As you may have gathered from my Earth Day post, we try our best to make as many things from scratch as possible. We're by no means hard core, but we do make an effort to avoid processed foods and boxes of junk from the grocery store shelves. Since watching The Future of Food and Food Inc., and reading a couple of Michael Pollan's books (namely The Omnivore's Dilemma and In Defense of Food, which I'm reading now) Farmer B and I have become really squiggy about corn and HFCS. It's really turned us off these boxes and bags of processed corn disguised as food. This has us particularly uncomfortable around boxed cereal. The affordable stuff is just corn in a costume with a heavy dose of HFCS and the good stuff is so pricey it's unrealistic for a family of four.
A year or so ago (maybe longer?) I found this great granola recipe and I've been making it on and off ever since. I wish I remembered where exactly I found the recipe, but it's been so long that I can't remember. I don't pretend that it's my creation, but it has become part of the regular recipe rotation around here.
The first thing you should know is that this recipe makes a lot of granola. Don't be tempted to halve it. You'll regret it and wish you'd made the full recipe. I weighed it once and it comes to about five-and-a-half pounds of granola - depending on how crazy you get with the nuts and dried fruit.
Here's what you need:
10 cups old fashioned oats
1/2 cup wheat germ
1/2 cup milled flax seeds (I don't use this)
1/2 lb unsweetened dried shredded coconut
1 cup sesame seeds
1 1/2 cups slivered almonds
1 1/2 cups chopped pecans
1 cup brown sugar substitute (regular brown sugar can be used)
1 1/2 cups water
3/4 cup canola oil
1/2 cup honey (local or organic is best)
1/2 cup sorghum or molasses (I use molasses)
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
2 teaspoons cinnamon
1 tablespoon vanilla
2 cups dried fruit (combination of raisins, blueberries, cranberries)
Preheat oven to 300 degrees.
In a large bowl combine oats, wheat germ, flax seed, coconut, sesame seeds and nuts, mixing well.
In a large saucepan, combine the brown sugar substitute or brown sugar, water, oil, honey, sorghum, salt, cinnamon and vanilla.
Heat until thoroughly mixed; do not boil.
Pour the syrup over dry ingredients and stir until coated well.
Spread onto three large cookie sheets. (You want to sort of smush it down and keep one even layer.)
Bake 10 minutes, then move each sheet to a different shelf in the oven. (Keep repeating this process until you've baked the granola about 35-40 minutes. I take mine out when the edges just start to brown).
Cool mixture and add dried fruit. (You MUST let it cool completely on the pans. Don't stir it up until it's cool if you want chunkier pieces).
Store in airtight container in a cool dry place. (It will become crunchier as it cools.)
Will keep up to 6 months. Lasts about a week around here.
The first important thing I learned about this recipe is to buy some of the ingredients at our local natural foods shop instead of the grocery store. You can buy a tiny little 1 oz container of McCormick sesame seeds for $2.99 at our grocery store, or I can go to the bulk bin at the natural foods store and buy an entire cup for about $1.50. The unsweetened dried shredded coconut is also impossible to find at our grocery store but Bob's Red Mill coconut is very affordable at the natural foods shop.
The original recipe said you should stir the granola every few minutes too. I prefer the texture if I don't stir it - I get larger crunchier chunks, which we love. But it's up to you. Oh, and I line the pans with parchment paper so I don't have to worry about any of it sticking to the pans.
I have also made this recipe with 1/4 cup molasses and 1/4 cup real maple syrup, which turned out great. I plan on trying it with all maple syrup and no molasses sometime. You can change out the nuts and fruit to change up the flavor of the granola too. Try dried cherries and blueberries one time - then Craisins and raisins the next time. Substitute walnuts for pecans for a change also.
Farmer B inhales it by the bucketful. Both of my boys can't get enough of it (even that picky younger one of mine in the picture) and it's beyond filling. I love it with Vanilla Almond milk on top since I can't have dairy. We end up storing it in about 3-4 large Tupperware containers and I'm embarrassed to say we occasionally go through this much cereal in just over a week.
So there you have it. Make your own granola and stop relying on the boxed junk from the grocery store. I'm sure you'll love it!