Whether it’s a hot summer’s day or a chilly winter afternoon, a bowl of crunchy granola can cure just about any ailment. You can enjoy it with ice-cold or warm milk, you can crumble it on top of frozen yogurt or ice cream, or you can just eat it straight out of the bag. Granola is one of the most versatile things you can have in your pantry, seamlessly transitioning from a hearty breakfast to an energy-boosting snack.
However, and this is the part I hate to break to you, most of the granola available to us today is wildly unhealthy. It tends to be loaded with refined sugars, preservatives, and unnecessary filler ingredients. You may think it’s a great nosh to have right after the gym, but you might actually be filling your body with extra calories and mean carbohydrates. It may be marketed as a wholesome thing to put in your body, but it’s become one of the food industry’s greatest tricks. That’s why I’ve been on a hunt to find a granola that is both delicious and super good for you. Because hell will freeze over before I live without my granola fix.
I was lucky enough to come across a dynamite recipe from Against All Grain: Delectable Paleo Recipes to Eat Well & Feel Great by Danielle Walker. It’s ridiculously easy to make, it takes very little hands-on time (there’s some prepping that’s involved, but it’s nothing you can’t handle!), and it’s made with nothing but the simplest ingredients. It’s gluten-free, dairy-free, sugar-free, vegan, and paleo. Usually, foods that are all those things taste average at best. But this granola will be one of the greatest you’ve ever tasted, and it packs a nutritious punch.
Here’s an adaption of how to make vanilla nutty granola, step by step:
1. Soak a bunch of nuts for 24 hours.
Okay, I know what you’re thinking: You hate planning ahead. But it’s totally worth it, I promise.
Soak 1 cup of raw almonds, 1 cup of raw walnuts, 1/2 cup of cashews, 1/2 cup of raw pecan halves, 1/4 cup of raw sunflower seeds, and 1 teaspoon of sea salt in a big bowl of filtered water for 24 hours.
This makes the nuts much, much easier for your body to digest. It also increases the amount of vitamins and nutrients you get from the nuts.
2. Put it in a food processor and whiz it up.
After you’ve drained the nuts and patted them dry with a paper towel, toss them into a food processor and process until they look like oats. Then add the following:
3/4 cup maple syrup
2 tablespoons melted coconut oil
1 1/2 tablespoons pure vanilla extract
1 1/2 tablespoons cinnamon
Pulse it all up until just combined.
3. Mix together in a large bowl with some shredded coconut.
Take 1/2 cup shredded, unsweetened coconut and toss into a large bowl with your nut mixture. Stir it until it’s combined. You can even taste it now, just to get a hint of what you’re dealing with. Yep, yum already, even though it’s still very wet.
4. Spread out onto baking trays (or dehydrator trays if you’re fancy).
I wish I owned a dehydrator, but I have way too much student debt to justify ordering one from Amazon. Luckily, if you’re anything like me, you can make your granola in the oven, the good old-fashioned way. Just make sure you spread the granola out on parchment paper covered baking sheets. It might take two or three of them to spread it all out.
Get your oven to 170ºF and place your granola in there, with a wooden spoon in the door to crack it open. This lets the moisture escape, because remember: You want crunchy – not soggy! – granola. Let it do its thing for 2 hours, then gently stir. Put it back in there for another hour or so. This time, turn the oven off completely, shut the door entirely, and leave the granola in there (untouched) for another hour or two. Before you do anything with it, it should be completely dry, which gives it that beautiful crunch.
By the way, if you’re using a dehydrator, just stick it in there at 120ºF for a full 24 hours.
5. Stir in raisins and ENJOY.
I don’t think it necessarily needs raisins, but I put them in there anyway because, hey, you only live once. If you know you want raisins, stir in about half of a cup.
Doesn’t it look sexy?! Eat it however you like. My favorite is with cold almond milk poured on top. I was pretty skeptical at the beginning, thinking there’s no way the that moist mixture could turn crunchy. But it totally did, and the touch of cinnamon really brought out the flavors. You could use honey if you don’t have maple syrup, but I prefer maple. It gives it that gorgeous smokey, sweet taste that makes your eyes roll into the back of your head.
When I passed this granola to my friends at the gym, they couldn’t believe I made it at home. It tastes better than anything you’ll ever buy at the shop, so give it a shot!