Tuesday, August 24, 2010

The Parlor and the Kitchen- Granola

I love granola.

Oops, that’s not granola, that’s my Charming Suitor’s dog the Amazing Wonder Boy. Isn’t he cute?

Altho Granola would be a great name for a dog…but I digress.


Here is the problem I have with granola. The false sense of virtuousness I get when I eat it. Long considered a “health food”, and often the only option at brunch type restaurants for those of us who eschew a gloppy bowl of oatmeal. (gack) But while granola is touted as “healthy” and is certainly better for you than say pancakes and sausage, it is traditionally packed with fat and sugar and is very sneakily caloric.

The average granola bar can have almost as many calories as a 3 Musketeers bar, and let’s be honest, who needs to think twice about THAT decision?
Mmmm.  3 Musketeers Bar
Some of the homemade granolas on tap at local restaurants can be over 350 calories per half cup. So when they bring you that large bowl with over a full cup of the stuff, served with a couple of hundred calories worth of yogurt and another hundred or so of fresh fruit, you are now enjoying a 1000 calorie breakfast. You could have had two eggs, three strips of bacon, hash browns and two pieces of toast with butter for the same number. And yes, 1000 calories of whole grains and fruit and nuts and yogurt is “better” for you fiber wise and cholesterol wise, but in the world of weight management, a calorie is a calorie and you can eat “healthy” right into a weight gain if you don’t pay attention to things like this insidious granola business.

A popular granola from the “unclothed furry woodland mammal” company currently on the market packs a whopping 280 calories for ½ c serving, 120 of those calories from fat! Delicious, of course. But is that really as “healthy” as it could be? They list ¼ c as a serving on the package, but let’s be honest, is ¼ c of granola going to be a good filling breakfast for anyone who isn’t a squirrel? For most of us, we eat anywhere from ½-1 c of cereal in our bowls, which could be over 600 calories by the time we add even the skimmiest of skim milk!

I want to be healthier, to eat smart and well, and to eat things that are delicious. So I decided to see if I could make a granola that I loved that was a little bit better on the fat/sugar/calorie end of things. And I think I have a recipe that is good enough to share! It is dead simple to do, despite the large number of ingredients, and easily adapted to suit your particular tastes.

One of the things I wanted to do was bring in some low-calorie bulk to the party, since whole grains are good for you, but are high in calories. Enter Puffed Millet Cereal. At only 60 calories a cup, it is a whole grain that I used to replace 3 c of rolled oats, at a savings of 300 calories for the recipe. On the mornings when I really want an extra-full bowl of something, I can take ½ c of this granola and mix in ½-1 c more of the puffed millet cereal for a low-cal filler. I also added in toasted wheat germ and golden flax seeds, which don’t bring much taste, but do add some good health benefits. A special touch was some Grape Nuts cereal because I love the crunch.

A mix of nuts, natural sugars, a little unsweetened coconut, and applesauce to replace a lot of the fat and sugar and we have a winner! It will last a couple of weeks in an airtight container, or up to 3 months in the freezer. If you are going to freeze, leave out the dried fruit and just mix in before you eat.

Stacey’s Power Packed Granola
3 c rolled oats
3 c puffed millet cereal
½ c barley flakes
½ c toasted wheat germ
1 c whole grain cereal nuggets (like Kashi whole grain or Grape Nuts)
½ c flax seeds
1 c shredded coconut, unsweetened
½ c sunflower seeds
¼ c white sesame seeds
1 c raw slivered almonds
¼ c chopped pecans
¼ c chopped raw cashews
1 t kosher salt
1 c natural unsweetened applesauce
2 t ground cinnamon
1 t vanilla
¼ t almond extract
1/3 c amber agave syrup or brown rice syrup
4 T honey
¼ c light brown sugar
2 T peanut oil
1 c golden raisins
½ c dried cherries

Preheat oven to 325.

Mix all of the dry ingredients except the cinnamon, raisins and cherries together in a large mixing bowl.

Mix applesauce, honey, agave, sugar, vanilla, almond extract, oil and cinnamon in a bowl until well blended.

Add to dry ingredients and toss together lightly until very well mixed.

Spread the mixture out on two greased baking sheets and bake in oven, turning over about halfway through baking and re-distributing the granola evenly during the baking process (I find a bench knife works great for this).

The goal is to get it evenly deeply golden without burning. Depending on your oven this is about 40-50 minutes. Watch closely when you get towards the end of the baking time, as it can quickly overbake! The granola is not at full crunchiness until it cools, so go by color. Should look toasty, but not mahogany. Let granola cool completely, then mix in fruit.

Store in airtight containers.

This is my favorite mix of flavors, but feel free to substitute for different nuts, different dried fruits, and other grains.

(Because of the reduced amount of both fat and sugar in this recipe, this is not a granola that clumps into clusters, it stays pretty loose. If you aren’t as concerned about calories and want that more solid style, increase the light brown sugar to ¾ c and the peanut oil to ½ c, which should give you the clumping you want.)

Calories per ½ c serving: 180

And be sure to save up those calories, because whoever wins lunch with me and Jen Lancaster is not only going to enjoy a decadent meal, there will be cocktails and desserts, so get ready to splurge! Haven’t entered the contest yet? Click here and get on it, you aren’t too late!

Oh, and in case you can't get enough of cute dog pics....here is my nephew, Sir Sweetness, Little Sister's gorgeous smiling boy!  Has there ever been such a handsome fellow?

Yours in Good Taste,
The Polymath

Follow me on Twitter @staceyballis

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