Um… OK. I’m trying not to be too frustrated with myself right now. Believe it or not, I had drafted this post back in February – I just hadn’t got around to finishing it and posting it (what the blazes have I been doing for the past 6 months to justify that??!!!). I finally sat down just now to upload the photos and post it… and in the process, poof!! Everything vanished. I have no idea what happened. I didn’t delete anything… I didn’t type over anything. But all my text was gone. Not happy. Not happy one bit.
So… as I try to laugh this off as “one of those things”, let’s try this again. Oi oi oi…
I never used to be much of a granola fan. It always felt like I had a mouthful of cardboard crumbles in my mouth that tasted of nothing other than… well, cardboard. But in my constant pursuit to find healthy snacks that both Hubs and I enjoy to make and eat, I thought I’d revisit the “granola” idea. It seems like such a versatile food item. If you have a great version of the final product, it’s wonderful eaten on its own as a snack… especially on road trips… although it’s helpful to wear one of those pelican bibs to catch all the bits that miss your mouth as you drive over bumps and sink holes!! It’s also great with ice cold milk poured over it for breakfast or a late night snack. Or how about sprinkled on top of applesauce or my Slow-Roasted Balsamic Strawberries (shameless plug!!), with a dollop of Greek yogurt for a healthy dessert? Gosh – I’m getting hungry!!
So, since the options to dress it up or down seemed limitless, I started looking for a granola recipe that might inspire me.
Enter Sylvie from Gourmande in the Kitchen. I’ll spare you the countless less-than-average recipes that I tried, and will simply say that Sylvie is a genius!! She deconstructed granola and came up with a wonderful list of ingredients that gives you the BEST granola I’ve ever eaten!! I don’t want to steal her thunder, so pop on over to her site to read why you should use two different kinds of oats, why it’s good to include fruit puree, what the benefits are of using both a liquid and a sugar sweetener, blah blah blah… It’s worth the read!!
To make things a little more challenging when it comes to me finding a granola recipe I like: I have a nut allergy. Most nut-free recipes make up for it by adding seeds of all shapes and sizes… but there are some seeds I can’t eat, and the rest of them I don’t like!! (Can I hear “high maintenance” coming from the chorus line??!!) However, the beautiful thing about granola is that you can find the base recipe that works for you, and then you can add whatever the heck you want to after that!! Well, folks, without further ado, let me present to you my favorite base recipe…
Nut-Free Chewy Granola (makes approx 1 gallon)
(From Gourmande in the Kitchen, with some tweakings…)
2 1/2 cups old fashioned oats
2 1/2 cups quick cooking oats
2 cups Rice Krispies (if you can get the brown rice variety, do it!!)
3/4 cup applesauce
1/2 cup agave nectar
3/4 cup packed light brown sugar
2 tbs vegetable oil
2 tsp vanilla extract
3 tsp kosher salt or sea salt, divided
2 cups dark chocolate, chopped into small chunks
2 cups sultanas or golden raisins
1 cup coconut, shredded or flaked, sweetened or not, toasted or not (there are no rules!!)
Preheat oven to 300F and move racks to upper and lower thirds of the oven.
Line two rimmed baking sheets with parchment paper (not foil or wax paper – ask me how I know!!) and set aside.
In a large bowl, combine the two oats and Rice Krispies.
In a smaller bowl, mix together the applesauce, agave, sugar, oil and vanilla until well blended.
Pour the wet mixture into the dry and mix thoroughly to ensure that all the dry ingredients are coated.
Sprinkle 1 pinch of salt over the mixture and stir to combine. Repeat twice more.
Divide the mixture evenly between the two baking sheets. At this point you can either squeeze small clumps of the granola together and space them apart on the cookie sheet to allow air to circulate around them… or you can spread the mixture out in a thin layer and use a scrap of parchment paper to lightly press it down with your hand (this is what I do).
Bake for 20 minutes. Rotate the baking sheets and bake for another 20 minutes or so, until the granola is dry and turning golden. (It will continue to crisp up once it comes out of the oven.)
Allow to cool for 5 minutes… and then tip into a large bowl. Add the chopped chocolate, raisins and coconut and gently turn everything over to evenly distribute the add-ins, breaking up the large chunks of granola as you go. (The raisins tend to soften the granola over time, so feel free to add those later if you prefer.)
Allow to cool completely, then store in an airtight container.
Enjoy on its own, drenched in milk, or sprinkled on fruit, yogurt or ice cream. Yum!!