June 14, 2016

Hints for Zero Waste Homemade Granola

8/24/17 Update below:  I added some notes on how to use a Crockpot for making granola.

Disclaimer:  You aren't getting a real recipe here.  Like smoothies and childbirth this is just a guide to set you on your own path of discovery, okay young grasshopper?

If you read the Homemade vs Premade Granola post and decided homemade granola was for you, then here are some hints for making granola from bulk ingredients.  I hope they save you time, energy and money.

1.  Choose ingredients.

Get some:  Rolled oats

Then choose some of these:

-Dried Fruit

You want it easy and cheap?  Limit yourself to five ingredients or so and pick stuff you already keep on hand:  Do you snack on almonds or cook with raisins?  Awesome, that's two down.  Use flax seeds in your smoothies?  Boom.  One to go.

I like sunflower seeds because they are cheap.  I also use pumpkin seeds, but not as much - they're like $9/lb.

Sometimes you can find coconut flakes in bulk too.

But whoa!  Slow down, girl.  We're up to seven ingredients and we still need oil and honey.*

2.  Watch for sales.

Once you've memorized your ingredients (and you will, after making this stuff two or three times) keep an eye out for those ingredients going on sale in bulk.

3.  Keep stuff on hand.

Buy a lot of it when it does go on sale because stores run out of stuff.  Like oatmeal.  Right when you want to write about about making granola.  I'm looking at you, Fair Lakes Whole Foods...

ALSO...shopping for all of your ingredients when buying in bulk is a pain...in...the...rear.  You do not want to bring a half dozen additional jars to the store every time you want to make granola.  Especially with a couple of hangry crumb snatchers in tow.

4.  Look at some recipes to get a handle on ingredient ratio

A loose ratio is something like, 3 cups of oats and 1/4-1/2 cup honey and 1/2 cup each of the other stuff.

Here's Mark Bittman's recipe.  I like this one because it doesn't use oil.**

I also like the Zero Waste Chef's tutorial here.  I like her pictures and I know she's got my back on using (mostly) bulk ingredients.

5.  Look at some recipes to learn some technique

To make granola, the format is something close to:
  • Oven at 300-350 degrees F
  • Mix all your ingredients, except for dried fruit, in a bowl
  • Spread out on rimmed (¡muy importante!) cookie sheet
  • Bake for 10-15 minutes
  • Stir it around a bit
  • Bake for another 10-15 minutes
  • Stir it around a bit
  • Continue one or two more rounds until crispy
  • Add dried fruit
  • Let cool
  • Store in a pretty container

Combine and cook.  That's pretty much it.

It is SO, so important to watch the granola towards the end.  Things get dark and crunchy, quickly.

6.  Consider the crockpot.

This time around I experimented with the crockpot.  It doesn't save you time but it does two good things:

  • Saves you a dish.  Mix everything in the crockpot instead of a mixing bowl.
  • Saves your forearms.  Every 15 minutes you can open up the crockpot and give it stir instead of reaching over a hot oven to stir your granola around the baking sheet.
  • Saves your oven.  Not having to precariously stir your granola over the oven ALSO keeps you from spilling bits of granola all over the floor of your oven.  Which you will do.

When the granola is cooked, I would add the dried fruit, mix it up, and then still spread it on a rimmed baking sheet.  Then it can cool down before you transfer it to your storage container.

Here's a good primer on Crockpot Granola, from Barefeet in the Kitchen.

All homemade granola is kitchen-, oven- or Crockpot-specific, but if this is your first time out, start by cooking your granola on HIGH for 1 hour, stirring every 15 mintues.  If the granola isn't as brown as you like, keep going by 10-15 minute increments.  And re-read the part up above about watching carefully.*

*Sugar:  I used to make granola with crappy, off-the-shelf maple syrup and a 1/4 cup of brown sugar.  But since going towards Zero Waste, I've replaced both with bulk honey.  But let me tell you, this adds to the cost significantly.

**  Oil:  oil helps make it nice and crispy, but then, so does over cooking your granola!  I've cooked it with (1/4 cup coconut oil) and without, with no discernible difference.  If using a crockpot you can melt it in your warming pot then stir in all the other ingredients (except dried fruit, right? that comes later).  This also helps keep it from sticking to the pot.

(not convinced?  Try Buying Granola in Bulk)

*I updated this because I just started using a different Crockpot and dang! if that thing doesn't cook differently (READ:  faster, hotter) than my grandma's old machine.

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