Granola frustrates me. Bountiful in whole grains, nuts, seeds, and sometimes fruit, granola harbors the potential of serving as a component of the ultimate healthy breakfast (sprinkled atop a green smoothie, anyone?). However, the vast majority of granola recipes call for smothering the cornucopia of nourishing ingredients in heaps of oil and sweeteners, essentially negating the benefits your body would otherwise gain from a wholesome handful of unadulterated whole grains and nuts. Pull a box or bag of standard granola off of a grocery store shelf and a quick glance at the ingredient list will reveal the heaps of sugar and oftentimes of numerous animal products lurking under the guise of a health food. For example, I pointed out to my mother that the packaged granola she often purchased for my father contained both butter and high fructose corn syrup. Boasting a bag of granola of a different brand upon returning home from grocery shopping, my mother sighed discontentedly as I discovered cream amongst the ingredients. Why the necessity of tainting potentially quite healthy food with the oppression of animals and the poison of refined sugar?
Thankfully, instead of wallowing in my granola-wrought despair, I channeled my resentment toward developing a new method of creating granola, one that would forgo the use of animal products, copious amount of oil, and refined sweeteners. Instead of relying on the aforementioned ingredients to provide adequate moisture to form the divine crunchy clusters I crave, I began pureeing fresh fruit with dates, spices, and powdered superfoods to create a liquid granola coating rife with vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, and other whole food goodies—the wildly beneficial aspects that oils and sweeteners lack.
Two of the granola recipes I’ve recently posted follow this fruit-sweetened format. My Apricot-Raisin Granola combines bright orange, succulent apricots with lucuma, maca, cardamom, and ginger for a uniquely spiced flavor studded with plump raisins. Apples, bananas, and kale form the base for my insanely healthful Chocolate Kale Granola, sure to awaken the hippie hiding inside your heart. Last week I concocted a fruit-sweetened granola of tart blackberries and sunshine-yellow sea berries with lucuma that harbored a delightfully tropical flavor, while just yesterday I employed juicy white peaches from the Arlington Farmers’ Market paired with cinnamon and vanilla for a summery granola that wowed my fellow dormmates; one of them even declared it as the best granola she’s ever tasted (thanks, Katie!).
I urge you to experiment enthusiastically, implementing every type of fresh fruit, spice, superfood, and dried fruit imaginable to create endless variations on this simple, nourishing granola template. Feel free, as well, to increase the amount of nuts, seeds, or flaxseed meal. If you do decide to omit the dried fruit, I’d recommend adding another 1/2 cupful or so of rolled oats to adequately soak up the fruit puree.
Fresh Fruit-Sweetened Granola (SF, LS)
Makes 8-10 cups.
5 dates, pitted, chopped, and soaked for at least 10 minutes
About 15 oz of fresh fruit, chopped
1 tbsp coconut oil
2-3 tbsp powdered flavoring (spice, lucuma, maca, cacao, etc.) or liquid flavoring (vanilla extract, almond extract, etc.)
2 cups gluten-free rolled oats
1 cup raw buckwheat groats
1/2 cup flaxseed meal
1/2 cup nut or seed of choice, chopped
1/2 cup dried fruit, diced (optional)
Preheat the oven to 250°F.
In the bowl of a food processor, combine the dates and fresh fruit. Process until very smooth, then stream in the coconut oil and add the powdered/liquid flavorings.
In a large bowl, combine the remaining ingredients (rolled oats through dried fruit). Pour the fruit puree over the dry mixture and stir well until evenly coated.
Divide the mixture between three baking sheets to ensure even baking. Place in the oven for about 55 to 75 minutes, stirring every 20 minutes and rotating the baking sheets, until the granola is adequately dry and crunchy. Take care, however, not to overbake or burn the granola, as it will continue to dry and become crunchier as it cools.
Allow the granola to cool completely before transferring it to an airtight container. The granola will keep in the refrigerator for up to 2 weeks.
Comment Provoking Questions: Which fruit would you like to coat your granola in? What is your favorite granola recipe? How do you sweeten your granolas?
Until next time, Ali.