Let’s face it…it isn’t easy having healthy “alternative” snacks readily available for kids after school for all 180 days of the school year. My girls practically pole vault into the kitchen from the bus stop inhaling anything that’s seems even remotely edible. That doesn’t resemble a vegetable, of course.
Given the amount of cookies and cakes I bake out regularly, it would be all too easy for them to pick on cake scraps and cookie rejects. Those manage to wind up in the garbage can before they get home.
One of my regular standbys is homemade granola. A big ol’ jar hangs out, along with plump, dried fruit and mini chocolate chips, on the counter ready to be nibbled on, added to yogurt, cottage cheese or cereal. No excuses!
My favorite recipe is adapted from Ina Garten’s The Barefoot Contessa Cookbook. Sweetening the oat and coconut mixture with Tupelo honey is a bit of a luxury, but it’s been a wet, soggy and gloomy spring. The honey’s soft, clear caramel color combined with it’s sublime notes of melon, crème brulee, butter and dried pears makes being water-logged bearable.
I’ve also gone the agave and brown sugar syrup route and it’s turned out equally delish.
Adding a variety of nuts, pumpkin, sunflower and sesame seeds along with sliced almonds is the way to go. Cutting the amount of shredded coconut in half and substituting unsweetened, desiccated coconut works as well. Dried mangoes, papaya and pineapples have become a tropical mainstay in our kitchen, but dried cherries are still, well, the berries!
Word of caution, be sure to turn the granola during baking time to ensure even baking and avoid over browning. The granola bakes to perfection in about 25 minutes in my oven; 20 minutes less than the recommended baking time by Ina.
Oh, yeah…and keeping the granola and any dried fruits in separate containers will guarantee the oat mixture will remain crisp and crunchy every time you reach for it. Especially when you want to eat it with homemade yogurt, fresh fruit and that extra dollop of Tupelo honey=)
4 C old-fashioned rolled oats
1 C sweetened, shredded coconut
1 C unsweetened desiccated coconut
1 C sliced almonds
1 C mixed chopped nuts, such as walnuts, pecans and cashews
1C mixed pumpkin, sunflower, and sesame seeds
¾ C vegetable oil
½ C good honey
1 ½ C small diced dried mangoes or any favorite dried fruit
1C dried cherries or cranberries
1C bittersweet chocolate chips or carob chips
1C any additional nuts of your liking
You will need:
A 13 x 18 x 1 in. sheet pan or cookie tray.
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.
Toss the oats, coconut and nuts together in a large bowl. In a smaller bowl, whisk together the oil and honey.
Pour over the oat mixture and mix together with a wooden spoon or with your hands. (Great time to get your kids to “help” create a healthy snack by getting their hands in the mix!)
Pour the mixture into the pan or tray, spreading evenly.
Bake. Stir occasionally to ensure even baking and browning about 25 minutes.
Once removed from the oven, bring to room temp and then transfer and store to an airtight container.
Keep granola and dried fruits in separate containers to ensure oat mixture remains crunchy, crispy and good for about a week.