Easy Homemade Granola

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I love granola! It’s versatile, filling, and when made properly, very nutritious. Today, I’m going to walk you through my homemade granola formula that is low in sugar, fat, and sodium, and free from high fructose corn syrup and preservatives found in many packaged varieties.

The staple ingredient of granola is rolled oats. Oats are among the first foods a baby can eat and I figure, if they’re safe for a six-month-old who’s trying food for the first time, they’ve gotta be some really good-for-you stuff. Oats contain more dietary fiber than any other grain and even have cholesterol-lowering properties. Given my history with battling hereditary high cholesterol, I’ve always been in when it comes to this super food.

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Of all of the different types of oats out there, granola comes together best with rolled. Rolled oats are whole grain oats that have been steamed and pressed. They retain more texture in many kitchen applications than instant oats and cook faster than steel-cut oats (which I also love). I buy them in bulk and always have some in my pantry for a quick oatmeal.

In today’s granola, I’m also using raw sunflower seeds. Their flavor is mild and texture crunchy, but easy to chew; Nolan will eat a whole pile of them as is. Sunflower seeds are rich in Vitamins E and B-1 and copper, which benefits skin and hair. In addition, if you’ve got a nut allergy, you can buy sunflower butter as an alternative to peanut, almond, or cashew.

DSC_1957Before you get into making this breakfast formula, you should know that on its own, it is not very sweet. The low sugar content doesn’t bother me one bit since I never eat my granola without fresh fruit on top or with togurt, but you could always add more dried fruit if you want to take the sweetness up a notch. With very little exposure to sweets in his young life, Nolan is perfectly content eating this granola with just plant milk.

A couple more notes… If you don’t have all of these seeds on hand, no worries; you can make the granola without, it just won’t be as nutrient-packed. And finally, whenever possible, make your own juice to avoid preservatives and added sugar.  Enjoy!

DSC_1961FORMULA BASE: GRANOLA

Serves 6

  • 4 cups rolled oats
  • 1 cup dried fruit*, raw nuts, and/or raw seeds –> I’m using a combination of sunflower seeds, dried cherries, dried cranberries, almonds, and pecans.
  • 1 tbsp ground flaxseed
  • 1 tbsp chia seeds
  • 1 tbsp hulled hemp seeds
  • 1 cup 100% fruit juice –> I’m using fresh-squeezed orange (2) and grapefruit (1/2).
  • 1 heaping tbsp nut butter –> I’m using peanut.
  • 2 tbsp sweetener –> I’m using agave syrup.
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • Oil enough to grease a cookie sheet or baking dish –> I’m using coconut oil to grease a 9 x 13 glass baking dish as it is easier to stir the granola.

*Whenever possible, if you do not dehydrate your own fruit, look for dried fruit that contains little to no added oil or sugar. Also avoid dried fruit that contains sulfur dioxide, as it is not allergy-friendly. See my trail mix post for more info.

Preheat your oven to 325 degrees. Combine juice, nut butter, sweetener, and cinnamon in a saucepan over medium heat. Once it begins to bubble, turn the heat down to low and let thicken for about 15 minutes.

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While what I call “the sticky” simmers, finely chop your dried fruit/seeds/nuts, if necessary, and combine with the oats and seeds in a large bowl. When the sticky is ready, slowly incorporate it into the oat mixture as you stir. Spread evenly on a lightly greased cookie sheet or in a lightly greased baking sheet.

Bake for 30-35 minutes – or until granola is crunchy and golden brown – turning every ten minutes or so. Let cool completely and store in a tightly sealed container in the pantry.

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Want to make granola bars? Try doubling “the sticky” and spread the complete mixture onto parchment paper. Bake at least 20 minutes, or until golden brown.

 

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DIY Trail Mix

Trail Mix II

Trail mix is one of my favorite snacks.  I prefer to make my own for both nutritional and monetary reasons.  Many premixed trail mixes are high in added sugars and oils, or include products like milk chocolate that I no longer eat, or raisins that I will never eat (I loved dried fruit, except raisins…I have no idea why!).  I also find that all too often premade mixes do not contain a ratio of sweet to savory that works for me, usually being either too sweet, too salty, or sometimes, too spicy.  Finally, while the premixed trail mixes boast clever names and yummy flavor combinations, they have a price tag to match.

The key to DIY trail mix is finding what you like, buying sale items in bulk, and combining them on your own, which takes very little time.  I am logging the trail mix that I made for this post under More Recipes because for the life of me, I couldn’t decide on a formula.  This is mainly because what I put in my trail mix in a given week depends on what is on sale in bulk at my local grocer.

Nuts, seeds, chocolate, and dried fruits are expensive, so I never go into making a trail mix with set ingredients in mind; I build a trail mix based on what is on sale.  I typically seek out mostly nuts and seeds, as they are a primary protein and fat source for me.  Chocolate and dried fruits are less of a priority (I eat tons of raw fruit), but I grab them when the price is right.

Whenever possible, all of the nuts and seeds I purchase are raw, as to avoid excess fat and salt.  Today’s mix includes all raw nuts with the exception of roasted, unsalted cashew pieces that were so incredibly marked down, I couldn’t pass them up!

Additionally, whenever possible, the dried fruits I purchase are free of added sugars, oils, and preservatives.  Sulfur dioxide, which is often added to dried fruit to preserve color, is known to cause allergic reactions, so I never buy dried fruit with it listed in the ingredients.  Today’s fruits include dried cranberries that have a touch of added sunflower oil to prevent sticking together and dried pineapple that has no added oil, but does have a little added sugar to balance the tartness.

Trail mix is quite often the only dessert-like item I consume in a day, week, or sometimes, even month, so I add dark chocolate when it’s on sale.  With the decadent milk variety available everywhere, I was never a fan of dark chocolate growing up.  Now that I’ve gotten used to the flavor, I eat it here and there for its antioxidants, and truthfully, don’t much care for ultra-rich, super sweet milk chocolate anymore.

I eat ¼-½ cup of homemade trail mix every day.  It’s filling, delicious, and nutritious (mostly!  🙂 ), and satisfies my sweet tooth with less fat and sugar than a traditional dessert.  Enjoy!

SWEET AND SAVORY TRAIL MIX

  • ½ cup raw almonds
  • ½ cup raw red walnuts
  • ½ cup roasted, unsalted cashews
  • ¼ cup dried pineapple
  • ¼ cup dried cranberries (these were flavored with 100% blueberry juice)
  • ¼ cup dark chocolate covered peanuts
  • ¼ cup dark chocolate covered edamame

Combine all ingredients and store in your pantry in an airtight container for up to two weeks.  If you anticipate going through your trail mix more slowly, store in the fridge as the oils in nuts can spoil.

Trail Mix