granola

maple pecan granola with dates

IMG_5418

This is my favorite granola. Without a doubt. Hands down. No questions asked. End of story. (I’m out of cliché phrases for indubitably.)

IMG_5362

Here are some reasons why I love this granola:

  1. Pecans are my favorite nuts. They make everything taste good. 
  2. Maple is a delicious flavor.
  3. Pecans + maple is a stellar combination.
  4. Dates are incredibly naturally sweet.
  5. I have five or six sweet teeth – not just one sweet tooth, like most people.
  6. This granola is sweet.
  7. This granola is like dessert for breakfast, only healthy and filling.
  8. I love food.
  9. I love breakfast.IMG_1274

As with most things, this granola is a combination of things that taste good with each other. It goes like this: Maple and pecans is a good combination. Pecans and dates taste good together. Dates and maple couldn’t be a bad combination. So, dates and maple and pecans would certainly be delicious. Ahhh, logic. It applies even to food.IMG_1279

I first made this exactly a year ago in April of 2012. I based it off of one of my first ever granola recipes, Spiced Cashews and Date Granola, which I’d come up with in September of 2011, right before leaving for Peru. That recipe included puffed wheat cereal as well as oats, which made for a unique texture combination. I was pleased with hint of warm spices along with the soft sweetness of the dates and the buttery crunch of the cashews. Swapping cashews for the even more flavorful pecans and adding maple syrup was the obvious next link in the chain of granola evolution.IMG_5415

Since last April every time I’ve made granola, I’ve made this Maple Pecan with Dates one, along with my other recipes. After tweaking it here and there, I think I have the amount of liquid and dry ingredients as well as the spices just about right, at least for my taste. It’s sweet. It’s crunchy. It’s oil-free, just like all of my granola. And it’s pretty healthy, as carbolicious breakfasts go. I love it.IMG_1285

You know what else I love? Having four days of classes left in the school year! YIPEE! Happily for me, my two exams fall on the first two exam days, so I get to leave on May 1st. Now if I can just make it through these three papers this week… I’ll be snacking on a lot of granola to get me through.IMG_5424

Maple Pecan Granola with Dates

  • 4 cups oats
  • 1/4 cup flax meal
  • 1 cup pecans, chopped
  • 1 + 1/2 cups dates, chopped
  • 1/3 cup maple syrup
  • 1/3 cup unsweetened applesauce
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon allspice
  • 1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
  • 1/4 teaspoon vanilla

Preheat your oven to 300°F.

Toss all the ingredients – except for the dates -into a big bowl and mix well, until everything is evenly distributed. Spread on a baking sheet or two. Bake for 45 to 60 minutes, until lightly golden, stirring every 15 minutes or so. Mix in the chopped dates after the granola is finished baking. Enjoy by the spoonful, the handfull, the bowlfull!

banana & peanut butter granola clusters

IMG_5399

I’m back with another granola recipe. Of course.

This granola could be expressed as a logical syllogism:

All granola recipes need a sweetener.

Some bananas are (very) sweet.

∴ Some bananas can be granola sweeteners.

IMG_5392

That’s how my thinking regarding this granola went. I’m occasionally alarmed – though usually I don’t let it bother me – at the vast quantities of agave syrup, brown rice syrup, maple syrup, and honey that are consumed by the batches and batches of granola I make. So, in an attempt to escape from the cauldron of semi-processed liquid sweetener into which I had fallen, I decided to experiment with just using fruit as a sweetener.IMG_5394

Mid-way through last semester I conducted my first experiments with granola sweetened with blueberry and strawberry purees, respectively. They were an utter failure. I could neither taste the blueberry or strawberry flavor nor detect any sweetness. In the end I was forced to add brown sugar to my already baked granola, and during the rest of the semester I made it palatable by mixing it in with my other, far more tasty granola varieties.

IMG_5391

Over spring break I tried again, this time with bananas. Success! Lightly sweetened granola sans liquid sweetener! Granted, the actual banana flavor is mostly masked by the peanut butter and nutmeg, but that’s because I like peanut butter. If you want more banana flavor, I’d say reduce the peanut butter and cut out some of the nutmeg, which may or may not work. Regardless, using the ripest, sweetest bananas it tantamount. Got bananas covered in black spots? Use those. Mostly blackened bananas you stuck in the freezer to save for banana bread? Those ones.

IMG_5358

Riper bananas are sweeter bananas.

Sweeter bananas make sweeter granola.

Sweeter granola is better granola.

∴ The riper the bananas, the sweeter the granola.

