Coconut Pecan Granola (gf, vegan)
Isn't granola pretty much the best breakfast food ever? It's one of those foods that typically has a boat load of refined sugars, but can easily be improved with healthier ingredients without compromising taste. The swaps are simple and work to elongate your blood sugar curve so you stay full and energized for longer.
Last week I was home in Kentucky and my mom pulled out a box of cereal she loves in order to ask for my opinion. The front of the box boasted that the granola was all natural, wholesome and full of whole grains. I turned the box around and the ingredients looked something like this: Whole Grain Oats, Brown Sugar, Canola Oil, Rice Flour, Honey, Salt, Brown Sugar Syrup, Baking Soda, Soy Lecithin, Natural Flavors. Now this gets me a little heated, because it's clearly deceptive. The state of our food industry makes it quite difficult to make healthy choices in the supermarket. I told mom that we could make a homemade version that would taste similar, but also contribute to her health and vitality rather than bringing it down. Also, every ingredient in my homemade granola would be easy to understand and completely straightforward. Making granola is quick and easy, so there's no reason not to do it yourself and store some for the weeks ahead. However, if you're going to buy this kind of thing in the store I do want to encourage you to take the extra step of looking at the ingredients list. Learn all the different names for sugar (some more deceptive than others), inquire about what 'natural flavors' means, and look into the kind of oil used in the recipe (hint: canola oil is a no go). Cultivate awareness around your choices and then whatever decision you make, well...at least you know what’s going into your body.
So we came up with a recipe using the ingredients mom had on hand and it was a hit, of course! Homemade anything is better, IMO. Here's a little formula so you can make the granola in your own style, followed by the exact recipe we used.
Granola formula (DIY)
Old Fashioned Rolled Oats
This is the staple of any granola -- oats will make up the bulk of your recipe. I use 4 cups of oats in my recipe and always buy gluten free oats. Oats are a great source of fiber, which is beneficial for digestive health. It's also rich in magnesium, zin, manganese, selenium, thiamin and iron.
I like to add 1 1/2 cups of nuts/seeds. My favorites are pecans, pepitas and almonds, but you could also use walnuts, cashews, sunflower seeds, flax seeds or any other combo you like. The nuts used in my recipe are full of calcium, magnesium, Vitamin A&E, fiber, potassium, zinc, B Vitamins and more! Pepitas are especially wonderful for the immune system, containing omega-3 fatty acids, zinc and plenty of antioxidants.
All great granola recipes need a natural sweetener that helps the granola stick together and clump up a bit. I like to use 1/2 cup of honey, or maple syrup. Traditionally granola uses brown sugar, but I wanted unrefined sugars only on this recipe. I also attempted to cut the quantity of sugar down, as well. If you want the recipe to be vegan, obviously use maple syrup.
I use about 1/2 cup of dried fruit. You can also just omit it entirely if you prefer. The key here is to pick a dried fruit that is as free of preservatives and added sugars as possible. I picked a nice dried apricot (my favorite!), but other options are raisins, dried cherries, dried apple, etc. I usually stay away from dried cranberries because they almost always have added sugar.
I opted for 1/2 cup of olive, but you could also use coconut oil. Olive oil is rich in mono-unsaturated fats and is packed full of anti-inflammatory properties. It's great for skin, hair and nails and acts as a heart healthy, graceful aging, mood balancing, cancer preventing oil.
My favorite mix-in is coconut flakes and I make sure to pick unsweetened, of course! You can also add dark chocolate or carob chips, chia seeds and any spices that appeal to you. My favorite spice is cinnamon.
For clumpy granola:
Make sure you spread the granola evenly on your sheet pan on top of parchment paper, which will help the oats stick to each other rather than to the pan. You also want the whole mixture completely touching together, but spread evenly enough so that everything toasts. Finally, you’ll stir the mixture halfway through the baking time, but afterward smoosh it back down flat on the pan so it’s all touching together again. Once out of the oven, allow the granola to cool completely before you break it up.
To make it gluten free, use certified gluten free oats.
To make it vegan, use maple syrup rather than honey.
To make it nut free, use seeds instead of nuts.
Coconut Pecan Granola
(gluten free // vegan)
4 cups old-fashioned rolled oats
1 cup raw pecans
1/2 cup almonds
1/4 cup pepitas
1 tsp sea salt
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/2 cup olive oil
1/2 cup local honey (can also use maple syrup or a mixture)
1 tsp vanilla extract
1/2 cup dried apricots (without added sugar)
1/2 cup coconut flakes (unsweetened)
Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit and line a large baking sheet with parchment paper. Combine the oats, nuts, seeds, salt and cinnamon.
Add the olive oil, honey and vanilla extract. Mix well, until everything is coated. Pour the granola onto the baking sheet and spread it into an even layer.
Bake until the oats are golden, about 25-30 minutes. Halfway through, add the coconut flakes and stir. Redistribute the oat mixture so that it's all touching, but spread over the pan.
Remove the granola from the oven and allow to cool completely. The granola will clump up and crisp more as it cools.
Once it's completely cool, break it into pieces and stir in the dried apricots (or any other mix-ins). Store in an airtight container at room temperature for 1 to 2 weeks, or in the freezer for up to 3 months.
Serve with berries and yogurt, with almond or cashew milk, or as a snack on its own.
Enjoy, and let me know how you like it!