The thing about store-bought granola is that it's either too sweet, too greasy or too dry. Not to mention expensive. It took me a lot of fiddling to make a granola I really like, but finally came up with one that has great texture, crunch, and sweetness all balanced together. But the great thing about granola, is that you can tweak it to reflect your own preferences. Don't like nuts? Leave 'em out. Don't have raisins? Put in whatever dried fruit you've got (or leave it out all together). Play with spice/flavor combinations. Try different oils. The sky's the limit on the number of variations you can do. It's really about proportions, so when you get the proportions that you like, then you can mess around with the different ingredients, as long as your dry vs. liquid vs. fruit proportions stay relatively the same. Here's my one bit of advice: don't do dates. I love dates, but just not in granola. It's an odd texture and just sticky sweet without adding much flavor to the mix. Just my opinion. Remember, it's just ingredients, so if you don't like a combo, toss it, or give it away as gifts (to friends or enemies, depending on how it turned out). Ha! (All my friends who have ever received food gifts -- and there are a lot of them -- are now hating me....).
This time I experimented with using coconut oil, but I'm not sure how I like it. When the granola was baking, it smelled like suntan lotion in the kitchen, and even now, it has a faint suntan lotion-y essence, but not as bad as before. On the other hand, the oil definitely enhances the coconut flavor. It's all a matter of taste.
Be that as it may, here's the recipe for my granola:
Marna's Granola Recipe:
Preheat oven to 300 degrees
Mix together in a large bowl:
5 cups old fashioned or quick-cooking oats (not instant!)
½ cup bran or flax seed
1 cup nuts
1 cup coconut
¼ cup brown sugar
Heat in a saucepan or microwave:
½ cup canola oil
1/3 cup maple syrup or honey
1 Tbsp chopped crystallized ginger (optional)
Stir the warmed liquids to combine and add ½ tsp of vanilla and ½ tsp salt
Add the warmed liquid mixture to the dry ingredients and stir until oats and nuts are coated.
Spread mixture onto two cookie sheets and baked, stirring every 15 minutes, for about 40-45 minutes (keep an eye on it, as the coconut can start turning too brown quickly). You might even want to switch the sheets from top to bottom, front to back, about halfway through.
Once the granola has browned and is sort of dry, take out the oven and let cool. Return to large bowl and add 1-2 cups dried fruit (raisins, cranberries, diced apricots, golden raisins – whatever you have on hand, really). Stir to combine.
Makes about 10 cups of granola
This is really just for proportion – around ¾ cup (7 oz, so be exact) liquid to 7-8 cups dry. You can play around with this a lot – more or less nuts or fruit, coconut or not. You get the picture. For this batch, I added some honey crunch wheat germ, subbed coconut oil for canola, and used golden raisins, regular raisins, and dried cherries to the mix. I happened to forget the vanilla this time and ended up adding the salt after I had put the raw granola on the baking trays. Still turned out pretty delicious (won't be giving it away, unless my mother-in-law asks for some, which she usually does). Like I said, granola is pretty forgiving.
Have fun experimenting with this one! Be sure to report back any of your favorite flavor combinations!