IMG_5360

This granola is marvelously crunchy and full of big clusters. It is just a good a snack as it is a breakfast cereal. Believe me, I know. In a fit of snackishness, I went through a good fourth (third?) of a batch in one evening. That was a delicious mistake. Now I’m stranded here at school, carefully rationing out my granola and raiding the dining hall for pumpkin seeds and peanuts to use as filler to bolster my stock. If I’m careful, I think I may just make it through the last three weeks of classes. Maybe.

IMG_5405

Banana & Peanut Butter Granola Clusters

  • 4 cups oats
  • 1/4 cup flax meal (optional)
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon nutmeg
  • 2 very ripe bananas (should be ~1 cup pureed)
  • 1/4 cup natural peanut butter
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1 cup roasted peanuts
  • 3/4 cup golden raisins

Preheat oven to 300°F.

Toss the bananas, peanut butter, and vanilla into a food processor and blend until smooth.  In a large bowl stir together the oats, flax, salt, and nutmeg. Add the banana puree and stir until all of the oats are evenly coated.

Spread the granola on a cookie sheet or two and bake for 60 to 75 minutes at 300°F, until crunchy and slightly golden. Add the roasted peanuts and golden raisins. Enjoy with milk, on yogurt, or by the handful!

gingerbread granola

gingerbread granola

Well, Website Wednesday is on vacation for the moment – an inauspicious beginning to the series, I know – while I dedicate the full force of my descriptive powers to my critique of critical essays of Pride and Prejudice. You read right. Critique of critical essays. Oh, the things I have to write. Last semester I wrote about gravestones. That’s a long story.

IMG_4965

Anyway, since I’ve basically committed to posting twice a week now – Website Wednesday and a recipe post on the weekend – I decided I couldn’t post nothing. Actually, it would be incredibly sensible to post nothing. I think I’m a bit crazy to demand of myself two posts a week. Then again, no I’m not. This silly little blog is becoming just as important to me as my schoolwork, so by golly I’m going to devote myself to it as if it were schoolwork. I refuse to give in. Take that, German homework and Pride and Prejudice paper!

Photo on 2013-02-26 at 21.03

So, tomorrow when I get up at 7:30 to keep working on said paper, I’ll munch on some granola. It’ll be Gingerbread Granola. Yeah. It’ll be an act of defiance of the very paper I’m working on, since I’ll have blogged about the granola when I should have been working on the paper. I may be a sleep deprived and muttering about “art versus nature” and “anti-jacobin sentiment” as I stumble to class, but I will have blogged about granola. Hah!

gingerbread granola

At this rate I am beginning to think I should call myself “The Granola Queen” and start another blog with that name. It seems like every other recipe I post is granola. Oh well. This one tastes like Christmas break, which makes it especially appropriate to eat when you’re bogged down with work that puts you in an exceedingly un-Christmasy spirit. When you don’t have time to bake gingersnaps or gingerbread, you can still have the happy flavor of Christmas spices in your bowl for breakfast. There’s even that familiar little bite of baking soda. So, snag your pen, scoot up to your desk, or hunch over your textbook, and shovel some merry gingerbread flavor into your mouth at breakfast time. It just might help.

gingerbread granola

Gingerbread Granola

Ingredients:

  • 4 cups oats
  • 1/4 cup flax seeds or flax seed meal
  • 1 cup chopped walnuts
  • 1/4 cup raw sunflower seeds
  • 1/4 cup molasses
  • 2 tablespoons honey (or other liquid sweetener, like agave)
  • 1/3 cup unsweetened applesauce
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 + 1/2 teaspoons cinnamon
  • 1 + 1/2 teaspoons ginger
  • 1 teaspoon nutmeg
  • 1/2 teaspoon cloves
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt

Preheat over to 275°F.

In a large bowl combine the spices, salt, oats, and other dry ingredients. Mix molasses, honey, and applesauce in a small bowl. Pour the liquid into the oat mixture and stir until all of the oats are coated. When you think you have stirred enough, stir some more. Once everything is perfectly incorporated, spread the granola on a baking sheet or two and bake for 45 to 60 minutes, stirring every 10 to 15 minutes. The cooking time will depend on how thin you spread the granola on the baking sheets. Bake until the granola is lightly browned and mostly free of moisture. Enjoy!

my valentine’s day breakfast

IMG_5243

This morning has been excellent. I woke up to the bright sun reaching through our dorm room blinds, promising that it had driven away the cold and drifting mist from yesterday. Finally, I have a new cell phone – that’s a three-week saga that must be told at some point. Carolina’s basketball team lost last night, and I care not a whit, which makes me happier than most anyone else on campus. And, my stomach felt just fine despite my having ingested vast quantities of sugar last night.

