Saturday, May 26, 2012

Omega -3 Granola

Over the last few years, we've slowly been eliminating processed foods from our diet.  Some items were easy to replace, but I've struggled to find a good substitute for dry cereal.  My son adores cereal and will always choose it, even when I offer to make pancakes or waffles instead.  After checking out nearly every box of cereal in the breakfast aisle, I have come down to pretty much the only cereal option I am comfortable with - plain old Cheerieos (and not the knock-off brands - I found the have the preservative BHT in them instead of vitamin E, like real Cheerios).  They have less than 5 ingredients and only one gram of sugar per serving (I won't purchase anything that has over 5 grams per serving).  But Cheerios are still a highly processed food, which I'm not comfortable with.  The grains are extruded, forced through machines to make the "O" shape.  So, I've been trying to come up with my own version of cold cereal to replace the beloved Cheerios.  My son is still not sold on this granola (mostly, I think , because it does not float in the milk like Cheerios), but every one else in the family goes ga-ga for it.  I crave this stuff.  It's delicious with milk or as a topping for yogurt.

Unlike many other granolas that are loaded with sugar and Omega-6 oils (corn, soy, canola, sunflower, safflower, etc.), this recipe uses only honey as the sweetener and is rich in Omega -3's (found in the olive oil, walnuts and ground flax seed).  Your body needs both Omega-6 and Omega-3 fatty acids, but the average American diet consumes way too much Omega-6 and not nearly enough Omega-3.

Try this recipe yourself, but be warned - it won't last long!  If you have 2 rimmed baking sheets (I don't.  Boo.) you could make a double batch and save yourself some time and work. 

Omega-3 Granola

  • 1/3 cup slivered almonds (or you can just chop up some whole almonds- I usually don't measure, just grab a handful and chop them up)
  • 1/3 cup walnuts (optional - I rarely have these in the house)
  • 3 cups old-fashioned rolled oats (NOT quick cooking or instant oats)
  • 3 tbsp olive oil
  • 1/4 cup of sunflower seeds/nuts (again, I just grab a handful)
  • 1/4 cup pumpkin seeds, the shelled kind (a handful)
  • 1/2 cup honey
  • 2 tbsp ground flaxseeds
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp cinnamon (optional)
  • 1/2 cup raisins (optional - we prefer it without raisins)

1.  Preheat the oven to 325 degrees.  Toast the almonds (and walnuts, if using them) in a large skillet over medium heat, stirring often until fragrant and beginning to darken, about 3 minutes.  I use my cast iron pan for this.

2.  Stir in the oats and the oil and continue toasting , until the oats begin to turn golden brown, about another 2-3 minutes.  Then add the sunflower seeds and pumpkin seeds, and toast an additional 2 minutes until the whole mixture is golden and fragrant.

3.  Turn off the heat and stir in the flaxseed, salt and cinnamon.

4.  Now drizzle the honey over the dry mixture, stirring to coat everything well.

5.  Transfer the mixture to a rimmed baking sheet and spread it out so it can bake evenly.

6.  Bake for 15-18 minutes, stirring every few minutes.  Watch it closely at the end of the baking time.  It can go from "just right" to "burned" very quickly.  You want the granola to be a rich brown color.  It will not be crispy when you remove it from the oven.  It will crisp us as it cools on the counter.

7.  Remove the finished granola from the oven and stir in the raisins, if you are adding them. Then use a spatula to shove the granola to one half of the baking sheet.  Press down gently to create a slab of granola.  Allow the granola to cool completely, about 30 minutes. 

8.  Use a sharp edged spatula/turner to scrape up the granola and transfer it to a container.  It will break up into chunks.  This recipe makes enough to fill a half-gallon sized canning jar, about 6 cups.

I have no idea how long this granola will last on the shelf.  At our house, it is never sitting around for longer than a week!  However, I am fairly confident that the granola would stay good for several weeks if kept in an airtight container. 

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