This is a very loose recipe, more a set of directions than anything else. You can vary it according to your taste. The basic technique for making any kind of granola is to have some sort of grain base (usually oatmeal), a liquid sweetener, and an oil. Other ingredients—nuts, seeds, dried fruit—are added as desired. For this past retreat I made two versions, one with nuts and one with several types of seeds. The picture is of the leftovers, so you can see almonds, pumpkin seeds and sunflower seeds, along with dates and craisins.
First, the basic mix:
5-6 cups old-fashioned oatmeal (Use the larger amount if you're worried about having enough. Don’t use that horrible quick or instant stuff.)
1 cup maple syrup or honey, or a combination thereof. (I use half each. There are other liquid sweeteners you could use, I guess, but these seem the most granola-y to me. I wouldn’t use something really strong-tasting such as molasses.)
1/2 cup oil (I use coconut oil if I'm including coconut and peanut oil if not, but coconut oil is fine for any version.)
1 tsp. salt
1 tsp. vanilla
To this you can add ingredients from the following list. At some point, if you kept adding things, you’d have too much of the dry ingredients to be coated by the wet ones. I’d say limit yourself to three or four of these:
1-2 cups unsweetened dried coconut (You'll have to go to some kind of natural-foods store, such as Sprouts or Vitamin Cottage, to get this.)
1 cup hulled raw pumpkin seeds
1/2 cup flax seed
1/2 cup sesame seeds, pref. unhulled
1 cup raw wheat germ
2 cups whole natural almonds (with skins)—you can leave them whole or chop coarsely.
2 cups pecans
1-2 cups sunflower seeds
Obviously, if you have a little bit left of an ingredient you can just throw it in. Don’t worry too much about exact measurements. Other nuts or seeds can be used—I put some walnuts in a batch once and they were good, too.
Preheat oven to 350. Mix dry ingredients except salt in a LARGE bowl. Mix liquid ingredients and salt together. I find it helpful to heat the liquid mixture in the microwave for a minute or two. Stir the liquid thoroughly to dissolve the salt and mix the oil and sweetener together. Pour this over dry ingredients, then mix and mix and MIX until each and every kernel, nut and seed is coated. Spread out in two large rimmed cookie sheets. Bake for 10 minutes, take out, stir, switch positions in oven, bake for 5 more minutes, stir again, check for doneness—mixture should be golden brown and nuts toasted lightly. It will probably need about 5 minutes more. Don't overbake. It’s much better to keep baking in short increments and checking than to ruin a whole batch. The mixture will not seem very crispy—it will get more crispy as it cools.
After the granola has cooled, you can mix in any of the following to taste:
Chopped dates (I use the date bits you can get at Sprouts or similar stores--the ones that are actually extruded ground-up dates dusted with oat flour. They're much cheaper than
actual chopped dates.)
Currants (which are just small raisins, but for some reason I like those)
Other dried fruit
If you make a big batch it’s a good idea to store it in the freezer, as there are a fair number of ingredients that can go rancid on you if left too long at room temp. Great with milk or yogurt for breakfast, with added fruit or honey if desired.
Now for the (non) grits, actually a cheese and cornmeal pudding.
SOUTHWEST CORN PUDDING
This is the dish I serve at the retreats that everyone likes so much. It is adapted from the world’s most beautiful cookbook, Seasonal Southwest Cooking. I have simplified it quite a bit, using regular old cheese instead of exotic Mexican types and canned chiles instead of fresh ones that have to be roasted and peeled. For our retreats I make a quadruple recipe and bake it in a standard-size chafing-dish pan. The following is the regular size from the book.
Preheat oven to 350. Butter an 8- or 9-inch square pan.
Mix the following together and set aside:
3/4 cup cornmeal
1/2 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. Salt
(See below—if you're using buttermilk powder instead of buttermilk, put in ¼ cup of the powder here.)
In a large bowl, mix:
1 15-oz. can creamed corn
1/2 cup finely-chopped green onions (These are optional. Frankly, I’m usually throwing this together at the last minute and don’t include it, but I think it would be good. You could also use finely-chopped sauteed onions.)
½ cup finely-chopped red pepper (I have never been well-organized enough to put this in, but I think it would add some nice color and crunch.)
1-2 4-oz. cans diced green chiles, depending on how hot you want it. (These chiles are pretty mild, so if you want some serious heat you could use jalapenos as well, or some chile powder.)
2 cups grated cheese (I usually use part Cheddar and part pepper jack, and you can certainly put in more cheese than this.)
1/2 stick melted butter (The best way to melt butter, and believe me, I’ve melted a lot, is to microwave it on 50% power. This amount should take a minute. The original recipe calls for a whole stick of butter, which I think makes the pudding a little greasy, and I'm a great butter fan.)
1 cup buttermilk (or you can use buttermilk powder, which is very handy to have on hand and keeps forever in the fridge. If you do use the powder, then mix it in with the dry ingredients above and put a cup of water in here.)
Optional: You can mix in a cup or two of frozen corn. You don't have to thaw it, just be sure that the kernels are separated. I do like this recipe better with the corn, as it adds more texture and corn flavor. But if you don't have it, or forget to put it in (as I did this most recent time), no big deal.
Stir the dry ingredients into the wet ones, pour into the prepared pan, and bake until set and somewhat brown on top, 35-40 minutes. You can make it a little more custardy by having it still be somewhat jiggly in the center, or you can think of it as more like cornbread and bake until it’s firm. I like it on the softer side, as then it’s more like a spoonbread.
Enjoy! as those irritating waitpeople say.