THE VERY BEST GRANOLA RECIPE.

img_4633On school days, our morning are, in an understatement, hectic. As much as I try to prepare at night for the next day, there’s only so much you can do. Diaper changes, bottles, long snuggles, teeth brushing, throwing things into lunchboxes, turning on the crockpot, not to mention getting ready myself. These are the days though. I live for those morning snuggles before school, at the cost of eating breakfast myself. With the gift of forethought this weekend, I made my very favorite granola, cooking it low and slow this past Saturday in the oven while the boys took turns napping and pulling every toy off the shelves in the playroom. I’ve gotten in the habit of tucking a little jar of granola with yogurt into my lunchbox to eat when I get to school in that blissful half hour before students arrive at the library for my first class. 

Mornings are tinged at this time of year (in south florida!) with a cool breeze and it’s just the best time of year to make granola. I’m sure it’s an even better time for it in the cold and wintry north. Let’s be honest, who wants to leave their oven on for an hour during any other time of year? I’ve tried many recipes for granola over the years, and this is the one scrawled on an index card, but nearly memorized. It’s adapted from Alton Brown, and it’s just my favorite. This isn’t just any granola, but a hearty and satisfying mix that’s not too sweet (the failing of most granola), a little bit salty with a nice crunch that pairs perfectly with a bit of plain greek yogurt. It is, of course, highly adaptable. Choose your favorite dried fruit, variety of nut, extra mix ins. 

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Granola
adapted from Alton Brown

What you need:

– 3 cups oats
– 1 cup mixed nuts, chopped (this mix is my favorite from aldi)
– 3/4 cup shredded coconut, sweet or regular
– 1 tsp salt
– 1/4 cup plus 2 Tbsp brown sugar
– 1/4 cup plus 2 Tbsp maple syrup
– 1/4 cup neutral oil (I use canola)
– 1 cup dried fruit (this is my favorite)

What to do: 

+ Preheat oven to 250 degrees.

+ Mix oats, nuts, coconut, salt, and brown sugar in a large oven-safe dutch oven, or baking dish.

+ In a small bowl, stir together syrup and oil.

+ Pour oil and sugar over oat mixture and stir to combine.

+ Cook for 1 hour and 15 minutes, stirring every 15 minutes.

+ Let cool, then mix in dried fruit.

+ Store at room temperature in an airtight container for up to a week.

+ Enjoy over yogurt or milk!

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Do you eat breakfast? I’ve gone through phases this year of breakfasting and not, and I’m in a decidedly breakfasting phase.

TO BAKE: CHERRY BERRY BARS

I often, especially at that hour after my students leave, but can’t yet leave school to pick up my own little loves, find myself in need of something to munch on. I’ve gone through phases of handfuls of pretzels, tupperware-d muffins, little jars of plain yogurt with granola, tins of chex mix, baggies of graham crackers, or a simple, not overly sweet cake wrapped up in a napkin and tucked in my lunch box to enjoy with a steaming mug of peppermint tea in the afternoon.

But a couple weeks ago, it was after the boys had gone to bed, and I had in my mind these date bars that are a bit of a tradition for me to bake pre-anywhere travel. It had been a long school day, I had been making lists all week of things that needed to be remembered and packed before our trip. I typically double Smitten Kitchen’s recipe to fit in my 9×9 square baking pan, and to make more of a thick breakfast bar than the single recipe makes.

As you can probably see where I’m going where this, a few things went awry in my dark of night cooking. I was doubling all the ingredients in my head (always write them down. always!). I also didn’t have exactly all of the ingredients that the recipe called for – dried cherries rather than dates, frozen fruit to make up the difference, regular granulated sugar instead of raw, ginger instead of cloves, and the use of a whole cup instead of a half measuring cup. A few changes and mistakes that led to the greatness of a crumbly but chewy, sweet but tangy, sweet but also a little salt to take the edge off, homemade granola bar. The perfect after- school, or afternoon treat to enjoy with a hot cozy drink in a mug.

Homemade Cherry-Berry Granola Bars

adapted from Smitten Kitchen

For the filling:

What you need: 

5 ounces dried cherries
1 cup frozen (or fresh) mixed berries
1/2 cup water

What to do: 

+ Combine cherries, berries and water in a small saucepan.

+ Simmer over low heat for 5 to 10 minutes until the liquid has absorbed and begun to thicken.

+ Set aside while you make the dough.

For the dough:

What you need: 

1/4 cup packed brown sugar
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1 cup canola oil
1/2 cups oats, quick-cooking or old-fashioned, plus another 1/4 cup for topping
3 cups flour
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon ginger
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon coarse sea salt

What to do: 

+ Heat oven to 400 degrees. Grease sides and bottom of a 9×9 baking pan.

+ In a large mixing bowl, or in a Kitchenaid mixer, combine the sugars and oil. Add the flour, 1/2 cup of the oats, cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger, baking soda and salt. The mixture will be the consistency of a cookie dough.

+ Press about 3/4 of the mixture into the bottom of your baking pan. Spread your filling on top.

+ To the remaining 1/4 of the dough, add 1/4 cup of oats and mix together. Sprinkle this on top of the fruit filling and press lightly to cover.

+ Bake for 30 minutes or until light brown at the edges. Cut into squares after cooled. Store at room temperature if eating soon, refrigerator for about a week, or freezer for longer.