It’s easy be a fan of granola, what with its crunchy bite and hearty toasted flavor. The bad thing is, along with that pleasing mixture of satisfaction and fullness that granola provides, what you are also getting when you tuck into a big bowl of granola is sugar. Lots and lots of sugar. Now, clearly I am no opponent of sugar (see here), but if I am going to eat a sweet breakfast, I am not going to attempt to conceal that fact under an attempted guise of healthfulness. A cinnamon roll is a cinnamon roll, and granola should just be granola. You’ve got to know what you’re getting into.
Sacrificing sugar and oil (another common granola ingredient found in unexpectedly large quantities) in a batch of homemade granola does not mean you will be left wanting for taste. As with most things in the kitchen, when you remove something you must then add something, and in the case of this granola, you’ll actually be adding two somethings: apple cider and honey.
Combined with a generous helping of nuts and what seems like an unrealistic amount of cinnamon, this granola exits the oven smelling like tray of freshly baked of cookies, but in reality it boasts the sort of healthfulness that is ordinarily associated only with the likes of, well, granola.
I imagine that most people will get to the final portion of this recipe and immediately walk away, eyes rolling. Two hours in the oven? And you have to stir the stuff every 15 minutes? It’s true that this granola needs to be moderately babysat while toasting in the oven, but if you break down those 15 minute intervals, you realize that many activities already cater to a repeated 15 (or 20, if you want to stretch it, which, honestly, does no harm) minute break. How much television do you watch in one evening? Does a commercial come on just about every 15 minutes? Yes, it does. Are you spending a leisurely Saturday afternoon at home with some reading? Wouldn’t you enjoy getting up every 15 minutes to stretch your legs? Oftentimes I start assembling this granola (which takes all of 5 minutes) while I am beginning dinner preparations. By the time we have eaten dinner, cleaned up, and bathed the kid, the granola comes out of the oven just before we get settled in to read bedtime stories. Setting aside a few seconds every 15 minutes to stir the granola isn’t even noticeable, and when we go to bed we know that we’ll be waking up in the morning to the lingering scent of apples, cinnamon, and nutty toasted oats. If that’s my reward for stirring something a mere 8 times, I’ll gladly take it.
Honey Nut Granola
6 cups rolled oats
1/3 cup sliced or slivered almonds
1/3 cup roughly chopped walnuts
1/3 cup roughly chopped pecans
1/4 cup wheat germ (optional)
3 tablespoons cinnamon
1/2 cup fresh pressed or unfiltered apple cider
1/3 -1/2 cup honey, depending on how sweet you like your granola (I find that 1/3 cup is perfectly, not overly, sweet)
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
1/2 – 3/4 cup raisins
Preheat oven to 250 degrees. In a large rectangular baking dish, toss together the oats, nuts, wheat germ (if using), and cinnamon. In a separate bowl, thoroughly whisk together the apple cider, vanilla extract, and honey. Pour the apple cider mixture over the oat mixture and toss to coat evenly. When done tossing, make sure to spread the oats out evenly.
Bake uncovered for about 2 hours, stirring every 15 minutes, until the mixture is dry. Remove from oven and stir in the raisins while the granola is still hot. Cool granola to room temperature before storing in a tightly covered container at room temperature.