Cooking at home is not just cheaper and safer than eating out or ordering in, it’s also definitely a healthier lifestyle choice. Preparing food needn’t be an elaborate affair. Just a few of our simple strategies can help you crack the toughest recipes. We bring you a series of articles with tips and tricks for the kitchen, so you can learn how to cook like a pro, and avoid the mistakes that haunt rookies and seasoned chefs, alike.
While most of us find it easy to simply buy ready-made breakfast cereal at the store, we seldom realize that they are very harmful. Even though granola was originally developed in the 1800s as health food, today’s commercially-manufactured products derive up to 30 percent of their calories from sugar, while others get 40 percent of their calories from saturated fat.
Don’t cut out this delicious item from your diet; just make your own. Of course, combining rolled oats with grains, nuts, honey, seeds, dried fruit and natural sweeteners to get something that is loaded with fiber, protein and good fats, is certainly not as easy as it sounds.
If you want granola that will be great on its own and even better when used to make other tasty and healthy snacks or desserts, check out our simple but comprehensive list of ingredients and techniques needed to get your granola groove back.
- Cluster Luck: Different strokes work for different folks, so if you like your granola clumpy, you need to add more liquid sweetener, press down on the raw mix a bit when spreading it on the baking sheet, and don’t stir or touch as it cools once out of the oven.
- Beat The Heat: In your hurry to create granola magic, don’t burn it because you’re impatient. Allow it to turn golden by going slow at a low temperature, such as 300-350. Stirring occasionally will help everything brown evenly.
- Time The Mix: Not everything should join the party at the same time; introduce seeds and nuts early, so they benefit from the browning and toasting process in the oven, which allows their aromatic oils to be released, while additions like cacao nibs and sweeteners can come in towards the end of the baking process so they don’t burn. Things like dried fruit, chocolate chips, edible flowers, zest and candied peel should only be added post baking, and after it has cooled.
- Substitute Teacher: As long as you maintain roughly the same ratio of wet and dry ingredients as your original recipe, feel free to throw in whatever your heart desires. If a certain ingredient is available in plenty, use it instead of one that’s harder to source. Mix and match as much as you like. Just be alert so you don’t go overboard with the fat or the sugar levels, such as when you use olive or coconut oil instead of butter (you will need slightly more), or agave instead of honey (much, much less since it’s way sweeter).
- Spice Nicely: Each person’s taste buds and flavor tolerance levels are unique, so adjust your seasoning and spices cautiously. When using cinnamon, cardamom or allspice, start small and work your way up after tasting the batch. Vanilla, scented waters like orange flower and rose, or extracts like maple and ginger, are usually more forgiving and widely loved but they can be intense too. To be safe, just use less and add more later if needed. Adding these before baking is great for deeper infusion and don’t forget good old salt so that all the flavor come together and your granola is not too sweet or flat tasting.
- Go ‘Oat’ernative: Yes, rolled oats make the most reliable base for granola and will hold the fort with their old-school healthy goodness but how about venturing into more experimental territory? Explore the bulk aisle in the grocer’s grain section or scout online for good deals on flaked whole grains such as rye, quinoa, spelt, teff, amaranth, farro, buckwheat or even different varieties of rice and corn. Now mix them up and boost your granola’s nutritional content. Prepare to be wowed by the variations in texture, taste and color, but don’t forget about keeping an eye on dry and wet ingredient ratios.
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