Wow, was the weather this weekend fantastic or what?
It was 80ºF yesterday… but I think today was even hotter. Or maybe it just feels that way because its so sticky & humid. I guess summer’s finally here.
Anyways, on Friday I opened my granola jar only to find the barest amount of crumbs left at the bottom. My immediate thought: OHNOES. A GRANOLA SHORTAGE. THIS NEEDS FIXING. NAO.
See, my granola is like my lifeblood. Without it, I can’t eat breakfast, and without breakfast, I can’t function. Every morning, I need my granola fix. So that very Friday I went to Organica and bought me some granola ingredients.
Saturday morning, I woke up bright and early and the first thing I did was make granola. To be honest, granola is a very forgiving and customizable recipe. It’s just a mix of oats, nuts, spices and sweetener, and you can pretty much change things up to your heart’s content. Since I eat my granola with yogurt and fruit, I prefer that it be very basic with minimal sugar, no extras (i.e. coconut, chocolate, dried fruit), and lots of nuts and seeds.
Most granola recipes call for rolled oats as the base, but I use a blend of 6 different rolled grains:
Variety makes things fun, you know? Plus, eating a bunch of different grains gives me a wider variety of nutrients every time I eat this granola.
- Oats help lower blood pressure and protect blood vessels from the damaging effects of LDL (i.e. bad cholesterol).
- Wheat has lots of protein.
- Rye has a lot of fiber, which makes me feel fuller faster – of course, this is ideal for breakfast.
- Barley also has a ton of fiber, but it may help lower cholesterol even more effectively than the fiber in oats.
- Kamut is another grain very high in protein, but it also has more vitamin E than wheat.
- Triticale is a hybrid between wheat and rye, and it’s also really high in protein.
So as you can see, just the grains themselves make this granola a protein and fiber superfood.
I’VE GOT MY SECRET INGREDIENT:
This guy’s a newcomer; I’ve never added millet to granola before. But millet is a nutrient dense whole grain that’s really rich in magnesium. Plus, when you add it to granola, it gives it another level of texture – I would almost call it a snappy, crackly, poppy crunch.
Then I add..
The wheat germ! This is pretty much the part of the grain that contains all the nutrients. See, when factories take whole grains and turn them into flour, they take the kernel and remove the germ (the nutrients) and the bran (the fiber), leaving behind the endosperm (the starch). But wheat germ is a really good source of vitamin E, folate, phosphorus, thiamin, zinc, magnesium, essential fatty acids AND fatty alcohols. Whew. It’s hard to believe those little flaky guys are so chock full o’ good stuff.
After mixing in the germ, I add the seeds:
Clockwise from the pale guys on the top left:
- Sesame seeds are rich in iron, magnesium, manganese, copper, calcium, and vitamins B1 and E.
- Flax seeds contain lotsa micronutrients, fiber, and omega-3 fatty acids. They’ve also been shown to lower cholesterol, stabilize blood sugar levels, and keep your digestive system moving.
- Sunflower seeds also have essential fatty acids, fiber, protein, and minerals like phosphorous, selenium, and zinc.
Jeezes I should just stop taking my multivitamins – these guys have it all covered.
Then I toss in the nuts:
I’ve already expounded on the crazy health benefits of almonds here. But pecans are also a good source of protein and unsaturated fats. Like walnuts, they contain a good amount of omega-6 fatty acids (which you need in balance to your omega-3’s) and like most nuts and grains, they also help lower your bad cholesterol.
Then for the last of the dry ingredients, I sprinkle in the spices:
Even though spices are just powders, you can’t ever forget them – they give such flavor to the food you add them to. They make my granola taste really… warm? Rich? Deep? I don’t know how to describe it but just trust me on this, it tastes good.
Oh yeah, and I add a little sprinkle of salt to help bring out the flavor of everything. It needs to be balanced y’know – yin and yang and all that.
For the wet ingredients I add:
Unsweetened applesauce. I put it in place of any oil or butter that a granola recipe might have called for (I think I get enough fats from the seeds and nuts).
Brown rice syrup! Like honey, it’s lower on the glycemic index than sugar, meaning less of a sugar rush and/or a crash. But it also has a really different flavor compared to any other sweetener I’ve used. It’s almost butterscotchy. Yumm..
Trouble is, this stuff is so thick, I have trouble getting all of it out of the measuring cup. But I’ve found the perfect solution:
RICE TO RICHES SPOONS!! These things are really useful multitaskers – they’re good for any scraping you might have to do. Plus they make excellent peanut butter spoons/spreaders. And you’re reusing plastic that would’ve otherwise stayed in a landfill for a billion years. Yay for being nice to our planet!
I add a little water to the syrup-applesauce mix, stir to combine, then pour it over the dry ingredients.
Then you stir, stir, stir, until the moisture level throughout the granola is pretty consistent. This is a double-duty job – I use my hand and a spoon to get to all the stuff at the bottom.
Then I spread it out onto to 2 baking sheets and threw them into a 300°F oven for 40 minutes. Some recipes call for 30 minutes – there’s really no specific time. You just have to watch for that perfect level of golden crispiness. Oh, and you have to stir the granola every 10 minutes to make sure it gets nice and crunchy.
When the granola first comes out of the oven, it might still be a little soft. But fear not! After cooling, it should set up to the perfect crunchiness.
Once the granola is nice and cool, you can start shoveling it down your mouth. But if you just can’t finish all of it, you can put it into an airtight container and throw it into the fridge; it might last like, a lifetime in there. Seriously though, as long as you keep the granola cool, it should keep for a good couple months. Some people like to keep it out on the countertop, but oily stuff like nuts and seeds tend to go rancid pretty quickly so I put it in the fridge just in case.
Well that was my epic granola adventure. Fun, huh? Don’t you wanna go make your own now? I’m telling you, once you find your own perfect blend of grains, nuts, seeds, and spices, you’ll never wanna get store-brought granola again.
Oh, and remember that soup I talked about before in my last post? Well there was a little left, so I cooked up some lentils and heated the whole thing up for me and Calynn’s lunch.
Similar to beans, lentils are often eaten by vegetarians for their protein. And because these are sprouted lentils (they’ve been germinated and are starting to grow a little – see the little sprouts?), they have all essential amino acids that make up a complete protein. Lentils are one of the best vegetable sources for iron, and they contain fiber, folate, vitamin B1, and minerals. Plus they’re darn tasty. And fun to eat.
I’m putting up another picture of my mom’s soup/stew because I feel like the last one didn’t do it justice. After a few days, all the flavors kind of melded together, resulting in an even heartier, delicious-er, stew.
Ah, that’s better. See all the vegetably goodness? You can see a few of the lentils on the top…
Dangnammit, I just realized how long this post got. And I was trying to work on my conciseness too. Darn you, all this good food that appears in front of me…
So I’m just gonna end it here because this post is getting way too long. And it’s so hot and humid and sticky, it’s hard to even type…
Oh yeah, and do you guys like my new header? Berry season is in full swing right now (: