Crazy Good Granola without Oil or Sugar

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January is a significant month. It’s refreshing. It’s all about new beginnings. January is also a time to reflect on all of our accomplishments in the past year and appreciate how far we’ve come. In January we feel strongest about setting new goals, living healthier lifestyles and creating better eating habits to start the year off right. And I am definitely on board with that. I feel energized right now and I am ready to make 2017 my healthiest and strongest year ever! Is eating healthier one of your top priorities this year? If it is, one way to help you achieve that lofty goal is to define smaller measurable goals within that big one, such as reducing your intake of sugar. Or oil. It will take time to completely cut back on your intake of sugar and/or oil, but just start. It won’t be long before you begin to notice that you no longer miss them. Another healthy habit to adopt is eating a nutritious breakfast. Eating a nutritious breakfast every day is one of the best ways to energize your body and kick-start your entire day. You don’t have to eat a lot and you don’t have to eat the minute you wake up – you just have to be consistent so that your metabolism gets going early on. So, let’s aim to make 2017 “the year of being strong and healthy” by starting the day with a truly nutritious breakfast.

Ah, but is granola really a healthy breakfast, you ask?

Well, it definitely can be.

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Most store-bought granolas are much too high in sugar and fat to be considered healthy. They are also expensive when you consider that boxes of granola are usually smaller than boxes of other cereals. Homemade granola is extremely easy to make yourself and it is always cheaper and tastier. But making your own isn’t necessarily going to result in a healthier granola. If your homemade version is loaded with nuts and seeds or contains oil and sugar, it can be equally high in fat and and unhealthy sugar. In this recipe, I ditch the sugar and oil and cut back on the amount of nuts, seeds and dried fruit without compromising any of the flavour or crunch. This granola has roughly half the calories of most boxed granolas and it is completely sugar and oil free. So, to answer my own question, yes, this granola truly is healthy! The recipe can be customized to meet any dietary restrictions you have or to fancy it up as you please. Oh, did I mention that it’s crazy good? 

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On busy days, I throw a handful of this granola into a small container and take it with me wherever I go so that I have something to snack on later on in the day. I have also eaten it for dinner with my favourite almond milk. And this granola has saved my life on the occasional nights when the fridge is bare or I get home late and don’t feel like making anything. Have you ever resorted to having a bowl of cereal for dinner because you took too long trying to decide what to eat?? I have. And on those nights, I was grateful to have this in my cupboard because it saved me from grabbing something less healthy.  

I generally aim for a minimum of 4 dry ingredients for a good balance of flavor and texture. When you’re gathering your ingredients, make sure that your dry mix is made up of at least 50% oats. Cutting back on the amount of nuts and seeds lowers the overall calorie and fat content of the granola.  Ok, lets get started on my crazy good granola with no oil or sugar! 

DRY INGREDIENTS

  • 8 cups whole rolled oats (gluten free or regular)
  • 1 cup whole or chopped almonds
  • 1 cup coconut (flakes or shredded)
  • 1 cup pumpkin seeds

Rolled oats are the core of this recipe but it may be possible to substitute quinoa flakes for the oats if you can’t have oats. (Don’t use the quick cooking oats because they do not hold up as well when baked). The other dry ingredients can be swapped in or out in infinite ways.

FLAVOUR ENHANCERS

Do you want to spice it up? I prefer the granola without any additional spices, but ground cinnamon would be nice, as would cardamom and nutmeg. Add as little or as much spice as you want to your dry ingredients before you mix with the wet. You could also add lemon or orange zest or a dash of cocoa powder. 

WET INGREDIENTS

  • 1 cup pitted dates, soaked 4 hours
  • 2 ripe bananas
  • ½ cup water
  • 1 ½ tsp. pink Himalayan or Celtic sea salt, scant

Process all of the wet ingredients in a high-speed blender until smooth. I like to add salt to the wet ingredients – I just feel it blends in better than it does when added to the dry or at the end once the wet and dry have been combined. Pour the wet ingredients over the dry and stir until the everything is well coated.

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BAKING DIRECTIONS

Preheat your oven to 200°F.

Line a couple of baking sheets with parchment paper and spread the mixture in an even ½-inch layer. I needed 3 cookie sheets for this amount of granola. (The recipe makes a lot, but it is easy to half).

Bake for about 1 1/2-2 hours or until the granola is completely dry and lightly browned, stirring 2 or 3 times during baking to help the drying process and break up the mixture.  If your mixture is thicker than 1/2-inch, it will take longer to become really crunchy. Add another hour to the baking time but don’t increase the temperature – keeping the oven temperature low ensures that the granola doesn’t get too dark before it is completely dry and crunchy. 

A few clusters of granola are nice once it is baked so be sure to leave a few clumps undisturbed on the baking trays. Allow the granola to dry out completely in the oven. 

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ADD FRUIT

Since the fruit is already dried, I prefer to add it at the end rather than risk it becoming a bit hard or unpleasantly chewy. It doesn’t need to be baked again. Stir 1 cup of dried fruit such as cranberries, dates, raisins, currants, goji berries, cherries, figs, or apricots into the granola after it has baked. (If adding dried apricots, dice them or cut them into smaller slices).

Leave the granola to cool completely. Once cool, transfer to a large mason jar with a tight-fitting lid, or a  Ziploc bag and store in your pantry.

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Alternative nuts and seeds

  • Use walnuts, brazil nuts, pistachios, macadamias, cashews or pecans in place of the almonds
  • Use sunflower seeds, squash seeds, flax or hemp seeds instead of pumpkin seeds.
  • Alternatively you can use any combination of the above as long as you stick to a cup of nuts and a cup of seeds. 

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NOTES

If you would rather bake the granola overnight, set your oven to the lowest temperature it has (that’s 170°F on my oven) and leave the granola in the oven overnight. The granola will be done in the morning, without any stirring.

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