Wednesday, November 9, 2011

My Granola Recipe--Because You Asked.

I laughed as my friend described my old standby meal for guests. An already-made lasagna from Wal-Mart’s freezer. Pre-made garlic bread from the bakery section. A bag of salad from the produce area. And cookies made from packaged dough. Voila. I was so proud of myself for “making” it all for my friend and her husband.

That was back when I cooked by simply reheating. Back when I lived near several Wal-Marts in the States. Back when I didn’t really know how to cook from scratch and didn’t think I had time to do it. Back when I didn’t know a lot of things I know now.

Fast forward 10 years (really, that long?), a move first to bush Alaska, then six years ago to Indonesia and I make almost all my food from scratch, on a tight budget, using fresh ingredients and have even less time as a mom to two little ones.

I’ve learned that it takes time to learn healthy habits—both on the inside and out. I’ve learned how to substitute. How to make recipes, and life work with what I have. How to learn—from other expat women living here, from other cultures, from my own cake disasters.

And even though I still, deep down, think of myself as a tomboy who would rather play outside while someone else does the cooking, your questions, asking for recipes and ideas, remind me that I really have changed.

So, even though I am not really the recipe-posting type (since I don’t really think I’m all that good at cooking/baking), since you asked so nicely, I plan to write some posts on some of my favorite recipes that fit into my busy life, that my kids and hubby enjoy and that are made with healthy ingredients.

The first one is my stand-by breakfast, snack, and healthy dessert food that I make about twice a week and eat every day. Granola.

There are lots of recipes out there, and I’ve tried a few different ones over the years. Here’s the one that is currently my favorite. I cut it up into granola bars for snacks, or crumble it into bowls with my homemade yogurt (more to come on that next week) with some fresh fruit (usually mango and banana—but pick your favorite that is available where you live.)

This is an adaptation of America’s Test Kitchen granola bar recipe (with my own tweaks).

7 cups slow-cook oats (I can only get instant or slow-cook here, but use whatever you have or like)
½ cup canola oil (or some kind of healthy oil, but not olive oil)
½ teaspoon salt
¾ cup honey
¾ palm sugar (it’s a healthier, richer-tasting kind of sugar)
2 teaspoon cinnamon
1 cup almonds (my favorite, but hard to get here), or peanuts or pecans (another rare, but special treat here)

Mix the oats with the salt, add the oil. Bake in a pan at 325 degrees for 20 minutes. Cook and stir the honey and the sugar in a pot on the stovetop until combined (about three or four minutes).

When the oats are done, mix the oats, the sugar-honey, the nuts and the cinnamon in a big bowl. Spread flat on an oiled, large pan (I use a 12 by 18 inch stoneware, edged pan) and cook at 300 degrees for 35 minutes.

Let cool, then cut into any-sized granola bars, which can be the crumbled with yogurt and fresh fruit.

Check back here within the next few days for my easy-peasy yogurt recipe, some healthy snack ideas and my tips for using everyday ingredients to make, from scratch, meals that impress kids and adults alike. That is, if I haven’t intimidated myself with these lofty goals and end up wandering the frozen section of my local non-at-all-like Wal-Mart grocery store, longing for the good-old days of ignorance.

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