Vanilla Cinnamon Granola and Tree Hugging
Growing up, granola was seen as dry, bland hippy food that health nuts and tree huggers ate. It wasn’t something I’d eat or even consider making. In New England, you ate solid, flavorful comfort food meant to keep you warm and sustained through the cold, harsh months. Oats and berries were for birds and woodland critters, not hearty New Englanders. That’s until I worked in a resteraunt who’s very talented chef made, among other things, granola…
My shift in thought toward homemade granola came even before tasting it. After punching in for my shift at the resteraunt, I put on my chef coat and apron and opened the door to the kitchen. I was immediately struck with the intoxicating smell of cinnamon, honey, brown sugar and vanilla. I don’t know about you, but for me, it’s one of those smells that’s akin to baking bread or cookies. It’s comforting and warm and very Norman Rockwell-ish. And after tasting it, my opinion shifted forever.
Once converted, I threw myself into making granola. My chef’s granola was magnificent, but I wanted to take what he had taught me and adapt it, make it my own and play on different variations of the theme. It’s very easy to make and highly adaptable. You really can’t go wrong with any variation, so suit it to your taste. Once you get the simple technique down, it’s yours to do with as you wish.
Here’s one of my favorites. Feel free to add anything you like to it: wheat germ, sunflower seeds, pepitas, etc.
4 cups rolled oats
½ cup walnuts
½ cup pecans
½ cup almonds
1/3 cup brown sugar
¼ cup maple syrup
¼ cup honey
¼ cup vegetable oil
1 Tbs cinnamon
1 Tbs vanilla
1 cup craisins or raisins
½ cup semi-sweet chocolate chips
Preheat oven to 325 ̊F. Line a pan with parchment paper. In a medium bowl, mix together the oats and nuts. In a saucepan, mix the oil, brown sugar, maple syrup, honey, salt and cinnamon. Bring to a simmer. Take off heat and add the vanilla. Pour over the dry ingredients and stir to coat. Pour the mixture onto the sheet pan and spread as evenly as you can. Bake 10 minutes. Remove and stir. Bake another 10 minutes or until the edges begin to brown and the granola begins to dry. Check the underside. It should be light brown. Remove from oven and let cool. Once cooled, add the craisins or raisins and the chocolate chips. Store in an airtight container. Enjoy!