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Only someone who has listened to a lot of Neil Diamond would get the reference in my title, today. But my junior high days were filled with James Taylor, Loggins and Messina, and early on, thanks to my girlfriend George and her passion for the song “Kentucky Woman”, Neil Diamond had to be listened to. At slumber parties, and on afternoons after school, spent hanging out in her very cool bedroom, Neil Diamond was a part of the soundtrack to my 7th grade year. And the title to his song “Crunchy Granola Suite” amused me. I’ve always loved wordplay.
Moving forward in the magic time machine of my memories to the days of living in Switzerland, my girlfriends Donna and Val introduced me to the joys of bircher muesli.
Bircher muesli was a lot like granola, only the Swiss added lots of dried fruits and nuts, and then soaked it overnight in the fridge in yogurt. Somehow or other, we inherited a yogurt maker in our apartment, and so between the Swiss Bircher Muesli cereal that we bought, the packages of dried fruits and nuts that we added, and the homemade yogurt that we made, we ate like kings. Er, princesses. Anyway, those were nice days.
|Click the picture: it will only get bigger and better.|
So, now that I cook for myself, in my own kitchen, here in the Boonies, I have suffered through some really mediocre recipes for Granola, that haven’t really measured up to my memories of the yumminess in Switzerland. Till this week, when I finally tried a recipe from the website epicurious, which I really, really liked, and which is quite easy to do. And so, with love, I pass it on to you. I have modified it, of course, to suit my own tastes, as I hope you yourself will do. Add your own favorite nuts and dried fruits. Eschew adding yogurt to it at the end, if you must. But there is something about the tart “zing” of the plain unsweetened yogurt in combination with the intense tangy sweetness of the dried cherries (which are my favorite dried fruit: but you could add dried blueberries or craisins, or raisins or whatever you like!), the dark notes of the buckwheat honey, and the rich crunch of the roasted almonds and pecans, that all work together for the good. It really is a symphony of flavors in a bowl. A Crunchy Granola Suite, if you will.
For my yogurt, I used Dannon Activia Plain, Unsweetened Yogurt. But I couldn’t find a picture of it. Any plain yogurt will do, and if it floats your boat, have it with sweetened yogurt. Unlike the Swiss, I don’t soak my bircher muesli overnight. I like it better with more crunch. But you can try it both ways, if you like, and find what suits you best. Or, douse it with milk. Or, nibble it plain. Whatever floats your granola boat.
A few notes on the recipe I used: I didn’t have any sesame seeds at home on the day I made this, so I used the flax seeds that I had in the pantry, and they worked fine. I also decided to use a honey my husband had purchased that was a little too dark for my daughter’s taste (we usually eat our honey on biscuits). The honey was almost as dark as molasses, and was called buckwheat honey. It was great! But I wouldn’t hesitate to try maple syrup next time, or agave nectar, or whatever honey I might have as the sweetener.
|Made with buckwheat honey, and presented to you in a sherbet dish. With a nod to Nota Supermom.|
Wait no more: here’s my recipe, for which I hope you will develop your own themes and variations, for Extreme Granola.
3/4 cups pecans
1/2 cup natural almonds
4 cups old-fashioned rolled oats
1/4 cup sesame seeds (optional)
1 stick (8 tablespoons) unsalted butter
1/3 cup pure maple syrup, cane syrup or honey, at room temperature
1/4 teaspoon fine salt
3/4 cup chopped dates
1/2 cup dried cherries
Preheat the oven to 375°F. Line a large shallow baking sheet with foil. Spread the pecans and almonds on the sheet and roast for 8 to 10 minutes, until lightly toasted. Transfer the nuts to a board, let cool and chop the nuts. Set aside.
Reduce the oven temperature to 300°F. Pour the oats and sesame seeds, if using, in a mound on the same baking sheet. Melt the butter in a small bowl in the microwave; stir in the maple syrup and salt and drizzle on top of the oats. Stir well with a rubber spatula and then spread out the oats in an even layer.
Bake the oats for 30 minutes, stirring once with the spatula halfway through, until the oats are lightly colored. Let cool; the mixture will crisp as it cools. Add the dates, dried cherries, and reserved nuts and toss.
•Store the granola in covered glass jars at room temperature for up to one month.
•Time saver: Make two batches of granola by doubling the ingredients and using two baking sheets—one in the upper third and one in the lower third of the oven.