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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City Eats: Le Pain Quotidien

Aria ana photo

So, the other day I met my fabulous friend Ana for lunch at one of my-go spots in the WV (top photo courtesy of her– she just has this way of capturing the best pics!)  My lunch and coffee dates have not ended now that baby is in tow, but they definitely require a bit more thinking.  Suddenly I gravitate towards the “baby friendly” spots that I know will have room for the stroller, high chairs, etc, but still have good food and  some degree of atmosphere.

On of my favorite lunch w/baby spots here in the West Village is Le Pain Quotidien on Hudson. The Belgium bakery chain has a wholesome menu of good salads (my fav is the quinoa salad), tartines, organic options  and breakfast items . They also have a kid’s menu with great healthy options including hummus, turkey, guacamole, etc. Aria is a fan.

le pain quotidienLe Pain quotidien bakery west village kidsle pain

The thing I like best about this spot is that it indeed is very baby friendly. There is a ramp to access (steps and double doors are my biggest stroller annoyance here in the city), plenty of room to park the stroller table side, high chairs, crayons and a usually cooperative & friendly staff (no noses in the air when mom friends and I truck in with 3 little ones — although I waitressed in my younger days so there is no way I am leaving behind a mess). As an added bonus they also have a very large & clean private bathroom with a changing table (suddenly, and somewhat sadly, now a very important detail in my dining life). Oh, and in summer they also have nice sidewalk tables outside. Très bon indeed.

I’d love to know your favorite spot in the city. Please share!

le pain quotidien west villagestaticmap