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Let kids’ creativity roll with these healthy homemade granola recipes

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If fast food is the fossil fuel of nutrition, oats are a solar battery for a busy autumn. The fiber content of oats helps the carbohydrate sugars break down more slowly; it also makes you feel full. And that back-to-school staple, granola, is so easy and economical to make. Rolled oats, nuts, dried fruit, a few seeds, a little oil, a little sweetener; stir and bake? You can do this.

Better still, your kids can do it — and exercise their own choices about what they want in their granola. Your home- made version will be as sweet (or not) as you decide; as browned as you want; and quickly gone. Those with food allergies can choose gluten- free oats; agave nectar or molasses or other syrups work as a substitute for honey (though the granola will form fewer nice “chunks” if agave nectar is used). Add flax seeds or sesame seeds, wheat or rice bran to bump up the fiber quotient, though the oats and nuts will already make it fairly high.

Once you’ve got the hang of granola, experiment with your own recipes. You can add any dried fruit, any nut, any seed, any spices (though some dried fruits can char at higher temperatures — cranberries, for example).

Don’t forget that a little salt brings flavors into brighter contrast; oats are a starch, so when you add them and a bunch of nut flours to brownie mix, for example, it needs a little goose with some extra salt. Taste your granola raw before baking and season it the way you like it.

Baking granola on foil can make it a little bit tricky to scoop up when it’s cool. Give it a little time once it’s out of the oven, but not too much — or lube the foil slightly with nonstick spray, oil or butter before baking. Want nice chunks, rather than flakes? Press the granola into the pan with a wide, flat spatula.


Berry Nice Granola

Makes 2 1/2 quarts or a bit more. Recipe by Susan Clotfelter.

3 1/2 cups rolled oats
1 cup dried cranberries
1 cup dried blueberries
2 cups sliced almonds
1 cup dried coconut flakes (unsweetened)
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ginger
1 teaspoon salt, or to taste
1/3 cup canola oil or neutral-tasting nut oil
1/3 cup honey

Preheat oven to 325 degrees. In a large bowl, combine the first five ingredients and toss with your hands, breaking up any clumps of dried fruit. Add the spices and salt; stir and taste. Finally, add the oil and honey; combine well and taste (if you don’t like it uncooked, you won’t like it cooked. If it’s too sweet, add more oats or almonds.)

Spread the granola in a sheet pan in about a half-inch layer. Bake for 25 minutes or until a medium brown. (If your oven runs warm, start out at 300. You don’t want to overcook the cranberries.)


Tropical Treat Granola

If you like heat in your breakfast, try using the chile-spiced dried mangos available at Hispanic groceries; if you like dried pineapple, substitute it for half of the mango. Recipe by Susan Clotfelter. Makes about two quarts.

3/4 cup dried sweetened papaya, chopped
3/4 cup dried mango, chopped
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon cardamom
1/2 teaspoon ginger
1/4 teaspoon white pepper
1 1/4 cup raw cashews, coarsely chopped
2 cups rolled oats
1 1/2 cup dried flaked coconut
3 tablespoons canola oil
1/4 cup honey

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Mix dried fruit and spices; taste and correct seasoning if necessary. Add cashews, oats and coconut and stir to combine; add canola oil and honey and stir until all ingredients are moistened. Spread on a greased, foil-lined cookie sheet; bake for 20 minutes or until lightly browned.


Steel-cut Oat and Quinoa Cookies

Steel-cut oats are wonderful in the winter — chewy, hot and hearty. But they do take a while to make unless you soak them overnight. These cookies give you steel-cut oats that you can take on the road, plus quinoa flakes for extra protein. Makes about two dozen. Recipe by Susan Clotfelter.

2 cups cooked steel-cut oats, simmered fairly dry
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup dried cranberries
1/2 cup chopped walnuts or pecans
1/4 cup quinoa flakes

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Stir the salt, cranberries and walnuts into the oats until evenly distributed. Add quinoa flakes; if the dough’s not fairly stiff, add more flakes, a teaspoon or so at a time. Drop by teaspoonfuls onto a lightly greased or parchment-lined cookie sheet. Bake until barely browned and firm, about 15 minutes.

-By Susan Clotfelter

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