Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Kitchen Sink Granola

Sometimes when I get home after a long trip or even if I've been up for 18 hours straight working, I don't want to drag out the recipe books and run to the farmer's market. Our farmer's market is Sunday mornings anyways, when I'm usually somewhere else. I used to be a cereal junkie for this reason. It was my go to "I'm not thinking just shoveling this into my mouth so I'm not hungry" meal when I got home from a trip or when I was crazy stressed. Just a box of cereal and half gallon of milk would get me through 48 hours of, well, just about anything (including exam week in college). 

But last year I decided to let go of my addiction. It took a while. I love the crunch of cereal and how the cold milk gets swept up in each bite. Cereal is mostly sugar though and full of crap I don't need to put in my body. So I began experimenting with granola which has many more wholesome bits to fuel my body. 

After using many different grains and ingredients, I came to one conclusion and that is you really can't go wrong with this stuff. Here's a basic recipe that you can change or expand based on whatever you happen to have in the house that day (hence the kitchen sink part). Many of these ingredients have a decent shelf life, so they can even be waiting for you after that long journey home.

Kitchen Sink Granola

Start by measuring out one and a half cups of rolled oats into a mixing bowl. I like to use a glass one so I can see the pretty layers forming before I mix up the ingredients. Then add a quarter cup of both coconut oil and coconut flakes, a tablespoon of chia seeds and one of crushed flax seeds, a half teaspoon of vanilla extract and teaspoon of cinnamon. If I have pumpkin seeds, sometimes I'll add those. Add almonds, crushed, sliced or whole, whatever your preference and as much as you'd like. Just be careful on how much you add because while delicious and nutritious, nuts and seeds can be rather fattening. 

To make a toasted granola, at this point you can spread this mixture onto a baking sheet and pop it into the oven at 350 degrees until whenever you start to smell the almonds roasting. I would check on it at five minutes and again at ten. Once it cools a bit, you can add fresh or dried fruits and chocolate chips for a topping on yogurt or as a replacement for cereal with cold milk. 

OR you can skip the oven and add a few more ingredients to make raw granola and then go really crazy and throw that into the freezer to make bars. Here's the next round of ingredients... add a half cup of creamy peanut butter and one mashed up banana. I also like to add dried fruit like raisins, cranberries, papaya, or apricot. You can also omit the almonds if you find it too nutty with the almonds and peanut butter. Sometimes I omit the almonds and use crunchy peanut butter. I know, it gets pretty wild in my kitchen.

If you want to make bars, spread the mixture onto a layer of plastic wrap on a glass baking dish (size up to you, bigger dish will equal thinner bars). Then cover mixture with another layer of plastic wrap. Throw in the freezer for up to an hour to harden, then cut up and store in individual snack bags in the freezer until consumed. I make these sometimes as breakfast on the go for Gman.

So I'd love to know, how do you experiment in the kitchen? What is your go to food when you are exhausted or stressed?

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