IMG_5230

Best of all, I had cookies and milk for breakfast.

IMG_5239

Grandma L.’s sugar cookies are out of this world. Seriously, they’re better than any I’ve ever tasted before in my life. Better than the kind you buy from a bakery or make from a Pillsbury tin. And this is after they were shipped across the country. I was more than happy to set aside my usual, sensible granola breakfast and use my cereal bowl to hold milk for dipping the cookies.

IMG_5215

The insanely delicious cookies, an alarming number of which I snarfed down yesterday afternoon and evening, came along with other Valentine’s candy, the best of which was an enormous bag of Peanut Butter M&Ms. My grandparents know me well.

IMG_5235

I had never tried Peanut Butter M&Ms before. They are good. The peanut butter inside is smooth and soft, and the M&Ms themselves are about the size of Peanut M&Ms. I can’t decide whether the crunch of a real peanut or the soft smoothness of the peanut butter is preferable. I think M&M should make a mixed bag with both Peanut M&Ms and Peanut Butter M&Ms. And then give me some of the profits for thinking up the brilliant idea. Yeah.

IMG_5247

Anyway, that was my Valentine’s Day breakfast: heart-shaped, frosted sugar cookies dipped in milk and accompanied by Peanut Butter M&Ms. I should get back to homework. Midterms and papers start in earnest next week. Oh goodie gumdrops.

IMG_5246

Happy Chocoholic’s Day, guys!

[This post is made possible in part by support from My Awesome Grandparents Inc.]

apple cinnamon granola

IMG_4928

I’ve mentioned before that my breakfasts at college consist of granola, granola, and only granola that I make and bring from home. Last time, I posted two kinds of granola that I ate last semester: double almond and chocolate hazelnut. I thoroughly enjoyed those last semester.

But this is a new year, a new semester! A fresh chance to try new granola flavor combinations! The exciting possibility of novel breakfast choices is upon us! It would be shameful to miss such an opportunity.

IMG_4947

In the interest of taking advantage of every chance to further explore the granola universe, I made two new kinds. This is one of them: apple cinnamon granola. You can look for the other in an upcoming post.

IMG_4935

Though I had originally considered purchasing dried apples from Trader Joe’s to simplify the process for this recipe, I quickly discarded the idea. We have a convenient dehydrator that gets sadly neglected in the winter months, so I figured it would be happy to be of use.

IMG_4941

While I stood contemplating the apple choices at the grocery store, an older man filling a produce bag with deep red apples recommended I purchase his favorite variety: winesap. “They’re really sweet; that’s why they’re called ‘winesap.’ And they’re only available around this time of the year.” Who was I to mistrust the information of a man who knew his favorite apple and its season? I bought a ten. Conveniently, they were the cheapest and had been grown in the North Carolina mountains. Success!

As promised, the apples were superbly sweet, albeit a bit soft. That made no difference since I planned to dehydrate them. I cored and sliced them with our apple peeler-corer-slicer – handy kitchen tool, that – and spread them on the racks of the dehydrator. The next day I made the granola.

IMG_4949

What goes better with apples than cinnamon? Not much. Add some walnuts for extra crunch and nuttiness, and you have it. Simple and tasty, people. You can’t go wrong with that.

IMG_4932

Apple Cinnamon Granola

Ingredients:

  • 4 cups oats
  • 1/4 cup flax meal or seeds
  • 1 cup chopped walnuts
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 2 + 1/2 tablespoons cinnamon, divided
  • 1/3 cup unsweetened applesauce
  • 1/3 cup honey (or other liquid sweetener, like agave or brown rice syrup)
  • 2 cups dried apples, chopped

Preheat oven to 275°F.

Combine 1 + 1/2 tablespoons cinnamon with the rest of the dry ingredients, except the apples.  In a separate bowl whisk the applesauce and honey, and then pour over the oat mixture. Stir well, until all the oats are coated in the honey and applesauce mixture and everything is evenly incorporated. Spread the granola on a baking sheet or two. Bake for 45 to 60 minutes, stirring every 10 to 15 minutes. Baking time will vary depending on how thinly you spread the granola. After baking the granola, add the dried apples and remaining tablespoon of cinnamon. Enjoy!

chocolate hazelnut granola + double almond granola

IMG_4525

Without a doubt, my gravest concern about living at college was the food. Staying in the dorms is mandatory for freshmen, so I knew I would have no choice about that. At first I held tightly to the faint hope that I would be able to cook sometimes at college. Alas, reality soon necessitated that I relinquish that fantasy.

