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adapted from Gale Gand's Applesauce Cake 1/2 cup (1 stick) butter, softened to room temperature 2 cups brown sugar (dark or light), ...

Saturday, April 11, 2015

granola sans grains

sometimes I yearn for a spoonful of something sweet, spiced, nutty, fruity & crunchy to go with my Greek yogurt. you know: granola. I've been eating it since I was a young child, having been raised by parents who strongly believed in the health benefits of whole grain cereals. I'm grateful for their concerns about my health, though now I find I feel better not eating grains. when I feel that craving come on, rather than give in to the lure of familiar, tasty oat-based granola, I instead eat this equally delicious and nutrient-dense concoction, which totally satisfies that urge. this grain-free granola is comprised of toasted nuts and seeds, flavored with familiar granola-esque sweetness and spice, and enhanced with your favorite dried fruit thrown into the mix for good measure. try a few small spoonfuls to top your morning yogurt; you won't miss the oats for a second.

  • 1-1/2 tablespoons organic, unrefined coconut oil (the kind that smells of delicious coconut)
  • 1 cup of raw, whole almonds
  • 1 cup of raw, whole cashews (or pieces)
  • 1/4 cup raw, hulled sesame seeds
  • 1/2 cup pepitas (raw green pumpkin seeds)
  • optional: 1/3 cup chopped roasted pistachios (if you use salted pistachios, cut the salt way down or leave it out entirely
  • 2 tablespoons grass-fed butter (I used Kerrygold; if you want to keep it vegan, just use a total of 3 tablespoons coconut oil)
  • 1/3 cup honey or 1/2 cup maple syrup; whichever you have on hand/prefer. I used a light clover honey
  • 1/3-1/2 cup palm sugar, coconut sugar or brown sugar. I used palm sugar that I shaved off the pressed disc with my knife, so the measurement is not exact, as irregularly-shaped shavings of sugar are hard to measure perfectly without a kitchen scale (I should get one). I had about 1/2 cup of the shaved palm sugar, and after melting it down with the honey, it all told it came out to ~2/3 cup of liquid sugar. feel free to use more or less of the sweeteners (depending on how sweet you like your granola). if you don't have palm sugar, you can use coconut sugar (which is about 2/3 less sweet) or brown sugar (similar in sweetness to palm sugar, but easier to measure -- 1/3 cup would be about right). I chose palm sugar because it's so delicious
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 tablespoon good powdered cinnamon -- the best you can buy -- or grind your own (I use and love 24 Mantra Organic Cinnamon Powder)
  • 1/2 teaspoon or more sea salt (less or none if you use salted pistachios)
  • 1/2-2/3 cup of your favorite dried fruit -- I used a combination of dried tart Montmorency cherries and dried blueberries -- about 1/3 cup of each
how you make it: melt 1 tablespoon of the coconut oil in a medium-large skillet over medium heat, and toast the almonds and cashews, stirring fairly regularly, until they're almost as dark as you want them. remove skillet from heat and scoop the toasted nuts out into a big bowl. use a stick blender to roughly chop them into irregular shapes. it's fine if some stay whole, and if some get sort of powdered. irregular is good here. you can also pulse them in a food processor a few times, if you prefer -- that will give you a more even texture. I find the variation of large & small pieces more interesting, but you should make this how you want it. put your chopped nuts in a mixing bowl large enough to hold all the ingredients. 

next, melt 1/2 tablespoon of coconut oil in the same skillet over medium heat, and start the sesame seeds toasting, stirring constantly. when they're almost a nice golden brown, add the pepitas and toast everything, stirring all the while, until the pepitas pop/puff up. remove from heat and add to the bowl of almonds and cashews. if you're using pistachios, add them to the bowl

now, add the butter and sweeteners to a microwavable glass measuring cup and microwave the mixture in 30-second increments, until melted (alternatively, melt it all in a small saucepan on your stovetop). be careful -- the melted sugar is hot. stir in the cinnamon and sea salt, drizzle it over your nut mixture and stir it all together. let it form clumps -- those are often the best pieces of granola. if you want, you can spread it all out on an oiled baking sheet and bake at 300 degrees F, stirring every 20 minutes, for about an hour, but I don't bother. maybe I should, but it tastes awesome just the way it is, so... I do it my way. whatever you choose to do -- leave it in the bowl, or bake it to crisp it further -- add your dried fruit after that step. choose whatever you have and love to eat. if it's large dried fruit, like pineapple rings or mango, cut it into reasonably-sized pieces. store it in a covered container and enjoy! use it wherever you'd use regular granola -- on yogurt, in a bowl of milk (cashew milk is particularly good here), etc. -- just remember, a smaller serving will fill you up, so adjust your serving size accordingly. this is very nutrient-dense food, just the way we like it.

*note: this recipe is extremely flexible; it's less an actual recipe and more of a framework for you to use whatever kind of nuts, seeds, fruits, sweeteners, etc. that you like. the proportions of the individual ingredients and the cooking technique is what works to make this taste granola-y. feel free to use pecans, walnuts, macadamia nuts, brazil nuts, etc. whatever you like. sliced almonds are a great choice -- their flakiness reminds me of rolled oats. the seeds are flexible as well: you can certainly leave out the sesame seeds if you don't like them (I love their flavor, and also appreciate their nutritive value), or replace the pepitas with sunflower seeds. I recommend that you do use some seeds; they help bind the granola and replicate the feel of grains. the sweeteners are obviously easily swapped, as mentioned in the recipe. and of course, you should spice it however you like. I like pure vanilla and cinnamon, but you may want to add a touch of allspice or nutmeg, cardamom, or the ever-popular pumpkin pie spice. re: the fats -- I love the combination of unrefined coconut oil and grass-fed butter, but you can use either one alone, or try olive oil for a change of pace! and of course, use your favorite dried fruits. I hope you enjoy this as much as I do.