- The Washington Times - Wednesday, January 9, 2008

Granola came into vogue during the health-food movement of the ‘60s, quietly retreated, and in the past few years has come back in fashion.

Today you will find upscale bakeries and restaurants that sell personalized versions, each with their own mix of nuts, fruits and grains. They are often pricey and, frankly, not as good as making your own.

After graduating from the University of California-Berkeley, the capital of political demonstrations and granola, I went to study at the Cordon Bleu in London.

Cooking up all of those rich dishes sometimes seemed too much. I yearned for lighter food that reminded me of the U.S.A. I decided that I could create the best granola that any Brit had ever tasted.

I sought out health-food stores with raw nuts and dried fruits and experimented with a number of variations. A culinary breakthrough occurred in my tiny flat on Pelham Court when I combined some tasty honey with crispy nut-and-fruit granola in my even tinier oven and produced the basic recipe I share with you here.

Once I’d figured out how to produce a really tasty, delish granola 6,000 miles from my home state of California, I’d share it with my cooking school classmates, and they would constantly ask for more.

I knew that if I had a batch of this, I could get over any bout of homesickness. It worked. It also was a lot lighter than the local breakfast of sausages, eggs, bacon and grilled tomatoes.

After I completed my cooking courses, my husband and I bought a camper and drove from Scotland to Greece and many places in between. I somehow duplicated my London version of the granola during our wanderings for times when we missed home, and it really did make us feel better.

We loved trying it with the local yogurt. It still continues to be one of my comfort foods to this day. Try it with the maple yogurt, and if you have any fresh berries on hand, toss them on top.

This homemade granola has a wonderful, toasted flavor with just a hint of honey — a perfect start to the New Year when we all want to eat healthy. Feel free to add any combination of dried fruits and nuts and make extra batches to toss into cookies and sprinkle over ice cream.

This also makes a great gift from your kitchen or a hostess gift.

Help is on the way:

• Try different nuts like macadamia and Brazil.

• Add shredded coconut for a tropical flavor; add 5 minutes before the end of baking.

• Add diced dried pineapple, dried diced mango or whole dried cherries.

• Use grade B maple syrup.

• Don’t crowd the granola; make sure it is in 1 layer.

Granola with maple-yogurt swirl

5 cups old-fashioned rolled oats

1½ cups unsalted sunflower seeds

1 cup wheat or oat bran

1 cup coarsely chopped pecans

½ cup sliced almonds

3 tablespoons vegetable oil

½ cup honey

2/3 cup dried cranberries

4 cups nonfat plain yogurt

6 tablespoons maple syrup

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. In a large bowl, combine the oats, sunflower seeds, bran, pecans and almonds. Drizzle with oil and toss well to coat evenly.

In a small saucepan over low heat, warm honey until it liquefies, 3 to 5 minutes. Drizzle honey over oat mixture and toss again to coat evenly.

Spread mixture evenly among 2 11-by-17-inch baking sheets. Bake for 15 minutes. Remove pans from oven, stir granola well and spread out again. Reduce oven temperature to 325 degrees, return granola to oven and bake 15 to 20 more minutes, stirring twice, until evenly browned.

Remove pans from oven and let granola cool completely. Mix in the cranberries.

Meanwhile, in a small bowl, stir together the yogurt and maple syrup and refrigerate.

To serve, pour granola into bowls and top with maple-yogurt.

Advance Preparation: Store granola into an airtight container for up to 2 weeks.

Makes 8 cups or 8 servings.

Diane Rossen is the author of 18 cookbooks, including “Seriously Simple Holidays.” To contact her, go to www.seriouslysimple.com.

TRIBUNE MEDIA SERVICES

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