Hearty, Healthy, Homemade Granola

As much as I love cooking for dinner, I have to admit that I am horrendous when it comes to breakfast. Breakfast has just never come easily to me. Growing up I frequently skipped breakfast altogether in favor of savory leftovers, and while I have come to terms with more traditional everyday breakfast foods, the majority of them are difficult to consume on the go. With my busy lifestyle (and frequent desire to spend my weekday breakfast time snoozing my alarm) this means that, secretly, most of the past two months’ breakfasts have been trail mix bars from my office’s snack drawer. I have decided that this week will be the week that I kick my breakfast bar habit and start my days with the healthier, less sugary start that I need. How, you ask? The answer is simple: with homemade granola.

Homemade Granola

I have always loved granola. I love the toasted oats, the almonds, and the honey clusters. I love that as the different ingredients mix, every bite is slightly different but always just as wonderful. And I love the way it mixes with milk and forms a perfectly hearty (yet light) breakfast food that gives you the kick of energy to start your day. I don’t love, however, how much sugar the store-bought brands have. Sure, they taste really great, and the milk left after the last of the granola is gone reminds me of the rare childhood occasions that we were allowed to eat sugary cereals. But now, as an adult, sugary milk is not really what I look for in a breakfast cereal. And as good as these granolas taste, they are really not helping the sugar habit that I developed over the holidays, rekindled during Valentine’s day, and somehow have kept feeding well into March.

This homemade granola was just the stuff I needed to start out the spring. It has more depth than the store-bought stuff and, even better, I know exactly what has gone into it. It was a cinch to make and it is incredibly versatile. Really, the only negative thing I have to say about it is that it needs a bit of babysitting while cooking. Not overbearing babysitting, it’s true– it’s more like babysitting a tweenager in that it needs to be stirred about every ten minutes instead of watched constantly. But that makes it an excellent project for when you are already cooking something else and are thus already in the kitchen. I can see it being a great weeknight project as well as a weekend one especially because– and here is the best part– this recipe makes about ten cups of granola.

So, what are you waiting for? Get your baking sheets ready and prepare to start your days off right.

Homemade Granola 1

Hearty Healthy Homemade Granola

Adapted from Kitchen Treaty’s recipe here.

1 cup brown sugar, packed. Alternatives include 1 cup honey, 1 cup pure maple syrup, 1/2 cup brown sugar and 1/2 cup honey, 1/2 cup maple syrup and 1/2 cup brown sugar.

1/2 cup vegetable oil

3 tablespoons unsalted butter

1/2 tablespoon ground cinnamon

Pinch of salt (not recommended if using salted nuts)

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

5 cups oats. The recipe calls for rolled oats, but I used the quick-cook variety and things have turned out just fine.

4 cups nuts and seeds. I used 2 cups slivered almonds and 2 cups sunflower seeds, but go crazy– flaxseeds, chia seeds, pepitas, and various chopped nuts would also go great in granola!

1 cup dried fruit. I used chopped dried tart cherries, but blueberries, chopped apricots, raisins, dried cranberries, or coconut would also be great!

Preheat your oven to 325 degrees Fahrenheit. Line two large rimmed cookie sheets with parchment paper or silicone mats or, alternatively, spray with a light coating of cooking oil.

Toss together the oats, nuts, and seeds in a large bowl. Do not add the fruit yet– you’ll add it after baking.

In a small saucepan over low heat, combine the honey/syrup/brown sugar with the butter and vegetable oil. Let the sugar melt and stir occasionally to combine the ingredients, then add the cinnamon, salt, and vanilla  and stir well. When the butter has completely melted and the ingredients are well combined, pour the mixture over the oats and toss until evenly coated.

Spread the granola on your cookie sheets and bake for 30-40 minutes, stirring every ten minutes. Be sure to switch the top and bottom trays halfway through baking to ensure an even toast. Cook until the granola turns golden brown and then remove from the oven.

Cool the granola in the pans. When cooled, add the dried fruit and mix well. The granola can be stored in an airtight container for up to a month at room temperature.

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