Friday, January 11, 2013

Vanilla Bean Granola with Cocoa Nibs and Cherries

I know what you're going to say- "granola, really?".  Is there truly a need for another granola recipe?  Honestly, probably not.  Okay, definitely not.  But I'm going to put this one out there anyway.  Because if I like it, chances are there will be someone else who does too.  If I can convince just a few of you to try it, or to even try making your own version, then I have done my job.  And let me tell you just one thing, this is no hum-drum supermarket shelf granola.  This is something else all together.
I'm the kind of person who sees granola (or healthy cereals, whole grain flours, wholesome snacks, etc.) on a store shelf and buys a bag because I really do want to like it and incorporate it into my diet.  I have every intention of being good and keeping those indulgent breakfasts and snacks to a minimum.  Then I have a handful or bowlful the next day and am slightly satisfied, but not enough to ever finish the bag or box.  So it just sits in my pantry taking up space and making me feel guilty every time I push it aside for whatever tastier thing I'm looking for.  What I end up with is a pantry full of stale cereal, crackers and granola that no one in my family will ever eat.  Frankly, it's a waste of my efforts and money.
I aim to change that with this granola recipe.  For the first time I have made a granola that I will actually eat.  I can grab a handful as I pass by and am happy with both the snack and myself.  Or I can stir it into a bowl of greek yogurt drizzled with a bit of honey and have a satisfying breakfast.  And after having purged my pantry of a half dozen handfuls of granola and other "healthy" food just a few days ago, I can now vow to never buy another commercially made granola again.  What a breakthrough this granola has been! 

Vanilla Bean Granola with Cocoa Nibs and Cherries
Makes about 4 cups granola.  Recipe is an embellished version of one from Pure Vanilla by Shauna Sever.
For the printable recipe, click here.

I didn't know what was in my pantry when I started to put this granola together.  As it turned out, I was short on the amount of rolled oats called for in the original.  So I dug around and came up with a mix of grains that I thought would make up the difference, plus a few extras that I thought wouldn't hurt.  In the end I was totally pleased with the granola.  Feel free to forage through your pantry as well.  Just make sure that you end up with 3 1/2 cups total between any other oats and/or bran that you use.  Any nuts or fruit are simply icing on the proverbial cake.

2 large egg whites
1/2 cup packed light brown sugar
1/4 cup mild flavored honey
1/4 cup vegetable oil
1 tbs pure vanilla extract
1 tsp vanilla bean paste or seeds scraped from 1/2 vanilla bean
1/3 cup cocoa nibs
3 1/2 cups old fashioned rolled oats or a mix of oats and other grains such as oat or wheat bran
3 tbs chia or flax seeds (optional)
1/4 cup sliced almonds (or any nut you prefer)
1/4 cup coarsely chopped unsweetened dried cherries (optional, any dried fruit of your liking would work as well)

Preheat your oven to 325 degrees.  Line a baking sheet with parchment paper or a silicone baking mat.

In a large bowl, whisk together the egg whites, brown sugar, honey, oil, vanilla extract and vanilla paste until thick and smooth.  Toss in the cocoa nibs, oats and chia or flax seeds and mix until the dry ingredients are well coated.  Spread onto the prepared baking sheet in an even layer.

Bake for 15 minutes.  Add the almonds and cherries to the pan and stir to incorporate.  Rotate the pan 180 degrees and return it to the oven for 5 more minutes.  Remove the pan from the oven and place it on a wire rack to cool.  Let the granola cool completely before breaking it up.  This way you'll be able to get nice large clusters along with some small crumbles.  Store the granola in an airtight container.

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