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Making granola in the crockpot and oven

Homemadegranola001-1

Seriously? Crockpot granola? Yes.

First off, prior to this I've never made granola. I've consumed mass quantities of bulk bin Golden Temple Super Nutty granola, AKA the best damn granola ever, but never tried to concoct my own. Why mess with perfection? Well, as I learned with salsa, oftentimes homemade can be just as good (or better). Recently while browsing around the Interwebs I stumbled onto a site devoted to crockpot cooking. And yes, she had made granola, which just sounded so intriguing and do-able. I've also been trying to vary my children's breakfast routine away from the standard whole wheat toast with P.B. and honey. They're a little bored with it.

Homemadegranola002

Solution? Let finicky son make the granola and maybe he'll want to eat it! So into the crockpot he measured:

5 cups of old-fashioned rolled oats

1/2 cup of honey

1/4 cup of canola oil

1 tsp cinnamon

(I would have preferred lots and lots of other nuts, seeds and fruits, but he objected.)

We set the crockpot on low, vented the lid with a wooden spoon and let it cook for three hours, stirring it about every 30 minutes. Et voila, crunchy, lightly sweet granola! The verdict? Two small thumbs up.

But...for me, the joy of a crockpot comes from being able to leave your food cooking for hours while you're off doing other things. Not thinking about it until you walk through the door and are greeted with the smell of dinner. You can't do that with crockpot granola or it will burn. It seems like the complaint I've heard most about oven-baked granola is that it can burn really easily and that it's hard to stir it up on a baking sheet. So I decided to try it in order to compare the experience with the crockpot.

Working very loosely from an Elephants Delicatessen recipe (the entirety of which sounds delicious), I mixed together:

4 cups of old-fashioned oats

1/2 cup of real maple syrup

1/2 cup of canola oil

1 tsp cinnamon

1/2 tsp nutmeg

I used a baking pan that has really high sides, like 2 inches high (makes it easier to stir) and spread the mixture evenly. The entire mass was about 1/2 inch deep. Stuck it into a pre-heated 300 degree oven and stirred it every 10 minutes (I set the timer as a reminder). In 30 minutes it was done (and smelling like Thanksgiving, just heavenly). As it cools, the granola gets crisp. And dang this is good granola, and so much faster. Hmm. (I actually like it better than the crockpot recipe, but that's probably due to the maple syrup and nutmeg. I'm sure it would taste the same in the crockpot.) And this is not clumping granola -- I think you have to add a whole lot more sweetener for that, and I'm trying to keep it low sugar. It's plenty sweet as is.

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The crockpot method worked well for me because I was slow-roasting a slab o' pig that day, so the oven was in use and I was around all afternoon. I also understand that crockpots use less energy (after all, you're only heating exactly what you're cooking, whereas an oven heats the entire box when you're only using a small portion of that box). If you are in baking mode and whipping up a batch of muffins or bread, then it absolutely makes sense to have some granola cooking in the crockpot at the same time. Or if you're just puttering around the house. Either way, it's really tasty and there are a million recipes out there. Mine are obviously super bare-bones, trying to please a delicate palate. Mostly it just feels really good to be able to make something yummy and healthy for my family.

I'd love to hear other granola tales and combos. Share 'em if you got 'em!

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