Healthier Granola Redux

Most days, breakfast around here is a bowl of plain non-fat Greek or Icelandic yogurt. As I discovered in my sugar experiment a while back, nonfat yogurt is one of the few food items where the stated serving size is actually larger than what I'd eyeball for myself! Yogurt is full of protein and due to the generous serving size, keeps you full and satisfied. In summer, I might add a small drizzle of honey and some fresh berries. In winter, I often use leftover homemade cranberry sauce or low sugar jam instead of the honey and berries. Other seasonal favorites are cut up mango or fuyu persimmon.

But one constant year round is that I like a little crunch on top of my yogurt. Sometimes I use a tablespoon or two of Trader Joe's Super Seed and Ancient Grain Blend which has no added sugar at all, other times, I use some hemp hearts. But sometimes, I go lighter on the sweetening in my yogurt and add in some homemade granola. 

Granola can be full of sugar and calories, so I both make my own and try to keep my serving to about a 1/4 cup. I base my recipe off of one from a Brooklyn shop that made the rounds years ago, was adapted by Melissa Clark of the New York Times, along with many other recipe writers. The combination of maple syrup, olive oil and just a touch of salt is pretty perfect. I've adapted this recipe many times and it’s very adaptable to your preferences. For those interested, by my dubious calculations, there’s about 1 teaspoon (4 grams) of added sugar per serving.

The recipe is pretty straightforward, requires only one big bowl, a large spoon and a baking pan or two.  I like to use half sheet pans with a lip, rather than a flat cookie sheet, so that contents do not spill out into the oven when I mix it.  I also like to line the pans with parchment paper.  This saves on cleanup and keeps the granola from sticking too much. You can get away with one pan, but it will cook a little more slowly and you won’t get clumps if that’s what you’re after.

I don't add dried fruit to this mix as the pieces tend to get hard.  In winter, when I don't have fresh berries or other fresh fruit around, I sometimes add dried fruit to my yogurt along with this granola. This recipe is very adaptable. Sometimes I add some uncooked quinoa to the mix, or some puffed brown rice cereal. You could add sesame or chia seeds if you like those. This version is my current favorite!

Maple and Olive Oil Granola

adapted from Nekisia Davis (with inspiration from Melissa Clark)

(makes a little more than 8 cups (about 33 1/4 cup servings)- I usually fill three quart sized jars or plastic containers with tight fitting lids and have a little extra to gift)

  • 4 cups old-fashioned rolled oats (I sometimes use a multigrain oatmeal mix for 1 of the cups)

  • 1 cup raw pepitas, hulled

  • 1 cup raw unsalted sunflower seeds, hulled

  • 1 cup unsweetened coconut flakes (these are large curls of coconut, not grated or shredded!)

  • 1 1/4 cup raw walnut and/or pecan pieces (rather than pay for the fancy halves, I use the already broken up baking bits)

  • 2 Tablespoons brown sugar

  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

  • scant teaspoon ground cardamom

  • 1/2 teaspoon Kosher salt

  • 1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil

  • 1/2 cup pure maple syrup (preferably Grade B)

  1. Heat oven to 325 degrees.

  2. Place all ingredients in a large bowl and mix until well combined. If you use the same measuring cup for the olive oil and maple syrup, make sure to do the olive oil first—pro tip—the residual oil will keep the maple syrup from sticking in your cup! Spread mixture in an even layer on two parchment lined baking sheets with a rim (see above!). Place the pans in the hot oven, one pan on the top rack and one on the bottom. Bake about 15 minutes, then gently mix the granola a little. After mixing, if you like clumps, use the back of a large spoon to softly, but firmly press the granola down into the pans. If you like it your granola without clumps, then stir the granola well and don't tamp it down. When you replace the pans in the oven, put the one that was on the top rack onto the bottom and vice versa, and bake for about another 15 minutes. You want to make sure the liquid ingredients dry up and coat the solid ingredients and the granola looks a little brown but not burnt. After the second 15 minutes of cooking, remove the pans from the oven and let the granola sit undisturbed in the pans for about half an hour or more if you can. Once cool, sections of the granola should be almost like thin granola bars which you can break apart as you like. Either way, let cool completely and then put into airtight containers and use within about a month.