Very Berry Granola (No Nuts!)

If Necessity truly is the mother of Invention, how do you think Invention acted in those early teen years? Was she — and I’m taking some liberties here, but in my mind Invention is surely a young lady — subject to hormonal angst, locking herself in her room and writing bad poetry? Did she skip school or stay out too late, or bleach a blond streak into her hair as I did at 13? And how on earth did Necessity stay sane during all that?

Maybe Necessity was married to Ingenuity, which would explain a lot. Or maybe she sequestered herself to the kitchen, baking batch after batch of treats like granola, which, when offered at just the right time to a hungry (a.k.a. irascible) daughter, can go a long way towards restoring peace and order.

If, however, Necessity were to have packed some of the aforementioned granola in Invention’s lunchbox, she’d better have paid attention to those “no peanuts, no tree-nuts” warnings many schools enforce. After all, she wouldn’t want Invention’s friend, Anaphylaxis, to end up in the emergency room. Again.

Well, Necessity, do I have a recipe for you. Very Berry Granola. No nuts. No coconut either (which is NOT a tree nut, but sill on the naughty list at our preschooler’s daycare). It’s also vegetarian, vegan, and gluten-free. Great for lunches. Great for snacks. Great in the morning with some milk or yogurt. You get the picture.

Very berry granola: a good morning

Very berry granola: a good morning

This recipe was born, not surprisingly, of both necessity and invention (lower case this time). Our girls really enjoy granola but the ones we’ve been making contain either tree nuts or coconut, which means they can not be sent in a packed lunch (see the two we included on our blog so far: cherry-almond granola and blueberry-coconut granola). It’s easy enough to tinker around with ingredients though, which is what we did in making this particular batch.

Since granola originated as a health food in the late 1800s — and was trademarked as both Granola and Granula by two separate and notable breakfast inventors — we tried to keep true to its whole-grain, baked goodness origins with this version. Granola was supposedly “reinvented” during the counter-culture movement of the 1960s — a nutty time indeed, but you won’t find nuts here. Just oats, sweeteners like honey, maple syrup and brown sugar, and a healthy helping of dried fruit. We also added a touch of pomegranate molasses, which we had in the pantry from back when we made pistacio-crusted lamb chops. I personally LOVE that addition – tart, tangy and sweet.

Bits of dried fruit make this granola 'berry' nice

Bits of dried fruit make this granola ‘berry’ nice

Regarding the fruit: take the time to read labels. Most grocery stores these days carry a wider range of dried fruit than just raisins and crasins. We use dried blueberries and strawberries here. You want to get DRIED fruit, not freeze-dried. Like those familiar raisins, the strawberries and blueberries in this recipe should have a little natural moisture. If you can find unsweetened dried fruit, go for it. There is plenty of sweetener in this recipe already. I have to admit, though, that the brand we’ve been using — Steve’s Paleogoods — has some GREAT (though a bit pricy) dried fruit that enhances the natural sugars with added fruit juice, without any other preservatives or sulfites. These berries are worth the price of admission in my opinion and I’m OK with the little bit of extra sweetener as long as we control portion sizes.

Dried strawberries and blueberries from Steve's Paleogoods - great in this granola

Dried strawberries and blueberries from Steve’s Paleogoods – great in this granola

I recently gifted a bag of our Very Berry Granola to a great friend and hairstylist who wrote me later that day that the whole salon was asking for the recipe. So, here it is, for you as well as the staff at Salon Pure in Princeton (hey guys!): Very Berry Granola, which you NEED in your pantry. This is one thing on which Necessity and Invention definitely agree.

Very Berry Granola

Ingredients:
1/3 cup pure maple syrup
2 tablespoons pomegranate molasses
1 tablespoon honey
1/4 cup light brown sugar
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
3 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon Kosher salt
1/2 cup grapeseed or canola oil
7 cups old-fashioned rolled oats
1 cup dried blueberries
1/2 cup dried strawberries, roughly chopped

Preheat oven to 325 degrees F.

Line a rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper or silicone baking mat and set to the side.

In a large mixing bowl, combine the maple syrup, pomegranate molasses, honey, light brown sugar, cinnamon, vanilla, and salt. Whisk in the grapeseed oil, mixing until well combined.

Fold the rolled oats into the ingredients in the mixing bowl until well coated.

Pour the mixture onto the lined baking sheet, firmly pressing down on it until it is evenly and compactly distributed in the pan.

Place the pan in the preheated oven for 40 to 45 minutes, rotating the pan half way through baking.

Remove the pan from the oven when the granola is a toasty golden color. Allow it to cool on the baking sheet for at least an hour.

Break the granola into chunks and mix in the dried blueberries and strawberries.

Granola will keep in an airtight container for up to two weeks.

Makes approximately 8 1/2 cups of granola.

Loves her morning granola with milk

Loves her morning granola with milk

Kid rating: five stars. Let’s just say that Daughter 1 has begun asking for this for breakfast even before going to bed the night before, kind of like “reserving” her morning meal. Milk for her. Daughter 2 likes it with yogurt. It’s an all-around hit and travels well in the lunchbox. Loving this version even more than our other fabulous granolas, if that is possible.
Parent rating: another five stars here too. I feel a little smug realizing this, but had I purchased this granola at the store I’d be running right back out to get another bag. The pomegranate molasses adds both sweetness and tanginess, and I’m also pleased that we’re making good use of maple syrup these days, having just gone maple sugaring with the girls. The dried strawberries and blueberries take this to a new level. You’ve got to try this version. Necessity demands it.

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