Friday, June 3, 2011

Cranberry Almond Granola

I love Cheerios.  Always have, always will.  But on occasion I need to eat something else for breakfast. (I have been devoted to them for the past 25 years, so I think it's okay to cheat on them once in a while).  When the mood strikes, and I don't have time for anything elaborate, yogurt and granola is one of my favorite combinations.  I usually only have it on the rare occasion that I have some store-bought granola around, which happens, you know, every few years.  Which really isn't enough.  

Last Friday it occurred to me that making granola probably isn't terribly hard.  A quick search turned up a simple and relatively healthy cranberry granola from Giada De Laurentiis.  I streamlined the recipe by replacing the mix of pumpkin and sunflower seeds with all sunflower seeds (since I already had some, and I don't really care for pumpkin seeds as much--too tough!).  However, if you have both then I'm sure you can do a 50/50 mix, or use just pumpkin seeds if you really like them.   I also upped the amounts of oats and nuts, because I felt like there was too much liquid and it needed more stuff to soak it up.  The only "unusual" ingredient in this recipe is unsweetened cranberry juice, which I didn't realize was a marketed product, but I found it easily in the "natural foods/healthy" section of my local Shaw's.  There are a number of brands, some quite expensive, but the Shaw's/Wild Harvest brand was reasonably priced, and the bottle isn't too big, which is good, because there's not a lot to do with excess unsweetened cranberry juice (except make lots and lots of granola!).  This recipe comes together quickly, is mostly hands-off, and the result is a sweet and tart, slightly chewy granola that I liked so much I made a second batch a few days later. 

Cranberry Almond Granola (Adapted from Giadi De Laurentiis, 
Makes about 6 cups

* A generous 1/2 cup of sunflower seeds, preferably raw, unsalted
* Nonstick cooking spray
* 1/3 cup maple syrup (I like the deep flavor of grade B, but anything you have on hand will be great, as long as it's REAL--no Aunt Jemima, please!)
* 2/3 cup packed brown sugar (light or dark is fine)
* 1/2 cup unsweetened cranberry juice
* 1/2 tablespoon ground cinnamon
* 2 1/2 cups old fashioned rolled oats
* A heaping 1/2 cup almonds, slivered or sliced work well.  
* 1/4 teaspoon fine sea salt (Kosher salt is fine too, if you don't have sea salt)
* 1 cup dried cranberries

Heat the oven to 350 degrees F. Spread the sunflower seeds on a cookie sheet and bake for 8-10 minutes, until lightly toasted and fragrant.  Let them cool.  Reduce the oven temp to 325 degrees F.

In the mean time, combine the maple syrup, cranberry juice, brown sugar and cinnamon in a small saucepan.  Cook, over medium heat, stirring a few times, just until the sugar had dissolved.  Set aside to cool.

In a medium mixing bowl, toss together the oats, almonds, sunflower seeds, and salt.  Pour the cranberry syrup mixture over the oat mixture, and stir with a spoon or spatula until everything is evenly distributed. 

Spray your cookie sheet with nonstick cooking spray, and spread the oat and nut mixture over it in an even layer.  Bake for 20 minutes.

Remove from the oven, and add the cranberries, and use a spatula to stir the mix around, fluff it, and incorporate the cranberries.  Bake for 10 to 15 minutes more, until the mixture starts to brown.  Cool the granola completely, and store in an airtight container for up to a week.
Enjoy on yogurt with honey or rhubarb compote