Thursday, October 25, 2012

Olive Oil Granola

I work in one of those kitchens that always has some sort of scraps laying around for staff to munch on.. broken cookies, wonky shaped soft pretzles, day old rolls, or if we're lucky, a buttermilk biscuit or scone that somehow didn't make it's way to the bakery case.

Despite the fact that I could clearly have a free breakfast at my disposal every morning, I am one of the few that still choose to brown bag it.  Sure, muffins and cookies and scones are freaking delicious.. but I need me a REAL breakfast. Working in a kitchen is kinda like low impact aerobics.  There is alot of walking, squating, lifting and bending involved.  I used to be one of those people that would skip breakfast, munching on an occasional scrap of a chocolate chip cookie here and there, but my body needs some serious nourishment in the morning to allow me to stay energized and focused. 

The trick is finding the right amount of food that will fill me up, but not weigh me down. Optimally, I would start each day with a thick slice of toast, topped with some sauteed greens and a poached egg. Starting work at 6 a.m. doesn't really give me that opportunity, so I stick with things that are easy to eat standing up, that I can munch on while I work.

One of my favorite breakfasts on the go is granola and yogurt.. a classic combo.  Up until recently I would bring my own yogurt, and then choose from one of thirty available granolas available to me in the bulk aisle at work.  Can I just tell you... granola is EXPENSIVE! A mere serving (like, 1/3 c.) granola (the good kind made with maple syrup and lots of nuts and fancy dried frut like mulberries and goji berries) would set me back two dollars. TWO DOLLARS!  That's just poppycock. 

There are certain things that are much more cost effective to DIY (do it yourself) and granola happens to be at the top of thie list.  The great thing about making your own granola is that you can customize it to your liking. Most granola contains lots of sugar (usually disguised as evaporated cane juice) and some neutral fat like canola or sunflower oil, which isn't exactly health food, despite the fact that it has always been labeled as such.

I've made granola with coconut oil in the past with great results but decided to switch things up a bit using extra virgin olive oil.  I added cashews, almonds, pumpkin and sunflower seeds along with some shredded coconut and raisins, with a combination of maple syrup and local honey to sweeten things up a bit.  The end result was some relatively healthy, crunchy, not too sweet granola that costs a fraction of what you would pay at the store.

Do your body a favor. Get all hippy like and eat some homemade granola.

Olive Oil Granola (makes ALOT)

4 c. oats
1/4 c. raw pumpkin seeds
1/4 c. raw sunflower seeds
1/4 c. raw cashew pieces
1/2 c. raw almonds, rough chopped
3/4 c. unsweetened coconut
1/8 t. sea salt
1 t. cinnamon
1/4 c. extra virgin olive oil
1/2 c. maple syrup
1/4 c. honey
1 t. vanilla extract
1 c. raisins

Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Line two sheetpans with parchment paper. In a large bowl, combine the oats, nuts, seeds, coconut, sea salt and cinnamon.
In a medium saucepan over low heat, stir together the olive oil, maple syrup and honey. Stir until well combined. Remove from the heat and stir in the vanilla.
Pour the wet ingredients to the oat mixture and divide between the pans, making sure the mixture is evenly distributed in a single layer.
Bake for 45 minutes, stirring every 15 minutes. When the oats are lightly browned and toasted remove from the oven and set aside to cool.  Stir in raisins and store in an airtight container.

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