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Stovetop Granola with Dried Cherries, Pepitas and Flaxseed

Posted Aug 25 2008 2:51pm

My posts will be more sporadic in the coming days; little Nick’s flu turned out to be viral pneumonia. He checked into the hospital yesterday. It’s been a crazy few days; he is already doing MUCH better, but send a little prayer our way.

I’m back home for a few hours to rest up, but sleep isn’t coming. So here I am at the computer. When I can’t rest, I feel much better by doing something (anything), so allow me to indulge myself; it will help me distract my thoughts for an hour or two.

Time in the hospital leaves plenty of opportunity to think, not to mention watch TV—there seems to be a television posted in every corner of the place. I watched Oprah while Nick slept yesterday afternoon and caught one of her regular guests, Dr. Oz (he’s written all of those best sellers with titles such as "YOU: The Owner's Manual", "YOU: The Smart Patient", "YOU: On a Diet", etc.; I'm holding out for "Hey: YOU!" and "YOU: Looking at Me???!!!")

The doc was all over the place with his latest book, "YOU: Staying Youthful", and was chock-full of advice for adding years to your life, including regular yoga, antioxidant foods, fish oil, and sex; I felt myself die a little as the list grew longer and longer.

But one food factoid that caught my attention, and which I thought would be worth writing about, pertained to flaxseed (which, like oily fish, is rich in Omega-3 fatty acids): you need to grind it up to reap all of its benefits. The news caught Oprah by surprise; she mentioned she had always eaten the seeds whole.

I only happened to know about the need to grind flaxseed because I buy flaxseed meal, not the whole seeds, and they mention that very fact on the packaging. Dr. Oz advised grinding the seeds yourself in a coffee mill, but don’t bother (unless you savor sounds reminscent of time in the dentist's chair); flaxseed meal (also called milled or ground flaxseed) is commonly available and saves you that step. It's made by Hodgson Mill , Bob's Red Mill , and others.

I’ll talk more about flaxseed in future (can there be a limit to flax chat?). For now, let me recommend an easy way to get some flax in homemade fashion, without even turning the oven on: my no-bake granola. It’s quick, it’s easy, and it’s very delicious, perfect for breakfast, snacking, adding to lunchboxes, sprinkling over frozen desserts, or leaving a trail through the forest.
The recipe evolved from a regular granola recipe. I was trying some different additions (at the time it was flaxseed and dried blueberries) and had finished cooking it on the stovetop (most granolas start on the stove to melt the sugar). I spread it out on the cookie sheet to send into the oven, then got side-tracked by one thing or another. To make a long story short, the granola never made it into the oven, but by the time I got back to it, it was dried out, pleasantly crunchy, and surprisingly toasty just from the time in the pan.
I decided not to mess with a good thing (especially one that requires a mere 10 minute prep and cook time) and dubbed my creation stovetop granola. You can use it as a template for other flavor combinations (as I do; simply vary the fruits, nuts and spices); it’s hard to go wrong, whichever flavor direction you choose.

We had some left in the pantry from the last batch. I’m muffin-ed out for the time being, so I mixed some plain yogurt with honey and spooned it over the remaining granola. Yum. So glad I managed to resist the red jell-o cubes (now with thick skin!), lucky charms cereal, and beef broth—sent for me as well as for Nick—that arrived at our room this morning.

My mother used to make homemade granola and store it in what was once an extra-large glass apple juice bottle. I do the same with juice bottles (the plastic ones); they keep the granola fresh for a good long time.

I’ll be back soon once the Nickster is better!

Stovetop Almond Granola with Dried Cherries, Pepitas and Flaxseed

After plugging this as a stovetop granola, I realize it sounds like cheating to suggest an oven option, but I’ll offer it anyway. While I love the granola exactly as it is (it crisps up as it cools), you can dry it out further (to make it crunchier) by sending the baking sheet into the oven on low heat (200 degrees) for about one hour.

Pepitas can be found in the health food section of the grocery store, with the bulk foods, or with the nuts. They are inexpensive and add a good boost of protein.

You will want to use a large skillet to make the granola (even though it will fit in a medium one) to get the greater surface area; the hot bottom of the pan helps toast the nuts and oats.

2/3 cup packed light brown sugar
1/3 cup unsweetened apple juice
2 cups old-fashioned oats (i.e., not quick oats)
1/2 cup chopped almonds

1/4 cup flaxseed meal
2/3 cup nutlike cereal nuggets (such as Grape-Nuts)
2/3 cup tart dried cherries (or cranberries, or other dried fruit of choice)
1/2 cup roasted, salted pepitas (green pumpkin seeds)

1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1/4 teaspoon almond extract
1/8 teaspoon salt

Combine the sugar and cider in a large nonstick skillet. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat; cook 2-3 minutes longer (or until sugar dissolves), stirring frequently. Stir in all of the remaining ingredients. Cook 5 minutes longer or until granola is lightly browned, stirring frequently. Transfer to a large cookie sheet sprayed with nonstick cooking spray and cool completely. Break into pieces and store in an airtight container 1-2 weeks. Makes 5 cups (serving size: 1/2 cup)

Nutrition per Serving (1/2 cup of granola):

Calories 263; Fat 8.4g (poly 3.4g, mono 3.1g, sat 1g); Protein 6.7g; Cholesterol 0mg; Carbohydrate 42.6g; Sodium 149mg)

(Note: I did the nutrition analysis using Diet Analysis Plus 7.0.1 )
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