Granola and I have had a love-hate relationship for a LONG time, so be ready for a long post as I am passionate about this. Back in my High School days granola was the up and coming “fad” food, with it’s promise to boost energy, improve your health, containing “all-natural” ingredients, and tasty to boot (so they advertised). So I did like any other so-called “individual” non-conformist who doesn’t buy into all of the hype from the ad agencies did…I decided to try some, yup. Now the reason why it has been such a roller coaster of a relationship between me and granola is this: I love the idea of it, I like the individual ingredients that make up the whole, but I didn’t like the end product so much. Now why is that? At first I though it was just the brand, so I would try a different one…then a different one (repeat this step about 10 times). Okay, so maybe it was the flavor, as they have quite a few out there. Nope, that wasn’t it either! Thinking back I believe my main complaint was that they all looked better then they actually tasted, and many of them were too crunchy for me! After eating a bowl I felt like my jaw got a good workout, which leads to a headache for me. Hey, if I’m gonna work out it better be to get a few pounds off my hips, not my jaw! Feeling defeated and disheartened over the whole fiasco, I decided to leave my granola-tasting days behind me and move on to greener pastures.
Now fast forward a decade or so and I find myself staying overnight at a hotel while attending the Bridging the Gap Womens Conference with a friend of mine. For breakfast (and here comes the connection) they had a smörgåsbord of food, which included…granola! Now this granola was enticing I’m telling you! It had beautiful shiny clusters of granola that looked fresh and tender, with plump cranberries, slivered almonds and shredded coconut. It just screamed “try me!” and thus my relationship with granola started all over again. And let me tell you, IT DID NOT DISAPPOINT! Finally, a granola that lives up to it’s ingredients and tasted BETTER then it looked, which is saying a lot as the batch was gorgeous! It was like eating dessert for breakfast, I kid you not. Then of course my friend wanted to try to see what all the fuss was about and she also fell in love with it! Next thing you know we are flagging down the hotel waitress as if something was on fire to grill her on what brand it was, where it came from, etc… She informed us that it is actually freshly made by one of their chefs and that they have sold some to past guests and can do the same for us, if we desired. Um, YES, I’ll take 10 lbs, thank you! Ok, I didn’t really get 10 pounds, but I did get quite a bit and was crying when my supply ran out a week later.
Well, I just knew that I couldn’t keep buying it from the hotel as that would get expensive, plus it was about 45 minutes from where I lived. Thus my hunt started in full force for a good granola recipe. There are so many out there, but they all seemed to follow the same cooking method, slow baking in the the oven. So I tried a few, and much to my dismay they turned out like the store bought in the sense that they were way to crunchy for me! It was giving me headaches, literally, to eat this stuff and I almost gave up my search. Then one day I stumbled upon a recipe that said it was made all over the stovetop and comes together in less then 10 minutes! Now the fact that it was over the stovetop really intrigued me, and the fact that it took less then 10 minutes…hook, line & sinker baby. So I whipped out all of the ingredients and dived in without looking back, and I’ve never regretted it. THIS WAS IT, the granola that completed my search which started over 10 years ago!
This version is not an exact replica of the granola made by the hotel chef, as she has to hold on to her secrets you know, but it is close! Now, a word of caution for those of you who love your commercial granola before you try this. It is called “tender” for a reason, but if you want it crunchy you will need to follow the alterations I noted. I have lightened it up over the years to make it a little healthier (what’s pictured and no almonds as I didn’t have any on hand), but it can easily be made with full indulgence, there are notes for that as well. Just make sure to have milk on hand before making this, or you’ll be sorry!
I don’t even bother with a cost analysis for granola, as I would never buy the store bought versions as I dislike them all! So for me I save a ton of money by not wasting it on trying yet another kind that I will end up throwing out.
Tender Cranberry Almond & Coconut Stovetop Granola recipe:
- you’ll need a large pot (like a soup pot or dutch oven), and a large baking pan (11 x 17 size)
- 1 Tbls oil
- 5 cups of regular rolled oats/oatmeal (if you use the quick-cook oats use about 4 & 1/2 cups)
- 3 Tbls butter (full indulgence version-5 Tbls)
- scant 3 Tbls honey (full indulgence version-4 generous Tbls)
- 1/2 Tbls molasses
- 1/2 cup packed brown sugar (a little less if you are using a lot of honey)
- 1 tsp cinnamon
- 1/3 cup sliced almonds (full indulgence version-2/3 cup)
- 2/3 cup dried cranberries
- 1/2 cup toasted coconut (un-toasted is great too, full indulgence version-1 cup)
- TIP: Have all ingredients portioned out in bowls and ready, as parts of the recipe move pretty quickly.
- Heat the oil in the large pot over med-low heat. Pour in all of the oatmeal and stir around quickly to distribute the oil. In this step you are toasting the oatmeal, which should take about 4 minutes. Just continue to stir the oatmeal around about ever 30 seconds to prevent any burning. The oats are ready when they are warmed through-out and feel a little toasty. Then pour it out onto the large baking sheet to cool.
- In the same pot over medium heat add in the butter, honey, molasses, brown sugar and cinnamon. Let it all melt together and stir well. Going back to your granola, push all of it to one half of the pan, preferably to one corner. This will help in transferring it back to the pot without spilling too much on the stove.
- As soon as the wet mixture in the pot starts to gently simmer, give it a good stir and then pour in the oats. Work quickly to distribute all of the wet mix to coat all of the oats, I use a wooden spoon or a good scraper to stir it all up. This entire process should take no more then 3 minutes if you want a tender granola. *For a crunchy granola you can cook it a few minutes longer.
- Once you hit the 3 minute mark (sometimes I only do it for 2) take the pot off the stove and add the cranberries, nuts and coconut. Stir until just mixed in and then pour it all out on the baking sheet ans spread out to cool. Dive in as soon as it is ready (15-20 minutes) and then store what’s left in an airtight container.
- TIP: If you prefer your granola to be in clusters (easier for snacking dry), just light press down on the granola after you have spread it on the pan to cool. Once it has completely cooled you can then crumble it into clusters to your desired size.