

It's a great way to get lots of energy for the day and still fit into your bathing suit this summer!

-6 C oatmeal
-1/2 C sunflower seeds
-1/2 C wheat germ
-1/4 C shredded coconut
-1/4 C flax seed
-1/4 C sesame seeds
-1 C chopped nuts
-3/4 C honey
-2 tbsp vegetable oil
-1/2 tbsp cinnamon
-1 tsp vanilla extract

1.  Combine oatmeal and next six ingredients in a large bowl.

2.  Combine remaining ingredients in a separate bowl and pour over oat mixture.  Stir thoroughly, making sure that the honey doesn't clump in one spot.

3.  Spray a baking sheet with cooking spray and pour granola onto it in a thin layer.  Bake at 350 for 6 minute increments, stirring at least once, until oatmeal is a toasted brown color.  Let cool on baking sheet, adding 1/2 to 1 1/2 cups of dried fruit if desired.  Store in an airtight container for up to three weeks.