Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Crock-Pot Granola

After a long (Lenten and Paschal) interlude, I find myself once again in a blogging mood. I feel like I've actually been doing some stuff lately worth blogging about, and I'm trying to remember to take pictures. I know I could write blog entries without pictures, but I find I love looking at the photos in other people's blogs so much I want to include them in mine. I'm trying to ignore the desire for a new camera and work with what I have.

We had a very busy holiday weekend, that included going out of town for a family wedding and graduation party. We came back Sunday, and I was pleased that I managed to get quite a few things accomplished yesterday, including making granola. In the winter time, I eat oatmeal for breakfast nearly every day. In the summer, I like to eat granola, but this involves advanced planning, or buying pricey boxes of the stuff. I'm very much a grab and go breakfast person. In the evenings I pack both my lunch and my breakfast for the following day. I eat breakfast at my desk first thing while I read my email, so if I don't plan ahead and make granola it's usually a piece of fruit and an handful of nuts, or peanut butter and crackers.

I made the granola in the Crock-pot, which is handy for a couple of reasons. First of all, it doesn't heat up the kitchen nearly as much as using the oven. Secondly, it's much harder to burn that way, so you can do other things while you leave it to get all toasty. You just have to give it the occasional stir when you pass through the kitchen. Make sure you get right into the edges when you do that, because that's wear it gets the toastiest.

I consider granola recipes to be more of a formula or a guideline. I take the basic framework and substitute whatever I have on hand, am in the mood for, or think will go well together. It's pretty hard to mess up. I got the original recipe from Fresh from the Vegetarian Slow Cooker by Robin Robertson. It makes a cereal style granola, not a big, chunky trail mix one. I'll start with the broad outline, and then give the specifics of what I did this time.

Crock-pot Granola

5 cups rolled oats
3 1/2 cups add-ins (dried fruit, seeds, and nuts of your choice)
2/3 cup maple syrup (I think I've also used honey, or part honey before.)
1/4 cup oil (I use canola)
1/4 tsp. cinnamon (opt.--feel free to leave this out and change or add seasonings to suit yourself)

Lightly oil your crock, then add all your ingredients and stir together. If you don't want your fruit and nuts toasted, leave these out. I like them that way, but I know some prefer them raw.

Cook on high, uncovered 1 1/2 hours, stirring occasionally. Reduce to low, cook an additional 2 hours, uncovered, until your granola reaches the desired level of crisp toastiness. If you left out your add ins it might not take so long.

Spread it out on a cookie sheet or other relatively flat surface to cool. Stir in your add-ins if you left those out. Once cool, store in an airtight container. Serve with the milk or yogurt of your choice and enjoy.

For this particular batch I used: 1/2 cup sesame seeds, 1/2 cup chopped almonds, 1/2 cup broken pecans, 3/4 cup dried blueberries, 3/4 cups chopped dried figs, and 1/2 cup chopped dried pear slices. I left the pear slices out and stirred those in and the end because I think they get a bit burnt tasting and too chewy if I toast them with everything else. I also used only 4 cups of rolled oats, plus one cup of quick cook, because I ran out of rolled.

The main drive behind my choice of add-ins was that this is what I happened to have. I think this is the first time I've ever made granola without some unsweetened coconut. I was out of that, and I decided to forge ahead. This batch is still really tasty. Even though I'm a big coconut lover, I don't really miss it. Other things I commonly include: walnuts, sunflower seeds, dried cranberries, raisins, chopped dried dates, apricots, peaches, etc.. Really any mix of nut, seed or dried fruit that you take a fancy to will work. Crock-pot granola is pretty forgiving, and tasty, so try it!

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