In Search of a Healthier Granola

When I think of granola I usually picture something fairly healthy. So I become somewhat disappointed when all I find are granola recipes featuring heaps of sugar and fat. Actually, these recipes sound a lot like an oatmeal cookie. Not that I have a problem with oatmeal cookies. It is just that I want to start my daily routine with something light and not too sweet or fatty. I will save those "special occasion" breakfasts for pancakes and donuts.

This granola is one that I make, continually modifying it, every time I run out. It bakes up nice and crunchy, mildly sweet and satisfying atop a heap of cut seasonal fruit. If you are looking for a sweet granola to snack on as-is, this might not be for you (though, you could add a cup of sugar if you want). I find it to be perfect with naturally sweet fruits or yogurt (pre-sweetened or plain with homemade jam). The almonds add bursts of nutty flavor when you crunch into them.

I found a trick to getting granola clusters by using quick-cooking oats and grinding part of them into flour. I add in the old-fashioned rolled oats for additional texture, but they could be replaced by more quick-cooking oats. The molasses and honey are also fairly interchangeable, guided by taste and what is on hand.

“Healthy” Granola

5 cups quick-cooking oats
1 cup old-fashioned rolled oats
1 ½ cups raw almonds
2 tsp cinnamon
½ tsp ground ginger
½ tsp salt
1 cup mashed over-ripe bananas, and/or applesauce
2 Tbsp molasses
2 Tbsp honey
1 ½ cups dried fruits, more or less to taste

Preheat your oven to low, 300F/150C. Grind 2 cups of the quick-cooking oats in a food processor until it becomes flour. Combine oat-flour in a large bowl with the remaining oats, the old-fashioned rolled oats, almonds, cinnamon, ginger, and salt. In a large measuring cup combine mashed bananas/applesauce, molasses and honey. Pour into dry ingredients and stir until everything is moistened. Let sit for 10 minutes.

Spread mixture out onto a large rimmed baking sheet. Break mixture into even clumps. Bake in pre-heated oven for 20 minutes. Remove from oven and stir, breaking up clumps into smaller clusters and making sure nothing is browning too fast. Return to oven. Every 10-15 minutes check on granola and stir. Granola can take for 1-1.5 hours for it to completely dry. Once dried, remove from oven and allow to cool completely. Mix in dried fruits.

Serve over chopped fruits and add milk or yoghurt. Store in an air-tight container at room temperature.


Mandarin Curd

This time of year the fruit choices start to narrow. What we have in abundance, especially here in Morocco, is oranges. Morocco is almost never short on this citrus, and it is difficult to find an orange that isn’t sweet and tart, full of juice. Naturally, I look for ways to take advantage of this beyond just peeling and eating the bounty. Keep an eye out for more orange recipes in the near future.

“Mandarin” is how Moroccans differentiate the smaller, easy-peel relative. These guys have a shorter period of availability, starting at the end of November and ending in February. They make for a great twist on the traditional lemon curd. The curd can be used as a spread on toast, over pancakes, as a tart filling, or, as I used it this week, as cupcake filling.

After looking through several recipes, I came up with one using what I had (which included 3 leftover egg yolks). The egg yolks make for a richer curd, but you could probably substitute 2 of the egg yolks for another whole egg.

Mandarin Curd
Makes 1 small jar

Juice and zest of 4 mandarin oranges
Juice of 1 lemon
¾ cup sugar
1 egg, beaten
3 egg yolks, beaten
3 T butter, cut into pieces

Add the zest and the juice of oranges and lemon in a medium pan with sugar, egg, and egg yolks. Whisk to combine. Cook on low heat, constantly stirring with a spoon, until thickened, about 15-20 minutes. Pour through a strainer into a bowl. Add butter and stir until incorporated. Pour curd into a sterilized jar and seal. Store in refrigerator up to two weeks.