Saturday, March 19, 2016

Easy Basic Granola

Granola is an easy treat to make that can be customized so many ways to suit your own personal likes and preferences. Early granola consisted of crumbled whole grain products that were then baked until crisp. Nowadays traditional granola is made with oats, nuts and fruit as a base, however do not let that limit what you use as there are many tasty combinations that lend themselves to a healthy nutritious breakfast food or snack.

Spent grain barley a by product of  brewing beer,
dehydrated for alternate uses. 
 When making my basic granola recipe, I use a combination of oats and spent grain barley, which is a by product of the home beer brewing process. The brewing process simply stated involves boiling the barley and water to make a barley 'tea' that is then fermented into beer. The leftover barley still retains much of its flavor and nutritional values. I dehydrate the spent grain and store for future uses. Since I have access to a fairly regular supply of spent grain barley, I have made use of it in several recipes including my granola.

The process of making granola involves gathering your grains and nuts and toasting them; making a sauce that will act as a binding agent and then dehydrate the mixture at 135 degrees overnight approximately 12 hours or until the grains once again are dry and crispy. Add in your desired dried fruit, completely cool and then package and seal to keep out additional moisture.

Oats and barley toasted stove top.
You can toast your oats either in the oven or stove top. Toasting the grains take away the raw taste and helps to bring out the natural sugars. I toast mine in a skillet stove top in 2 cup increments being careful to stir often to prevent the oats, grains and nuts from burning.

The following recipe is for a small batch which I recommend for the first time granola maker. With a small batch the first time you will get a feel for what you may or may not like with out being out a lot of ingredients. Later this recipe can be easily doubled or tripled to suit your need or capacity to dehydrate.

Granola sauce heated to when it just begins to boil.
I then make my sauce and bring it just to the point of boiling, and then pour it over my nut and grain mixture stirring until the sauce has been well incorporated. This is then placed on on the paraflexx sheets in your dehydrator set at 135 degrees for up to 12 hours. (Times will vary).

Dehydrate the granola at 135 degrees for up to 12 hours or until dry and crispy.

Once your granola is dry and crunchy, add in your dried fruit if desired. Adding the dried fruit after dehydrating the granola keeps it from overdrying and becoming overly brittle. However if you prefer your granola with a more brittle or crispy fruit feel free to add it at the same time with the other dry ingredients.

Mix in the dried fruit of your choice.

Once the granola has cooled store in containers, vacuum seal for longer term storage to retain freshness. Because of the oil used in the sauce, I would recommend using within 6 months to prevent rancidity.

Packaged in jars and vacuum sealed for longer term storage and some for immediate enjoyment.

Easy Basic Granola

8 cups oats (I prefer the old fashioned not the quick, you can use a combination of grains and oats to total 8 cups, I use half oats and half spent barley grain, organic puffed rice or sesame sticks are another great alternative, I have also used in a pinch rice krispies and other cold cereals)
1 cup wheat germ
1 cup oat bran (sometimes I have a hard time finding oat bran so I improvise by grinding 1 cup of oats to make my own)
1 cup flax seed
4 cups nuts (use a combination of your favorite, use more or less to suit your taste: sunflower seeds, pumpkin seeds, almonds, walnuts, pecans or hazelnuts)
1/2 cup brown sugar
1 cup honey (this can be a combination of honey, maple syrup, molasses, corn syrup or fruit syrup)
1 cup coconut oil (alternate oils can be use as well like vegetable, grapeseed, canola)

**The following spices and flavorings can be adjusted more or less to suit your personal tastes.
1 tbsp vanilla
1 tbsp cinnamon
1 tsp cloves
1 tsp nutmeg
1 tsp ginger

OPTIONAL- To the sauce or wet mixture add your choice if desired an additional 1 cup of any of the following: peanut butter, applesauce, mashed banana, pumpkin puree, Nutella or any other 'flavor' enhancer of your preference.

**2 cups dehydrated fruit of choice - add last after dehydrating is complete

**Mini chocolate chips, m&m's, yogurt raisins or carob raisins can be added as well after the granola has completely cooled for a more trail mix like granola.

Lightly toast the oats, alternative grains and nuts stove top stirring often to be sure not to burn. Combine the oats, nuts, wheat germ, oat bran, flax seed in a large bowl and set aside. In the same sauce pan where you toasted the grains, add the remaining ingredients except the dried fruit and bring to a boil, then pour this over the dry ingredients mixing well until the dry ingredients have been completely moistened. Spread this wet mixture on your dehydrator trays lined with the paraflexx sheets, dehydrate at 135 degrees overnight or up to 12 hours testing for crispiness. Dehydrating times can vary. Once the granola has reached the level of crispiness desired, remove from the dehydrator and add 2 cups of dehydrated fruit. Once the granola is completely cooled, package and store as desired.

*If you prefer the above recipe can be made in the oven as well. Skip toasting the grains and nuts and follow the recipe as directed placing the mixture in the oven set at 300 degrees stirring every 15 minutes until dry and toasty. Add fruit after removing from the oven and cool and package as directed.

**I have also made this recipe in the oven overnight with the oven temperature set at 140 degrees using the 'keep warm' feature with great success.

***The granola is great as a topper for fruit and yogurt, eaten with milk as a cold cereal or even cooked with milk for an oatmeal like hot cereal or by the handful as a quick ready to eat sweet snack.

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