Summer is nearly upon us, and these last few hot, sticky days have me ready to switch over from my regular morning nourishment of hot oatmeal, soy milk & grade B maple syrup to something a bit more seasonal. I'm fairly attached to my morning routine, so it's always with great hesitation that I make the transition to lighter fare. Any sense of loss is soon muted, however, by the joy of making my own granola.
It's an entirely creative endeavor, which is why the guidelines you'll find below for making your own are merely suggestions, not a recipe to be slavishly fussed over. Last year, it was all about nuts. This year, I've been feeling inspired by the tremendous variety of seeds available in the market. They're packed with nutrition, and they're potent symbols of this blooming, springing time of year, when everything is bursting with possibility.
I also happen to love exploring rolled grains beyond oats. Spelt, rye, and kamut all have a distinctive nuttiness of their own, and add a delicious diversity to the mix. Here's how to take advantage of it all:
3 lbs. rolled grains (can be any mix of oats, spelt, rye, whatever else you can find...if you've never tried these other rolled grains before, start with a base of oats, and add small amounts of the other grains until you find a combination you like...)
1/2 cup sesame seeds
1/2 cup flax seeds (either dark or golden, whichever you prefer)
1/2 cup raw, unsalted pumpkin seeds (also called pepitas)
1/2 cup raw sunflower seeds
in addition to this mixture, you could also add any other seeds you love, including chia seeds or hemp seeds
3-4 cups large-flaked unsweetened coconut
1 stick of butter
1/2 cup good quality olive oil
1/2 cup date sugar or maple syrup (to taste, I prefer my granola less sweet...you can always drizzle it with honey before serving...)
spices: add a dash of cinnamon, cardamom, nutmeg, or a splash of vanilla extract if you like
Line two 12x16 inch rimmed baking sheets with parchment paper and preheat the oven to 325F.
Begin by mixing the grains, seeds and coconut in a large bowl.
In a small saucepan, brown the butter, stirring carefully to avoid burning & splattering. Allow to cool for a few minutes. I don't strain out the dark bits because I love their taste, but if your butter bits have gotten a bit too dark, you can strain the butter through a fine-mesh strainer to remove them. Add the olive oil and sweetener of your choice into the butter, being careful not to splash the hot liquid, then add the spices or extract.
Carefully pour the warm mixture over the grains and seeds, mix until everything is evenly coated. Divide the mixture between the two sheet pans and bake until very lightly golden. Keep a close eye on the trays during baking, and rotate as necessary to ensure even coloring. It's also a good idea to gently stir the mixture during this time, as the edges tend to brown faster than the middle. When your desired level of toastiness has been reached, remove the trays from the oven and allow to cool. Once the granola is completely cool, it is ready to be stored in jars. A well-sealed jar of granola will probably keep longer than it takes you to eat it, and if the crispness fades, granola retoasts brilliantly in a low oven.