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Archive for the ‘Snack foods’ Category

Plays well with fruits and nuts, ice cream and honey, or just by itself. My kids? Sometimes. Crunchy, tasty, crisp, nutritious. Who doesn’t like granola?

As long as my teeth survive, you may mutter. Good point. Those Nature Valley bars can do enough damage to finance an orthodontist’s 2nd home. And if it takes that much to masticate, what is it doing to your innards, I ask you? But now (doncha just love that biblical phrase that turns everything around?) there is hope for teeth and tummy.

Cooks Illustrated included a fantastic base recipe for granola in the March/April issue. Adam Reid, ATK’s gadget guru, threw it together when he wasn’t busy figuring out which blender would grind up a tree stump the fastest. He listed several variations and gave several helpful guidelines.

Taking it all into account, here is the base recipe, as well as ditches to avoid and directions to explore.

Granola Base Recipe

  • 1/3 Cup   maple syrup*
  • 1/3 Cup   light brown sugar
  • 4 tsp         vanilla extract
  • 1/2 tsp     salt
  • 1/2 Cup   vegetable oil
  • 5 Cups      rolled oats
  • 2 Cups      chopped nuts
  • 2 Cups      dried fruit (optional)

Directions

  1. Oven rack in middle. Oven temp – 325. Line a sheet pan or a couple 9×12 casserole dishes with parchment paper.
  2. Whisk maple syrup*, brown sugar, vanilla, and salt in bowl. Stir in oats and nuts till thoroughly combined.
  3. Sprinkle granola into dishes or pack it in with the back of a spatula to make bars.
  4. Bake 40-45 minutes. Remove from oven and let cool at least an hour. If you are making bars, break it into irregular pieces (Reid describes it as ‘granola bark’ which is pretty apt.) Stir in the dried fruit.

Half sheet pan of granola going into the oven.

40 minutes later, look at me now! Tanned and ready to go

Ditches and directions

$35.77 for 64 oz! $.56/oz!!!

* I have no doubts that Reid, being in Vermont and working for ATK, intends the maple syrup to be the real mccoy from the trees. I don’t have that budget, so I used “Maple flavored Pancake Syrup.” (You may now arise from your fainting spell if you are in New England and/or have an unlimited budget for granola. You may now call me blessed if you have a normal-sized budget and 3 kids who treat this stuff as candy; I have tried the recipe with the low cost alternative and it works just fine.)

The biggest pain of the whole recipe is chopping the nuts. Reid says that the food pro does a terrible job of chopping nuts, and he would probably say the same thing about a slap-chopper. But I think I am going to try that next, cuz keeping little fingers out from under the knife blade is sometimes a challenge. Plus their li’l eyeballs are right at the level of nut-shrapnel.

Along that line: I had about 1.5 cups of pecan flour dust in the freezer after making pecan crusted pork pinwheels. (The crust needed small bits of pecan, but the dust becomes problematic. And I hate throwing away food. So there was all this pecan dust/flour.) Anyway, I tossed that in with the oats and nuts and it was fine. Probably bumped up the nut flavor.

Reid says that any attempt to include dried fruit into the bars/granola while baking will inevitably dry it out. I like granola just fine without dried fruit, so I didn’t bother. Plus how do you mix dried fruit bits into the packed and baked bars?

This recipe can probably head as many different directions as you can think of with nuts and fruits and combinations. Use your imagination. Use what you have available. Throw in some M&Ms. Toss it in a bag for school snack.

Looks so good, I’ll show it twice.

Try it some morning in a bowl with fruit and drizzled with honey. Your whole day will be better.

Assessment:  A

The first time, I used 2 casserole pans, making one loose and crumbled, and the other packed into bars. The second batch I packed into a half sheet pan. It is easy to crumble up after the fact.

This granola is great crumbled. Just stir it once or twice while baking. Dynamite for cereal. The bars were just as good. They hold their shape well, but are not jaw-breakingly dense like the-bars-that-shall-now-go-unnamed.

This an easy snack to make. Great for kids to help with. It stores really well. But it won’t last long, either.

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