Thursday, March 20, 2014

Nutty peanut butter granola

One glance at recent posts, and it's clear that I'm on a breakfast kick.  Well, snacks masquerading as breakfast foods.  If we're being totally honest, aren't many of our breakfast staples also ideal anytime snacks?

Technically, I'm not referring to that tray of cinnamon rolls or loaf of banana bread.  You know, the weekend brunch dish that lingers, uncovered, on the counter with a fork/knife resting precariously nearby.  The one that magically dwindles in size as the hours roll by yet no one will admit to eating even one bite of it.

I'm talking about a legitimate anytime snack like granola.  Not the super sweet, chock full of chocolate candies kind -- though that's good, too, just more of a dessert -- but the hearty, make-it-however-you-like-it homemade stuff.

Oh, homemade granola, you are truly divine.

Once you've had it, you'll be enlightened.  You'll see clearly for the first time.  You'll wonder if you've ever eaten real granola (you haven't!) and question why it took so long to make it.

For some reason, the origins of homemade granola have always been shrouded in mystery.  Like only forest-dwelling hippies who make their own clothes and bathe in streams can make it.  That normal folks like you and I, who live in enclosed spaces with solid walls and enjoy the luxuries of indoor plumbing, couldn't possibly concoct on our own. 

I'm here to lift the wool, shatter the glass, and reveal the yellow brick road that'll lead you to Oz granola glory.

In under 30 minutes and with very little fuss, you can have enough delicious granola to keep the breakfast/lunch/snacking monster quiet and happy for at least a week.

This particular version is so, so good and perfectly tasty the way it is.  That being said, it can be adapted to suit your snacking fancy.  And that brings me to my favorite thing about this stuff: whatever you put into it is what you'll be eating.  No mystery ingredients.  Only good stuff.  Like walnuts, honey, and peanut butter.

Granola is the kind of snack you can feel good about regardless of the time, whether it's a quick weekday breakfast or a portable snack for an afternoon hike (hello, spring!).  Your family might even be proud to take ownership of their snacking.  But, if it's out in plain view, I can't guarantee it'll last a week... or even a full day.

Don't say I didn't warn you.

One year ago: Taco turkey casserole
Two years ago: Copycat P.F. Chang's lettuce wraps
Four years ago: Maple dijon salmon

Nutty Peanut Butter Granola
-makes 8 1/4-cup servings

A few notes: Use whatever nuts you like (i.e. peanuts, pecans, pistachios, almonds) or omit them entirely.

1/4 cup smooth peanut butter
1/4 cup honey
1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 cup chopped walnuts
2 cups old-fashioned oats

Preheat oven to 325 degrees and lightly coat a rimmed baking sheet with nonstick spray.

In a small heat-safe bowl, combine peanut butter and honey.  Microwave for 30 seconds and stir until smooth; add vanilla.  In a large bowl, combine cinnamon, walnuts, oats, and melted peanut butter honey mixture.  Toss well until evenly coated.

Pour oat mixture onto baking sheet and spread into even layer.  Bake for 15 to 20 minutes, tossing halfway through baking, until granola begins to turn golden.  Place baking sheet on wire rack to cool completely.  Serve alone, with milk, or atop yogurt and fruit.

Granola can be stored in air-tight container at room temperature for up to 1 month.

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