The baking bug hit me this weekend, so I decided to prepare some treats to give to friends this holiday season. I was a bit torn on what to make since I would be shipping some of the items, when the weekly email from Meatout Mondays arrived suggesting holiday granola. Brilliance! Unable to stop with one flavor, I baked three different kinds, and while those were in the oven, I whipped up some truffles too! It was an all-day venture for the amounts produced, but relaxing and fun. Now, onto the granola and a recipe …
Granola Flavor #1: I made my tried and true Home Baked Granola from Go Dairy Free, my cookbook/guide; it is a maple, cinnamon, raisin type flavor. I stayed faithful to my recipe but opted to go all walnuts for the nuts.
Granola Flavor #2: Some slight modifications to my original recipe produced a delightful Vanilla Cranberry Almond Granola. For those of you who have Go Dairy Free, simply increase the oats in the Home Baked Granola by 1/2 cup (to 4 cups) and use 1 1/2 cups of sliced almonds for all of the nuts. Then, swap the maple syrup for honey (I did try agave nectar, but both my husband and I agreed it tasted a bit “off” in this recipe), increase the vanilla extract to 1 tablespoon, and substitute 1/2 t ground nutmeg for the cinnamon (or you can stick with the cinnamon if you like) and dried sweetened cranberries for the raisins.
Granola Flavor #3: My husband is not a ginger fan, so I have kept my desires for a ginger granola locked away in a vault. But, with the holidays upon us (and some ginger-loving friends), it seemed like the perfect opportunity for me to break loose and finally create that Gingerbread Granola I had been dying to try out! This really is an all new recipe, quite different from my traditional one, so I am very happy to share it here (recipe below). Thus far, from us ginger lovers, it has received 2 thumbs up, and the smell is awesome when it is baking!
This recipe is Vegan, Dairy-Free, Egg-Free, Soy-Free, Peanut-Free, and Wheat-Free. You can make it Nut-Free by using your favorite seeds in place of the cashews and Gluten-Free by using those trusty Gluten-Free Oats, if they work for you.
4 Cups Rolled Oats
1/2 Cup Unsweetened Coconut (shredded or “chips”)
1 Cup (5 ounces) Raw Cashews, Coarsely Chopped
1/2 to 2/3 Cup Light or Dark Brown Sugar, Firmly Packed
1 Teaspoon Ground Cinnamon
1 Teaspoon Ground Ginger
1/2 Teaspoon Ground Allspice or Nutmeg
1/4 Teaspoon Ground Cloves
1/4 Cup Molasses
1/3 Cup Grapeseed, Extra-Light Olive, or melted Coconut Oil (or your baking oil of choice)
1 Teaspoon Vanilla Extract
1/4 Teaspoon Salt
1/3 Cup Finely Minced Crystalized Ginger (optional) – I actually used the “uncrstalized” ginger from Trader Joe’s, which is still sweetened and gummy-like, but doesn’t have sugar crystals coating it; I liked the uncrystalized version best
Preheat your oven to 250ºF (120ºC). In a large bowl, combine the oats, coconut, cashews, brown sugar, and the spices, stirring everything together until well distributed. In a separate bowl, whisk together the remaining ingredients, except for the crystalized/uncrystalized ginger. Stir this wet mixture into the oats and nuts, until everything is very well coated. Spread the mixture into one or two large, ungreased glass baking dishes (I use a 9 x 13-inch). Bake the granola for 60-75 minutes, checking in to give it a stir every 15 minutes. When done, transfer the granola to a large bowl and stir in the minced ginger, if using. Since the ginger will be a bit sticky, make sure you mix it up well to separate. Once cool, store it in an airtight container.
Nut-Free Option: Substitute the cashews with any combination of additional oats, sunflower seeds, pumpkin seeds, soy nuts, and/or additional coconut.
My notes on baking time: I have tried turning up the heat to shorten the time, but without fail, it burns. This slow bake process produces a better granola in my opinion, and you have much more control over the doneness. If you use metal pans, I find that the granola browns much more quickly, so keep a sharp eye!
My notes on sugar: I use a very firmly packed 1/2 cup, but if you want a sweeter, more dessert-like granola, you can up it a bit.
As for the truffles, I made the Peanut Butter “Truffles” and the Bittersweet Truffles (vegan and soy-free too!), both recipes from Go Dairy Free. For the Bittersweet ones, I made a plain vanilla variety, some with chocolate coating and some with a dusting of both cocoa powder and powdered sugar. But, I couldn’t resist making a “Hint O’ Mint” batch too. I chocolate coated those and put candy cane bits on top to help identify them. If you want to try the mint version, I added 1 to 1 1/2 teaspoons of mint extract (I can’t remember which! But you can taste-test to your desired amount) and 1/2 teaspoon of vanilla extract to the whole batch.
Note the bags of granola in the background … it was easy to get carried away!
Frugal Foodie Notes & Tips:
I am a big believer in homemade gifts, as that is what I would prefer to receive. It just means so much more when you know the work and love that wen into it. Of course, it also saves a bundle …
Granola Cost: Approximately $2.00 per 30-ounce batch
The granola made 3 10-ounce bags to give as gifts (or consume at home!). I purchase the oats in bulk ($.99/lb for organic, $.69/lb for regular – I stock up on either when on sale), the coconut in bulk (usually $2/lb or less) and I get the cashews in a 1 lb bag (raw) from Fresh & Easy for $5 (I believe they are also a good price at Trader Joe’s). I then use a coupon at the store for $4 off $20 or $6 off $30 (often available on the Fresh & Easy website) to bring the overall cost of my shopping trip down a bit more. I do buy organic brown sugar at Trader Joe’s, as I find the taste to be far superior, and it comes in a ziploc bag, which is a must for the dry conditions here that immediately turn brown sugar into a rock. I stocked up on Grapeseed oil at Fresh & Easy when they were blowing out large bottles of it for just $3! I also buy the spices in bulk and the vanilla at Trader Joe’s. I calculated the cost of each batch previously and it comes out to about $2 for the full 30 ounces, and trust me, home baked granola tastes way better (and way more fresh) than store bought!
Truffle Cost: Approximately $4.00 for 4 dozen truffles
As for the truffles, Fresh & Easy had a great discount on their big 1lb plus dark chocolate bars for $1.99 per bar (it is OEM’ed from Scharffenberger). I made the entire batch of truffles (4 dozen!) for about $4 … and they were awesome! Beat that Godiva!