Healthy, natural granola

Most newbies to California eventually discover granola, as I did, years ago. Popularized by the hippie movement in the 1960’s, this mixture of crisp roasted oats, dried fruit and nuts is usually combined with yogurt and fresh fruit for breakfast. I first tried it at a cafe and loved it. Of course I tried to recreate it at home, and reached for the many, many, many varieties of packaged granolas in the grocery aisles. I got quickly disenchanted. Why? Let me count the ways.

1. Too sweet!

2. There’s always one ingredient I don’t like. Either it’s coconut; or dried raspberries paired with vanilla; or sesame seeds which I like, but not in this context; or chocolate, good lord.

3. Often stale. The oils used are often rancid.

4. Never tastes quite oaty enough. As my husband says, too much binder, not enough oats.

5. .Some granola makers want to ride on the ‘rustic appeal’ train and make it artificially clumpy, to replicate that homemade look, but honestly people, those clumps are hideous. I’ve had packages of granola that were nothing but clumps. Clumps hide sugar and salt bombs. Yuck.

So I finally decided to make my own and never looked back. The fresh, roasted smell of oats brightens up the kitchen on the mornings that I make it, and I have never had store bought granola that tasted quite that oaty.

Thank you Alton Brown! I first saw this recipe on his show Good Eats, but I have refined, simplified, and de-sweetened it (Americans like their food too damn sweet, even Alton Brown. We are not children people).

Here is the basic recipe, and please experiment by tossing it with fruit and nuts of your choice.

Step 1. Oats

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I use 6 cups old-fashioned rolled oats from Quaker. Put 6 cups oats into a giant bowl.

Step 2: Basic flavoring.

Add one teaspoon granular salt and stir it around with your hands. Then add half a cup of almond oil, and a quarter cup good maple syrup. We use Grade B. Mix it very well with a spatula, until all the oats are shiny and covered.

Step 3: Roast.

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Start oven at 250 F. Spread the oats on a roasting pan in a flat layer about a quarter inch thick. Let it roast for one hour and ten minutes. About 40 minutes into the cooking process, take out the tray, and stir the oats around to break clumps. Put the pan back in to complete the cooking process.

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Once it is done, you have the opportunity to mix in dried fruit or nuts of your choice — some that we have tried are, currants; slivered almonds; flax seeds.

Wait till it cools and save in an airtight jar. It will keep for at least two weeks, never had a chance to keep it longer — we always finish it within that time.

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