IMG_4540

My dorm, which I chose and do love for its four-person style suites, recent construction, and cozy size of only 250 occupants, tragically lacks an adequate number of decent kitchens. Indeed, there is only one. This solitary tribute to the existence of home cooking is a rather grimy kitchenette on the third floor. On the rare occasion I enter this fated room, I notice that single panel light in the ceiling flickers almost imperceptibly as it blasts its sterile light onto the splattered and encrusted oven, microwave, and sink surrounded by the disturbingly speckled, formerly white-ish countertop. As I dutifully scan the faded brochure about fire safety hanging halfheartedly from the red bulletin board by a single pin, I wonder to myself what would happen if an epileptic decided to make a pot of pasta. I hope I never find out the answer to that question. In any case, the pseudo-kitchen is pathetic and worthy only of college-level cooking such as zuppe di ramen.

IMG_4279

Granted, before August I was unaware of the actual state of our dorm kitchen. Nevertheless, I presumed that I would be unable to do much cooking. Still hoping to “Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants,” I decided the best I could do was control exactly what I consumed for breakfast. Breakfast in the dining hall, after all, consists of various boxed cereals, waffles, pancakes, gravy, eggs, bacon, et cetera – half food I don’t like, and all food I don’t want to eat unless I make it myself. Naturally, I made granola.

IMG_4282

Now, you must understand that I have a long and complicated history with granola. I don’t recall being aware of its existence until sometime around age eight. That’s when we moved to Uganda for two years, during which time I consumed mass quantities of granola. Perhaps my juvenile memories of those years do not serve me well, but I remember eating granola nearly every day for breakfast. The same kind. The same recipe. With the same off-tasting milk. Or the same homemade plain yogurt. For two years. My taste buds were severely scarred from the granola marathon, and it wasn’t until two or three years ago that I could stomach the thought of munching on granola – still that fateful faithful recipe – again. However, I infrequently selected granola over boxed cereal options until I firmly established my eating and cooking philosophies within the past year. Then, I realized that I needed more exciting granola options if I was to breakfast upon it multiple times a week, between pancakes and toast and such. So, I always kept a batch of some interesting granola in the cupboard next to Mom’s usual type. Heading to college planning to eat granola for breakfast every single day of the semester, I was certain the undertaking would require more varieties of granola than ever in order to avoid a relapse into granolaphobia. I made five kinds. 22 cups. And that was just the first round.

IMG_4292

Inspired by nutella and all its divine scrumptiousness, but unwilling to mix it into my breakfast cereal, I made the next best thing: a dark chocolate granola with hazelnut chunks. As beautifully deep and chocolatey as it appears, the chocolate flavor itself is not at all overpowering but just strong enough to compliment the hazelnuts without masking their marvelous flavor.

IMG_4518

Chocolate Hazelnut Granola

Ingredients:

  • 2 cups hazel nuts
  • 4 cups oats
  • 5 tablespoons dark cocoa powder (I use Hershey’s specialty dark)
  • 1 cup unsweetened shredded coconut
  •  1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1/3 cup unsweetened applesauce
  • 3/4 cup honey

Preheat oven to 300°F.

Spread hazelnuts on a baking sheet. Bake for 10 to 15 minutes, until skins are cracked and flaking. Remove husks by rubbing the hazelnuts between towels. Pick off any remaining skins. Roughly chop the hazelnuts.

In a large bowl combine the hazelnuts with the other dry ingredients. Whisk together the wet ingredients in a separate bowl, and then fold the mixture into the dry ingredients until well combined.

Spread the granola on a baking sheet or two. Bake for 60 to 75 minutes, stirring every 10 to 15 minutes to prevent burning.

Similarly, while the double almond granola does not scream almonds – only almond extract would have accomplished that, I think – it does have a rich taste. With both the crunch of the whole almonds and the deep flavor of the almond butter, I think it’s just right, especially for eating with berries.

IMG_4547

Double Almond Granola

Ingredients:

  • 4 cups oats
  • 3/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 + 1/2 cups sliced almonds
  • 1/2 cup unsweetened applesauce
  • 3/4 cup almond butter
  • 1/3 cup honey
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla

Preheat oven to 300°F.

Combine the almonds, salt, and oats in a large bowl.

In another bowl whisk together the applesauce, almond butter, vanilla, and honey until well combined. Stir this mixture into the oats until evenly distributed throughout.

Spread the granola on a baking sheet or two. Bake for 40 to 50 minutes, until the oats are no longer moist and have browned lightly. Stir every 10 minutes to prevent burning. Enjoy! Add some berries; I think it’d be excellent.