Thursday, July 7, 2011

Homemade Granola

What comes to your mind when you think of granola?
Crunchy, dry cereal that hippies eat in a teepee filled with smoke? Nature? Hiking? Living in the outback?

 I grew up liking granola, but always thought of it as too much work to eat. All of that chewing..crunch, crunch, just wears your jaw out!
Well, little did I know that years in the future I would not only like to munch on granola, but I'd be making my own!

It all started as an experiment to find cheaper stuff than cereal to eat for breakfast. Let me tell you, just about anything is cheaper for breakfast than cereal. They jack the prices up sky high on those little boxes of crunchy goodness. Especially for granola.
We usually eat steel-cut oats for breakfast most days, (mmm..with blueberries and milk) but we were craving a change, or just some variety so I found a recipe and tried making my first batch of homemade granola.

There it is- on the far left, next to the steel-cut oats. Yum!

Its good!
Really good.
Not too hard to make, either.

So, fast forward ahead a year to current times- we're still eating it regularly and it saves us lots of money!
I can make a big, double batch of cranberry almond granola for about $12. I use around 4 lbs of oats, then probably another pound of add-ins ( cranberries, nuts, honey, etc.)  This feeds us for about a week and a half, sometimes more. It makes about 5 or 6 pounds of granola, which is about the equivalent to seven and a half  10.5 oz  boxes of store-bought granola. Which cost between $4 and $5 a box or sometimes even more! 

I am terrible at math, but I've figured out that our homemade granola saves us about $21.75 every time I make it, (if we were to pay $4.50/box)  So that's saving us $43.50 a month; just on cereal.
If we were to buy granola at the store, just with the seven and a half boxes per two weeks (so 15 boxes/ month) we would be spending $877.50 a year  just on granola. Wow! As it is, we spend around $288. Which is still a good chunk of change, but with the store bought; that's a whole paycheck! I'd like to see it all in a pile, that would be cool. Or not.

 (Have you noticed that the store-bought granola is in tiny little boxes?  And it's like 5 dollars! What is up with that?!)  I remember when we used to buy it, one box would last one morning. That's just with me and hubby eating it, because that was before we had kids! Yep. Homemade is cheaper, healthier and...dare I say...yummier.

Okay. So homemade granola is definitely worth the hour or so it takes to cook in the oven. Even in the summer, when the oven heats up your house. Still worth it. Just make granola at night, before you go to bed and then after you turn off the oven, leave the granola in there while you sleep to crunch up.
I've made it so many times I don't really measure anymore,

 I just pour everything in

Rolled Oats

Cranberries and Pecans (or fruit and nut of your choice)
Local Honey, Olive Oil
A bit of Organic Sugar and about 1/2 cup of water if the oats look like they need more liquid to coat everything evenly.

 mix it up.....

All mixed up!

 and then I stick the granola in the oven for an hour, stirring it two or three times when its cooking to make sure it browns evenly.

How come I never noticed my oven was dirty til I took a picture of it?

I figure you'd probably like an actual recipe, so here is the one I started out with. I've simplified it as I've gone along in time, so I'll add my comments in as additional options for making things easier.
I got this recipe from a book I got from my local library. Its called, "Mommy Made (And Daddy Too!) Recipe Book" 
(Note: I do not get money from Amazon for providing this link. Its just a cool book that has some good recipes in it! )

Here's how to make your own homemade granola:

5 cups old fashioned rolled oats
1 cup wheat germ
1cup wheat bran
1/2 cup unsalted slivered almonds
1/2 cup unsalted sunflower seeds
1/3 cup vegetable oil
1/3 honey
1/3 cup water
1 cup raisins, cranberries or  any other dried fruit that you may like

Combine oats, wheat germ and bran, sunflower seeds, almonds in a bowl and stir. In another bowl, mix together honey, oil, water. (If you put the oil in first, the honey will slide right out of the measuring cup when you put it in there. Makes life so much easier.) 
Pour liquid over oat mixture and stir. Spread out in a roasting pan and bake for one hour at 300 degrees F, stirring every 20 minutes. Granola is done when crispy and light/golden brown. Remove from oven and cool, stir in dried fruit. Store in an airtight container for up to 3 weeks in the fridge.

(My way of making it:
I don't use the wheat germ or bran or sunflower seed because we didn't like the taste of them. Also, I put the dried cranberries into the granola before I cook it. Most recipes will tell you not to do this, because it risks burning the fruit. It doesn't burn the cranberries, and I like how it slightly caramelizes them. Do what you want to do, not just what the recipe says.  :)
I also just turn off the oven and let the granola sit in there to cool down, because it helps it crisp up nicely. This granola will not be super clumpy, just kind of crispy. If you want to make it clumpy, I imagine you'd need more honey and maybe some brown sugar with it. I also don't keep it in the fridge; it does just fine in a container on a shelf, as long as it gets sunlight to keep it from the possibility of mold, which I've never had happen before- it always gets eaten too quickly! )

If you try this recipe, let me know, along with any modifications you've made or things that worked/didn't work for you. I'd love to hear from you! :)

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