I do not like granola. I do not like it from a box; I would not like it with a fox. I will not eat it as a bar; I will not eat it in a car...
I bought some granola several years ago to make these TWD cookies, and as Brianna would say, it was okay, but not my favorite--definitely not something I'd eat outside of a cookie, or on a regular basis. I can sort of understand the appeal--it's a good way to get some fiber, and it can have assorted fruits and nuts in it, which are good for you. It just doesn't taste all that great, and way too much of it seems to have coconut of some sort. No need for that. And don't get me started on store-bought granola bars. Ick.
In spite of my dislike of granola, when I saw my friend Tracey's blog, I was intrigued. I had just made some oatmeal scones for breakfast using toasted oats. I don't like cooked oatmeal due to the texture, but sometimes I wish that I did like it, since you can add so many interesting things to it. The granola Tracey made had lots of ingredients that I like--pecans, brown sugar, cinnamon. I also have a giant bag of dried cranberries (thank you, Costco) in my pantry, so I was excited to see a way to use some of them. I figured, what the heck, if I hate the granola, I can always give it away. =)
I wasn't sure how much I'd like the honey in the recipe (another thing that isn't my favorite), but decided to make the recipe as written. It's really easy--first you mix together the oats, pecans, brown sugar, cinnamon and salt in a big bowl. Then you put the oil, granulated sugar, and honey in a small saucepan and warm them up. I'm guessing that's to make it easier to mix into the dry ingredients, since honey is a lot more fluid when it's warm. You stir in a whole bunch of vanilla (I used my good stuff) once the rest of the ingredients are warm, and pour the liquids over the oat mixture. Once everything is stirred together, it goes into a somewhat low oven (300ºF) for about half an hour, stirring every ten minutes or so. That's another thing that I liked about the recipe--some granola recipes have you baking the granola for a hour or longer. Once the granola is out of the oven and cool, you mix in the cranberries.
The verdict? Wow. This stuff is fantastic! It's a perfect example of why you should make things at home--freshly made granola is a whole different thing from the stuff you buy at the store. Who knew? I took a bunch of this batch to work--everyone seems to be avoiding sweets right now, having indulged too much over the holidays, so I thought maybe they'd appreciate something healthier. It was a big hit all around. I promised them that I'd bring in more as I try different variations. I can't wait to play around with the recipe to see what else I can come up with. Today I tried substituting grade B maple syrup for the honey--the honey taste isn't overpowering in the first version I made, but I really prefer other sweeteners. And how can you go wrong with maple & pecans & brown sugar? The result isn't super mapley, but it's really good. It's a bit drier/less sticky than the honey version, probably because the maple syrup isn't as viscous as honey. I also rubbed vanilla bean seeds into the granulated sugar, and cut the vanilla extract back to just one teaspoon. I'm really happy with how it turned out.
If you'd like to try the original granola recipe for yourself, you can find it here on Tracey's blog. Be sure to look around while you're there--she posts so many delicious recipes, both sweet and savory. =)