Mix & Match Granola {gluten & refined sugar free}

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I’m not a huge cereal fan, but granola is a whole other ballgame. I love granola and could eat it for ages (if I let myself). Don’t let the packaging trick you, almost all of the store-bought granola are anything but healthy. If you take a look at the ingredients you will find sugar pretty high up the list and often a few different types of sugars at that. So if you are trying to eat healthy and cut back the amount and type of sugar you are consuming, homemade is the way to go. You can make it with natural sugars and be in control of the amount of those sugars you are adding. I’ve been using this for years as my basic granola recipe and I just alter it slightly depending on whats in my cupboard or my mood.

I don’t recommend eating granola for breakfast though (even this homemade one) if you are trying to lose weight, stabilise your blood sugar, curb your sweet tooth or maintain your energy levels to avoid that afternoon slump. A low carb protein based breakfast is by far the best way to boost your metabolism and set yourself up for healthy eating the rest of the day. Instead, save your granola for a healthier treat later on in the day. Because let’s be honest, granola is a dessert not a meal (even if you pair it with a healthy dose of greek yogurt). Every once in a while I do treat myself to a breakfast granola, but it is very rare. The key to gaining control of  your sugar intake is make it a treat or exception instead of a part of your daily or even weekly routine.

This granola recipe that I’m sharing is very basic and can be easily adjusted to suit your own taste. You can mix and match the ingredients to your heart’s content. I’ve even added a bit of pumpkin puree to mine before to add some fall flavour. It turned out great! So feel free to experiment and let me know if you come up with any delicious combinations.

Here are a few basic guidelines about the ingredients in the recipe. The oats that are best to use are jumbo rolled oats. In the UK the Quaker brand works the best, but if you are in the US there are so many more options to pick from. Just don’t use porridge or ready oats, your granola will be extremely crumbly. If you are gluten-free, don’t forget to use the gluten-free oats.

When it comes to nuts and seeds, you can really use any you want. If you are using larger nuts like almonds or cashews, I like to roughly chop them. Choose the raw nuts because the pre-cooked ones with all the refined oils aren’t healthy and they will also burn during the cooking process. My go to mix is usually almonds, pumpkin seeds, sunflower seeds and sometimes I like to throw in some sesame or chia seeds. And when I’m feeling really posh–some pistachios. Why do pistachio’s have to cost so much? They really are so delicious and add such a pretty colour to the granola.

Now on to the liquid sweetener. You can adjust the amount of you add to this recipe and make it less or more sweet depending on your preference. If you are using honey, I always recommend raw honey because it has the most nutrients in it, but if that is just too much of a stretch for your budget you can also use the normal honey.

In order to keep this refined sugar-free  you need to check your dried fruit and make sure it doesn’t have any refined sugar in it. Most dried fruit you can find without any added sweeteners, but I find that its hard to find cranberries that are purely cranberries. I have found them before, but it’s very hard (especially in the UK). However, the Aldi’s brand in the UK use fruit juice to sweeten theirs, which is better than what most others use.

Ideally, look for dried fruit without the preservative sulphur dioxide. They can be hard to find or more expensive and if I’m going to be eating a dried fruit in large quantities or regularly, I definitely look for the ones without that preservative. But sometimes, I just can’t avoid it because I’m constrained by budget. My favourite fruits to use in my granola is dried apples (just make sure it’s not the crispy ones you use), cranberries and unsweetened shredded coconut.

Believe it or not, vanilla extract is another thing you need to check for refined sugars. If you just buy the cheap stuff you’ll find its loaded with mostly sugar and not much vanilla. Try to find the extract with the least amount of sugar added. And please let me know if you ever find any without sugar at all because I’ve been looking for a while and still not found any.

Enough about all the ingredients, on to the recipe…

 

Mix & Match Granola

 

Ingredients:

3 cups oats (jumbo rolled)

2 1/2 cups raw nuts/seeds

1 teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon cinnamon

1/2 cup oil (extra virgin olive oil or extra virgin coconut oil, melted)

1/4-1/2 cup natural liquid sweetener (100% maple syrup or honey)

3/4 teaspoon vanilla extract

1 cup dried fruit

 

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F/175 degrees C.
  2. Combine oats, nuts/seeds, salt and cinnamon.
  3. Add the oil, sweetener and vanilla to the oat mix and stir until combined.
  4. Spread onto baking sheet lined with parchment/wax paper and put in the oven for 30 minutes, stirring after 15 minutes to bring the granola at the bottom to the top.
  5. After 30 minutes, remove from oven and add in the dried fruit (except the coconut if you are using it). Stir until mixed in. If you want a more crunchy and chunky granola don’t stir.
  6. Put back in oven to bake for another 10 minutes.
  7. Remove from oven and sprinkle the coconut (if you are using it) over the top of the granola and stir it to combine.
  8. Let cool in pan and enjoy with milk, yogurt or just on its own.

 

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