Thursday, 30 May 2013

Great Granola

I'm on a bit of a health kick at the moment. It probably won't last, so just humour me, okay?

I lost some weight a while ago (about a stone) but unfortunately I seem to have put it back on, with interest. I also can't remember the last time I felt 'well', you know, when I could wake up in the morning and say that I felt really good. I had a cold at the beginning of March. Then I got another one at the beginning of May, just in time for the May Day Bank Holiday. I'd barely shaken that one off, when I got another one just in time for the second May Bank Holiday at the end of the month. To say I was fed up would be an understatement.

So I decided I needed an intervention. The weight gain was clearly down to all the rubbish I was eating - I've always loved chocolate but recently it was really starting to become an addiction. I'd wake up in the morning and almost my first thought of the day would be what chocolate I was going to buy, and where from. I always bought a bit more than I needed, so that I could start to build up a 'stash' in my desk drawer at work. Sometimes it's hard to take a step back and look at your behaviour in an objective way, but when I did manage to do that, I could see that I was eating a ridiculous amount of chocolate every day. So that had to stop.

I also think that my general malaise (ooh, there's a word!) is probably down to a not very healthy diet, as well as a distinct lack of exercise. I'm not a naturally sporty or active person though, so although I'm going to try and gradually increase my activity levels, it will probably be a lot easier for me to change my diet to begin with.

I was searching the internet for low-carb recipes, as I lost weight previously when I drastically reduced my carbs. I came across a site called EatingWell.com which seems to have lots of great recipes on it, and so far I haven't needed to register or anything like that.

One of the first things I've had a go at making is my own granola. And do you know what? It's flipping fantastic! I've had shop-bought granola before which was nice, but I can't get over how delicious this is.

The original recipe on the Eating Well website is here. I mostly followed it, with just a few changes to suit me. For some reason I didn't write the coconut chips on my shopping list, so I missed them out, but I do like coconut so I'll try and remember to add it to future batches. They also suggested using raisins and cranberries - I don't like raisins, and I can't have cranberries because I take Warfarin (but I don't think I like them anyway). Canola Oil is apparently Rapeseed Oil - I'm not sure how healthy that is though, there may be a better alternative.

I've just made my second batch of this so I thought I'd do a post about it. As stated above, all credit to the Eating Well website for the recipe - I hope it's ok for me to reproduce it here.

Maple Nut Granola

5 cups of rolled oats
half a cup of sliced almonds
half a cup of chopped pecans
half a cup of light brown sugar
third of a cup of unsalted pumpkin seeds
third of a cup of unsalted sunflower seeds
half a cup of pure maple syrup
half a cup of water
quarter of a cup of canola oil
about a cup of dried fruit, your choice

1. Preheat the oven to 275 degrees F, which works out about 135/140 degrees C, so it's a fairly low setting.
2. Combine the oats, nuts, sugar and seeds in a large bowl.

Action shot of me adding the bright green pumpkin seeds!
3. Give the dry ingredients a good stir to mix them all together, then set aside.


 4. Next, mix your wet ingredients together in another bowl. In no particular order, combine the maple syrup, the water and the oil.


5. Pour this over the oat mixture. It soaks in quickly and may look as though there isn't enough, but give it a good stir around for about a minute and you'll see that it gradually coats the dry mixture.

Just poured in
6. Place the mixture in a large roasting tin. Spread it out evenly, but don't worry too much about this because it gets a stir half way through.






7. Place in the oven and bake for 45 minutes. Remove, and give it another good stir. You'll notice that on the top it's starting to crisp up a bit, but underneath will probably still feel a bit moist, so try and really mix it up. Pop it back in the oven for about another 45 minutes, till it's golden in colour and starting to crisp.

8. While you're waiting, get your dried fruit ready. Since I don't like raisins and cranberries, I decided to use apricot, apple, dates and cherries. I just get a few of each and then chop them into smaller pieces - I find it easier to cut them with a good pair of kitchen scissors than a knife.



9. Take your granola out of the oven and then stir in your fruit, and allow to cool completely. I find it helps to spoon it out of the roasting tray back into the mixing bowl, as the tray holds it's heat for such a long time.




This is the second batch I've made, and this time I seem to have ended up with more of these 'clusters' - not sure why, perhaps I didn't stir it enough at an earlier stage. It doesn't matter because they're still baked and edible, and you can break them up with a spoon, if you can be bothered. I can't!




I bought some fat-free natural yogurt to have with this, but I also on a whim thought I'd try some almond milk and do you know what? It's become my latest obsession. This granola, with almond milk poured over it, is so delicious, I can't get enough of it! My previous breakfast of choice was bran flakes in cow's milk with about a ton of sugar (only a slight exaggeration) sprinkled over the top, but not any more. Even though this has got sugar and maple syrup in it, at least it's more spread out and I'm not getting that much sugar every day, only a fraction of it.

So I'm really going to try and keep up with making this granola. It's not difficult to do - I don't think the measurements of the ingredients really matter, I guess as long as you have enough liquid to just coat the dry mixture. You can use whatever nuts, seeds and fruit you fancy, and if you look at the original recipe, there are lots of comments from people who have tried it and put their own spin on it. A lot of them felt that it was too sweet, so they left out the sugar, but since I've got such a sweet tooth I've left it in. And although it takes a while to bake, it's the kind of thing you can just leave while you go and get on with something else. Two attempts and I haven't burnt it yet, so that's always a good sign!!

Anyway, if you have a bash at it, enjoy! Let me know how it goes and what you think to it...

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