Tree Bark & Twigs Granola – Yum!

Several years ago my hubby suggested that we eat healthier, less processed foods, less sugar, and less simple carbs. My immediate response — “What do you expect us to eat, grass?”

I’m not sure why I took his suggestion/request so personally, perhaps because I am the one who does the food shopping, the one who prepares all our meals, and the one responsible for stocking the fridge and cabinets for snacking. I thought I was doing a fairly good job, until he suddenly wanted to “eat healthier.”

Little did I know how much of what we ate was processed, filled with preservatives, and dripping with hidden ingredients beyond what I could imagine. The more I analyzed our diet, the more I realized I had to make a change. Not a diet per se, but a lifestyle change. Diets are temporary and more often than not reversible. A lifestyle change would be permanent.

Cleaning out the fridge, cabinets, pantry, and snack drawers was enlightening and sad. What type of permanent damage had we/I done to our family? How much money had I thrown away on the garbage we called “food” and put in our bodies. And so the cleansing process began.

Willpower is one of those things that I believe either you have or you don’t. It is what holds us hostage or sets us free. Not being someone with the strongest of wills, I found it best to ween us off what had become an addiction. Over the course of a year, I managed to eliminate most of the processed, high-sugar, high-carb foods that had been a staple in our diet.

Eliminating foods from our diet was easy. Finding foods that we liked to replace these however, not so much. Introducing new foods often led to arguments or stand-offs with the kids. I too wasn’t all that receptive to new ideas — old habits are hard to break.

One such instance was when my hubby brought home some granola claiming it was healthy, had only two ingredients, no simple carbs, and no simple sugars. Again, I became defensive scoffing, “I’m not going to eat tree bark and twigs.” Not one of my stellar moments as a wife, parent, or dare I claim — adult!

Once I began making our own yogurt however, which again was not done without resistance, I wanted something to mix in it that would not compromise the “good” of the yogurt but at the same time make it more appealing. Fruit was okay, but not substantial enough. After looking online for suggestions, I decided perhaps I should give granola a try. Actually, I had no idea what was in granola. Turns out, it wasn’t tree bark and twigs — go figure!

In reading through recipes, I decided maybe it wouldn’t be so bad. So, several months ago I began experimenting with granola recipes and came up with one that the whole family likes. I know there are a bunch of recipes on the Internet. It seems that everyone has their own take on it. What I didn’t find though was an exact recipe. Most were vague as far as which juice to use, which spice, which nut, which fruit. I had no idea what it was supposed to taste like, no idea which combination of things would work.

It was quite an adventure adding, subtracting, adjusting and experimenting with ingredients. This is what I came up with. Obviously ingredients can be changed to your own tastes, but for us this has the right fruit to grain ratio.

Basic Granola with Dried Fruit

Ingredients:

6 Cups Rolled Oats – Not quick oats
3/4 Cup Wheat Germ
3/4 Cup Sliced Almonds
1/2 Cup Chopped Pecans
3/4 Cup Pumpkin Seeds
3/4 Cup Sunflower Seeds
3/4 Cup Flax Seeds
1 Cup Honey
1/2 Cup Homemade Apple Cider or Juice
1 tsp. Vanilla Extract
1 tsp. Cinnamon
1 tsp. Salt
1/2 Cup Dried Blueberries
3/4 Cup Dried Mixed Berries
3/4 Cup Dried Cranberries
1 Cup Raisins – combination of light and dark
1/2 Cup Dried Currents

Preheat oven to 275° and line two baking trays with parchment paper.
Combine honey, cider or juice, vanilla, cinnamon, and salt in small pan. Heat over medium heat, whisking until combined and honey is melted. Cool slightly.

Combine liquids and spices.

Combine liquids and spices.

Combine oats, wheat germ, nuts, and seeds in large bowl.

Combine oats, nuts, and grains.

Combine oats, nuts, and grains.

Pour liquid over oat mixture and mix through.

Combine oat mixture and cooled liquid mixture.

Combine oat mixture and cooled liquid mixture.

Spread oat mixture on baking trays.

Spread evenly on tray.

Spread evenly on tray.

Bake 60 minutes, stirring every 15 minutes. Granola will be soft, but when it has browned, it is done. It will harden as it cools.
Cool completely.

Baked granola should be brown and soft.

Baked granola should be brown and soft.

Add fruit and mix.

Use a combination of dried fruits.

Use a combination of dried fruits.

Add dried fruit to cooled granola.

Add dried fruit to cooled granola.

Store in canning jars. Seal with Food Saver for long-term storage.

Fill mason jars with completed granola.

Fill mason jars with completed granola.

Store granola in sealed jars for several months or refrigerate.

Store granola in sealed jars for several months or refrigerate.

Eating better isn’t as bad as I thought it would be. In fact, changing our diet has been one of the best lifestyle changes we’ve ever made. Knowing that I am taking better care of my family and keeping us healthy has become one of the most satisfying aspects of my life, and for this I am — Simply Grateful.

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