Gifting Granola

In the same Prevention Magazine as yesterday’s Green Truffles (September 2, 2015), there were recipes and variations for beautiful granolas to give as healthier alternatives to the popular butter-laden (but delicious), nutrient-deficient Christmas cookies and cakes.  I was drawn to the granola idea for multiple reasons– a giant collection of glass jars, a Costco-sized bag of oatmeal, and 2 giant bags of almonds (because my mom overestimated the quantities she needed to make her almond crescent cookies this year). Also, granola is much faster than a batch of cookies, and I needed homemade treats for my colleagues the week before winter break.

Each recipe serves 6 to 8.

Granola Base
Heat oven to 350°F. Line sheet pan with parchment. In bowl, combine 3 cups rolled oats, 1/2 cup wheat germ, 1/4 cup ground flaxseed, and 1/4 tsp kosher salt. In saucepan, combine 1/4 cup maple syrup and 1/4 cup coconut oil. Heat until oil melts. Combine with oat mixture until well coated. Spread onto sheet pan in even layer and bake until crisp and golden, 15 to 18 minutes. Cool and transfer to airtight container. Store up to 1 month.

1. Seeds and Spice Granola
To dry oat base, add 1/2 cup raw pepitas, 1/4 cup shelled sunflower seeds, 2 Tbsp chia seeds, 1 Tbsp sesame seeds, and 2 1/4 tsp pumpkin pie spice.

2. Cherry, Almond, and Vanilla Granola
To dry oat base, add 3/4 cup sliced almonds. To syrup mixture, add 4 tsp pure vanilla extract. After baking granola base, stir in 1/2 cup dried cherries.

3. Chocolate, Coconut, and Banana Granola
To syrup mixture, add 3 Tbsp unsweetened cocoa powder. After baking granola base, stir in 1/2 cup roughly chopped banana chips and 1/4 cup toasted unsweetened coconut flakes.

You know I don’t follow the rules on most recipes, so I picked an ingredient from each variation and created my own concoctions.  I made chia seed, almond, cocoa powder, and dried cherry, as well as coconut, almond, cherry, and white chocolate chip.  Since I didn’t have any wheat germ, I threw in raw quinoa (I’ve toasted it in homemade granola bars before, and when it’s toasted it adds a nutty crunch).

Watch the edges of your pan carefully!  It’s probably a good idea to stir the mixture halfway through, or consider dropping your temperature to 325º.  My almonds on the edges were on the near side of burnt (my sheet pan was a dark one), and I was picking out a few that were too far gone (not for me, but some people don’t like the bitterness of a little char).  I might consider splitting the mixture in half and roasting in a 9×13 to allow for easy stirring.  I got rave reviews on the coconut/white chocolate combo, and I thought the almond/chocolate/cherry was perfect (pictured below).

Verdict:  These granolas don’t need to wait for Christmas to make an appearance.  I’m thinking granola in a cute little mason jar tied with a scrap of ribbon would make a great hostess gift or simple birthday present at any time of the year.  You could also easily adapt them to be gluten-free or nut-free.  I’m considering heading out to the kitchen to make a batch right now.



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