I have just returned from vacation where I spent a few weeks hiking around this great nation of ours. As I’m sure you can surmise, food is never far from whatever I do, so of course I couldn’t help but make sure I had a supply of some of my favorite, portable snacks that are high-energy in my backpack. Items like beef jerky, dried fruit, trail mix and energy bars are all great to bring along, provide some salty electrolytes and abate hunger before you can get home and have a big post-hike meal.
I can’t say I yearn for most hiking snacks, but one that is consistently in my pack and in my pantry is granola, and it can definitely be crave-worthy. While I’ve only been home for a few days, I feel the urge to harken back to my days blazing – well, following the well-traversed – trails in Zion, Rocky Mountain National Park, Craters of the Moon and Arches National Park. Granola is a snack that I feel easily crosses the proverbial aisle from hiking to home. So to celebrate my inner-mountain-traversing-hippie in the comfort of my own kitchen, I say let’s eat granola or better yet, let’s make granola.
For awhile I’ve been wanting to make my own breakfast cereals for a number of reasons. First off, the cost. When I pretty much own all the ingredients for homemade granola at home, it seems wasteful to purchase premade granola at more than three-times the price of the sum of its parts. Second, while I am careful with the types of cereals and granolas I purchase, some of them have various stabilizers and preservatives, so making my own would cut those out. Third, my family truly enjoys a breakfast parfait of fruit, granola and yogurt.
So I decided to do some research. Again, I turned to cookbooks, blogs, YouTube channels and the Food Network experts. I found numerous recipes that all looked super simple and tasty to me. So per my usual behavior, I cut and pasted the best parts of all of them and came up with my own version. What I love about making homemade granola is that you really can’t screw it up. There are so many iterations based on the types of seeds, nuts, dried fruits and flavorings you have. However, one of the most consistent ingredients in most recipes are rolled oats. What are rolled oats? They are nothing more than a groat (oat) that is pounded flat so that it cooks faster. There are a lot of rolled oats out there so you shouldn’t have a tough time finding any. I used Bob’s Red Mill.
Here is my version of granola. Be careful, it is addictive. Seriously, you can sit on your couch binge-watching your favorite Netflix show and destroy a bag or two. My kids totally loved this (after they pried it out of my hands). You can eat this plain, or on top of yogurt or with milk like any other breakfast cereal. I will definitely make this again and may add a little cayenne to give it a little “heat” to counterbalance the sweet. Another thought I have is to use some maple syrup, walnuts and dried bananas in the next one. Enjoy making this, and remember, if you don’t have all the ingredients, just toss whatever you like in it. It is really difficult to mess up.
OATMEAL COOKIE GRANOLA
Note 1: I named it this because it smells like oatmeal cookies baking.
Note 2. You can decide how much sugar you want to add – it is up to you.
Preheat oven to 350, prepare a cookie sheet with parchment paper.
Then, put the following ingredients in a bowl and toss together:
2 cups rolled oats
1 tsp salt
1 tsp cinnamon
In another bowl add:
1/4 cup honey
3 TBS + 1 tsp oil (I used SmartBalance)
1/4 cup packed light brown sugar
1 tsp vanilla
Stir together, then add to the bowl with oatmeal.
Make sure the oatmeal is coated evenly then spread out onto the parchment paper.
Put in the oven and bake for 10 minutes.
After 10 minutes, use a spatula to stir around the oats. It will get nice and toasty and you want to make sure it browns evenly and doesn’t burn.
Sprinkle on top:
1/3 cup sliced almonds
1/3 cup sunflower seeds
Bake an additional 5 minutes.
Stir again, then bake for 5 more minutes.
Remove from the oven and let cool. Then break up into pieces and add:
1/3 cup craisins
1/3 cup raisins
This will keep for five days or up to a month if stored in your refrigerator.
Lisa Sweet writes about food for the Leavenworth Times. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org