I’m new to the grain- and gluten-free world. I’m not a celiac, but I wanted to cut carbs, lose weight, and feel better. So I’ve given the grain- and gluten-free diet a chance. I’ve been eating this way for over six months now, and I must say, I feel better. I haven’t lost much weight, but my digestive system is very happy with the new regime, and if I do eat grains (which happens occasionally), I feel uncomfortable, especially when I’ve eaten wheat.
You know how it goes when you’ve been cooking for a long time. Well, maybe you don’t, so I’ll tell you. You might start with a recipe, but you just can’t resist tweaking it. I was fortunate to learn the basics as a child, in 4-H classes taught by Mrs. Arlene Bennett, where I learned the science behind leavening, and the reason why measuring for baking is important, which cooking methods are appropriate for various cuts of meat, and which herbs and spices are complimentary and which conflict with each other. I’ve loved playing with my food ever since. The grain- and gluten-free diet has given me a whole new arena of creativity, and I’m just getting started.
I love granola. I used to make it for my kids, but it was really, really sweet. (I found that old recipe not long ago, and my goodness, the amount of brown sugar and honey in it was appalling!) One of the things that often happens as you get older is that your sweet tooth starts to turn sour. Overly sweet things don’t appeal anymore. Most granola is so sweet, I can’t bear it. A few years ago, my good friend, Karen, gave me a recipe for traditional, oat-based granola, and it wasn’t too sweet. I made gallons of this stuff, and I still make it for my husband. But when I stopped eating grain, there went the granola. So I set about finding and tweaking recipes for grain-free granola. Here’s my version, and I think it’s pretty darn good. In addition, you can turn it into a hot cereal lickety-split.
Grain-free, Gluten-Free Granola
1 cup raw nut pieces (walnuts, cashews, pecans, whatever you like other than almonds)
1 cup raw pumpkin seeds, shelled
1 cup sliced almonds
1 cup raw sunflower seeds
¼ cup whole flaxseeds or sesame seeds
1 cup unsweetened shredded or flaked coconut
½ cup chia seeds
1 tablespoon cinnamon
¼ teaspoon kosher or sea salt
2 tablespoons olive oil, grapeseed oil, or melted coconut oil
1-2 tablespoons agave nectar, honey, or real maple syrup
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
Mix all ingredients together. (If using coconut oil, don’t worry if it clumps when you add it to the nuts and seeds. It will melt in the oven.) Transfer to baking/cookie sheet, spread in a thin layer. Use two sheets if necessary to get a thin layer. Bake in preheated oven at 340 degrees, stirring after 5 minutes and 10 minutes, continue baking until golden brown, 12-15 minutes.
Cool completely. Then, if desired, add: 1-2 cups dried chopped fruit (apricots and cherries are really good, or raisins, or dried cranberries). To minimize carbs, make sure fruit has no added sugar. (Be aware that cranberries are soaked in a sugar syrup before dehydrating, and they can add a significant amount of sugar to whatever you put them in.)
This makes about 6 cups of granola, or about 12 servings. Store it in an airtight container. Serve with your choice of milk or eat as trail mix out of hand. Or, stayed tuned for a hot “cereal” version.
Notes: The nut and seed mixture is not very sweet, but it’s plenty sweet enough for me! In trying to keep the carb count low, you have to keep the sugars down as well. Dried fruit adds some sweetness but also carbohydrates. If the mixture isn’t sweet enough for your taste, add 1-2 tablespoons more of your desired sweetener before baking.
*As an even lower carb variation, try replacing some or all of the honey or other sweetener with the same amount of applesauce mixed with the oil, and a few drops of liquid stevia. For my last batch, I used 2 tablespoons of unsweetened applesauce, 1 tablespoon of honey, and 6 drops of liquid stevia. This mixture was a little wetter than usual, and it took 20 minutes in a 350 degree oven to brown and crisp up. It was a little sweeter than usual as well. Next time, I’ll try the same amount of applesauce and stevia and cut down on or eliminate the honey.
This “granola” is high-protein, low-carb, a good source of fiber from the nuts, seeds, and coconut, and full of Omega-3 oils from the flaxseed and chia seeds. It’s actually much better for you than granola made with oats.
Since going grain-free, I’ve learned to make bread, muffins, tortillas, chips, crackers, pie crust, and now, “granola.” But when winter hit, I was really missing hot cereal. You know, Cream of Wheat, Malt-o-Meal, Ralston Farina, oatmeal. I wanted porridge, to use a lovely, old-fashioned word. I set out to find some way of creating that creamy, grainy, comforting goodness without grains, and I think I have. And it is ridiculously easy.
Grain-free, Gluten-free Hot “Cereal”
Place 1/2 to 3/4 cup milk in a cereal bowl or microwaveable glass measuring cup and heat in microwave (or if you hate mics, heat it in a pan on the stove) until foamy. In blender or food processor, finely grind ½ to ¾ of a cup of grain-free granola (above). (Use the lesser amount of milk for the lesser amount of ground granola. You can always add more milk if desired.) You want a fairly fine texture, but don’t over-process, or your granola will start to turn to butter as the grinding releases those healthful natural oils in the nuts and seeds. I use the little food processor that attaches to my stick blender, and it works perfectly for one serving.
It looks like Grape Nuts cereal when it’s ground, but it tastes better! (And I always liked Grape Nuts.)
Either pour the ground granola into the bowl containing the hot milk, or put the ground granola into a bowl and pour the hot milk over it. Let it sit for about a minute. If it’s not thick enough, you can cook it a little longer in the microwave, for 30 seconds to a minute (don’t let it boil over!) and then let sit for a minute. The porridge thickens a bit as it cools. There should be no need to add sugar or any other flavor to the porridge because it already has cinnamon, vanilla, and coconut in it, as well as whatever you used for sweetener, and the dried fruit. I think it’s delicious, and a healthful replacement for ground grain hot cereals.
I love the fact that I can get a two-for-one deal out of one preparation: hot “cereal” from grain-free granola. That’s a pretty sweet deal.