Homemade Granola: Insider Secrets From Someone Obsessed

OK, so lately I have been absolutely obsessed with making granola. I decided to start making my own since “crunch” is Aria’s go-to breakfast (mainly because it is also her dad’s favorite and he is up with her in the am), and so many store bought brands are loaded with unnecessary sugar. I love granola that looks like granola (yes, you can see the oats and big pieces of nuts or dried fruit), and I’m not into spending $8.99 a bag for it (hello NYC).

granolaSo, I’ve been obsessed with mixing and matching ingredients and finding the perfect combo. Here’s what I’ve found out about mixing the perfect blend.

OATS:  All granola has a base of oats. Most recipes will tell you to use old fashioned oats not the quick oats. I’ve tried all and actually found my best success with Trader Joe’s Organic Oats and also the surprising inexpensive organic oats from Mrs. Greens (in the bulk self serve bins). Quick oats will bind a bit better, but I like the texture of the real deal.

CRUNCH: So, my biggest hurdle in the first few blends was getting a little crunch out of it. In researching online I found a few secrets including switching to a quick oat, and also adding some oat flour to get it all to bind. I used ground flax instead of oat flour and this also seemed to work. Also, I read about adding a little applesauce to the mix to get some more clumps which turn into crunchy oat clusters. However the biggest secret is adding an EGG white to the recipe. SCORE!

SWEETNESS: It doesn’t take a lot to bring in a little sweetness. The popular sweeteners include maple syrup, honey, brown sugar and vanilla extract. I usually half whatever the recipe is calling for (0r nothing at all). I’ve found using a mixure of honey and brown sugar yields a best result, but also skipping it all and adding in some dried fruits works for us just fine!

COATING: You’ll need an oil or melted butter to coat the oats. I usually use coconut oil, but have also used a mild tasting safflower or olive oil. I stopped measuring and usually use enough to coat my batches. You may not need as much as some recipes call for, but it is important that there’s enough to coat and bind.

ADD IN’s: The best part!! Adding in coconut and dried fruit also kicks up the sweetness factor. I love these hence I cut down on the other sweeteners. Also, nuts and other add-in’s can add flavor and nutrition. My last batch I added some sprouted quinoa to the oat mixture before popping it in the oven (so good). I also am big into adding chia seed (packed with power) and flax seed which both give added flavor, texture and nutrition.

THE BAKING: I suggest baking a bit lower temp than the recipe suggests. Also, use a good cookie sheet. My first batch burned at the 350 temp on my not-so-great sheet. I’ve done the last few at around 250, and actually have had great success baking them in the toaster oven (on the small sheet that comes with it).

My perfect recipe to come!
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Mini Oat Banana Bread Loafs (& muffins)

After Aria devoured the Simple Banana Oat cookies (recipe to come) I baked over the weekend, I went to make more and realized I didn’t have enough oats. I had plenty of ripe bananas though so I went for a simple banana bread recipe. I combined a few I found online– my main goal was keeping down the sugar (no need for it as ripe bananas are super sweet and the last thing kids need is more sugar). I did however throw a few semi-sweet chocolate chips in some of the batch as a special treat for her since I chucked the chocolate chip cookie the enamored diner waiter gave her yesterday.

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INGREDIENTS
3 RIPE mashed banana
1/3 cup honey
1 egg
1/3 cup unsweetened applesauce
3/4 cup of unsweetened vanilla almond milk (or regular, soy, coconut, etc)
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 1/2 cups whole wheat or better yet whole wheat pastry flour
1/2a rolled oats
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
3/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 tablespoon butter or oil (optional)

INSTRUCTIONS
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. In large bowl combine mashed banana, applesauce, honey, egg, almond milk, vanilla and oil/butter (if you choose to use). I used a smidge of melted butter and a teaspoon or so of coconut oil just to ensure moistness. Combine all until wet ingredients until creamy.

In separate medium bowl whisk together whole wheat flour, oats, baking powder, baking soda, salt and cinnamon. Add wet ingredients to dry ingredients and mix until just combined (don’t overmix).

Pour into loaf pan, mini-loaf pans, muffin tins. Sprinkle oats over top (if desired), and bake until toothpick inserted into center comes out clean with a few crumbs attached.

Time for baking in a standard loaf pan is 60m but I had no time for that and found my mini-muffins and mini-loafs were good to go in about 15-20m.

Remove from oven and place on wire rack to cool completely. Keep bread/muffins tightly wrapped to maintain moisture. They will last a few days and likely be sweeter on the second day!