Monday, February 14, 2011

On the lighter side of Granola.

The key to eating healthy is not to skip breakfast… or so they tell you.  Personally, I love breakfast, but actually having it makes me hungry all day long.  I am pretty happy with just a cup of coffee in the morning.  However if you need to fuel your workout and you believe the nutritionists… low fat yogurt with fruit makes a great healthy breakfast.   I love yogurt, I love it even more when there is a lot of stuff in it, like fresh fruit, nuts and granola.  Granola gives you crunch, it fools you into thinking that you are eating desert or something really decadent.  And are you?  Oh, boy, when I look on the back of most commercially produced granolas; I may as well be eating a croissant for breakfast.  Have you seen how many calories are in 1/3 cup of granola?  How much fat? And the nutritional information is given for a serving size of a measly 1/3 of a cup, sometimes even ¼!  That is like 2 tablespoons! Definitely not enough to make any kind of impression on the whole yogurt experience.   So, I thought out to make a healthier version. 
The reason granola has so much fat and calories, is because it is made with massive amounts of butter or oil or both.  It makes sense, it needs to brown up nicely in the oven and have a crunch.   And how do things get brown and crunchy? Fat!  Lots of it! 
If I was ever going to heighten granola to something remotely healthy, the fat would need to go… but where?  What can it be substituted with?  I read that you can replace some of the butter in baking recipes with fresh bananas or apple sauce.  Bananas would burn in the oven, but apple sauce may be a solution.  I didn’t have any, but I had apple butter, which is nothing more than baked apple sauce with a bit of vinegar in it.  At 20 calories a tablespoon it sure beats butter.  I did add 2 tablespoons of olive oil to the mix, but I figure for 5 cups of granola it did not spoil the health factor.  Besides, olive oil is good for you.
Next, I had to tackle the sweetness factor.  Most commercial granolas have tons of sugar.  I am not a fan of too sweet of a crunch, so I ended up with just 1 tablespoon of brown sugar ( hey, if you going to use sugar, may as well go for the one with some flavor) and 1 tablespoon of agave syrup. 
I used a whole cup of mixed dried fruit for added sweetness and that chunky ‘stuff” that makes granola interesting.  Granola baked up beautify, came out all brown and crispy… and not too sweet.
Over home-made yogurt and some fresh blueberries…made my pre-workout snack a blast.
Home-made Granola
½ Cup serving – 200 calories ( And with a cup of low-fat yogurt, the whole breakfast is 320 calories, leaving you plenty for the rest of the day)
5 cups of oats (steel-cut oats are best here or any type of long cooking ones.  I only had quick cooking oats on hand so I committed a culinary crime and used them instead)  
½ cup King Arthur bread toping mix.  It has flax seeds, sesame seeds, sunflower seeds and lot of other goodness.  Can be substituted with a handful of your favorite seeds  
1 cup chopped dried fruit.  I had dried currants, peaches, apples, pears and prunes.  
1 tbs brown sugar  
1 tbs agave syrup or honey  
1 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp dried ginger
Freshly grated nutmeg
4 tbs of apple sauce or apple butter  
2 tbs of olive oil  
½ cup any nuts (I used almonds)  
Note:  If you are using raw nuts, add them to the granola mix at the last 5 minutes of baking, otherwise they will burn.  If your nuts already roasted, toss them with your ready granola.  I like raw nuts, so I just toss them in like that.

Preheat the oven to 375F.  Combine the oats, seeds, dried fruit, brown sugar and spices and mix well.  Add the apple sauce, olive oil and agave syrup and work well with your hands until all the ingredients are evenly moistened and there are no big clumps.  Do not add the nuts at this time or they will burn.

 Add the apple sauce, olive oil and agave syrup and work well with your hands until all the ingredients are evenly moistened and there are no big clumps.

Spread the mixture evenly on a baking sheet covered with parchment paper.  Bake in the center of the oven for about 20 – 25 minutes, stirring often, until granola is nice and brown and crunchy.  Add the nuts at the last 5 minutes of baking or toss them in afterwards.

Let cool and store in an air tight container.

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