A blog of hopeful, inspired living: cooking & baking & growing & harvesting & preserving & gleaning & eating & sharing food... while bringing positive change to my kitchen and our food system.

Saturday, January 15, 2011

Oatmeal makes you happy.

When I would call my mother during college upset about...well, anything... she would always, without fail, recommend I go eat a bowl of oatmeal.  She had read about how oatmeal's natural, healthful properties improve mood.  I gave it a try.  And I believe it.  As a whole grain, complex carbohydrate with a low glycemic index, it increases energy without leaving you with an energy crash afterward.  There are also all the other things oatmeal is touted for:  reducing cholesterol and the chance of heart disease, fighting off cancer with a whole lot of  phytochemicals, packing in all that valuable soluble and insoluble fiber.  What's not to be happy about?

What other great things can we say about oatmeal?  How about that it's easy to turn it into delicious GRANOLA?  Yay!

I go through bouts of making granola.  I like to think I inspired a granola-making fever at one time.  My friends, Kate and Bob used my recipe to feed the many brave campers at their wedding, and the next year they repeated the granola-magic at a large, weekend reunion.  My step-mom, Caren, makes a fabulous granola that she has given as holiday gifts two years in a row, and which is now requested by lucky granola-gift-recipients throughout the year.  She consulted with me on that original recipe, but whatever she came up with on her own may very well be better than my recipe (that can be my hint to her to send me more!).

Store bought granola often comes in crunchy clusters, not exactly identifiable as oats.  My oatmeal stays mostly separated.  I've converted many a cluster-devotee and I suggest you try it this way, too.  Homemade granola is delicious, free of unnecessary preservatives, simple and less expensive than the stuff you buy.  Eat it with milk, on yogurt, in pancakes, as a snack all by itself.  And there are so many, many flavor variations -- something for everyone.

I know my recipe by heart now.  That's not saying much, as it is really simple.  The only challenging part about making granola is paying attention and stirring regularly while it bakes.  The recipe I stick to is an adaptation of the Granola recipe from the 1987, Horn of the Moon Cookbook: recipes from Vermont's renowned vegetarian restaurant, by Ginny Callan.  I rarely make it the same way twice, it just depends what's in my cupboards. This time (i.e. in the photos here) I used almonds, pecans and sesame seeds, sunflower oil and maple syrup.  I added the cinnamon, but not the vanilla.  I'm not totally into fruit granola, so this one doesn't have any.  I usually throw some in on an as-I-eat-it basis.

Give it a try -- and pass some on to a friend, too!

Eron's Granola
(makes about 6 cups)

4 cups rolled oats
2 Tablespoons water
1 pinch salt
1 teaspoon cinnamon (optional)
1 teaspoon vanilla (optional)
1/3 cup of three or four of the following of your choice (depending on how much 'stuff' you like):
Sesame seeds, almonds, pecans
    sunflower seeds
    sesame seeds
    chopped or slivered almonds
    chopped pecans
    chopped walnuts
    chopped cashews
    pistachios (chopped or not)
    pumpkin seeds

1/3 cup of one of these sweeteners:
    honey, warmed enough to make it liquidy
    maple syrup (I prefer the dark, B Grade)
    agave syrup
Grade B maple syrup

1/3 cup of one of these oils:
    sunflower oil
    olive oil

1 1/4 cup mixture of any of these dried fruits (optional):
    shredded coconut
    chopped apricots
    chopped apples

Heat oven to 300 degrees F.
Mix together the oats, nuts/seeds and cinnamon (if using).  Add the sweetener, oil, water, vanilla (if using) and salt.
Spread the mixture thinly on two rimmed backing pans.
Bake for 30 - 35 minutes, stirring every 5-7 minutes.
Remove from oven and cool in pans. 
Once cool, add dried fruit (if using).
Store in a tightly sealed container to maintain freshness.

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