Growing up, ‘granola’ was a bad word in my book. It brought back memories of a health food store in Oak Park, IL that I would rather have forgotten. It was a typical mid-1980’s health food store, with that universal musty carob powder and B vitamins smell.
My mother would drag me inside to peruse the rows of bulk dry goods, the canisters with wan-looking yogurt-covered pretzels pressed their waxy faces against the insides of their jars in a way that reminded me of abandoned puppies. And there was a frozen yogurt machine in the corner that dispensed pure disappointment in the form of a soul-crushingly tart and icy ‘alternative soft serve’.
To the eyes of an adult, there clearly was some kind of appeal here, but much like the Iran-Contra affair, this was something my six-year-old self was unable to fathom.
It was here that I first tried granola. My mother, knowing lunch was another hour away, pressed me to grab a sample while she shopped. Taking a grudging mouthful, I noted that the texture oddly managed to simultaneously be dry anddamp. It was nearly tasteless but for a hit of sweetness and impossible to chew properly, making its way down my throat nearly unblemished by teeth. I was filled with a deep foreboding that I would be able to identify each component all too easily when I saw them again later that evening.
Fast forward to a few years ago, when I started to see locally made granolas in bakeries and recipes popping up on some of my favorite food blogs such as Playful Cooking. Suddenly the possibility of granola with adjectives like “fresh” and “flavorful” seemed within reach. Making your own granola is the perfect opportunity to experiment a little with traditional flavors, too. I added rosemary & cherries to mine, in a nod to one of my favorite cookies in Chicago from the bakery Flourish, which is now tragically closed.
Rosemary adds a little floral note that tastes amazing with Mineola orange supremes and tart Greek yogurt. For snacking, try adding a binding agent (options listed in the recipe) so you can have the chunky bits to grab onto as you munch. Quinoa is another fresh addition. Toasting quinoa is a common thing in South America, and J and I found it in snacks everywhere in Peru. It adds a pop-y crunch and extra nutrition… not to mention a neat, pixelated look.
I have a feeling the 80’s version of granola would have found rosemary and quinoa as foreign and confusing as a Rubix cube, but thankfully we’ve come a long way since then. Which I think is just totally tubular.
Cherry Rosemary Quinoa Granola
Hands-On Time: 10 minutes
Total Time: 40 – 50 minutes
Gluten-free, all natural, vegetarian or vegan, easy
¾ cup / 140g raw quinoa
2 ½ cups / 200g rolled oats (if gluten-sensitive, be sure to use certified gluten-free oats)
1 cup / 170g raw chopped almonds
½ cup / 60g raw pecan halves
⅛ cup whole flax seeds
¼ cup / 50g natural brown sugar (I use organic coconut palm sugar)
1 teaspoon cinnamon
½ teaspoon salt
¼ cup / 85g honey or agave nectar
2 tablespoons butter or coconut oil, melted
½ teaspoon vanilla extract
1 cup / 160g dried cherries
1 tablespoon fresh rosemary, minced (optional)
Optional binding agent (see note above)
2 large egg whites*
Preheat the oven to 300 F / 150 C
Line a 16 x 12 x 1 inch rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper or Silpat.
In a large bowl, combine quinoa, oats, almonds, pecan halves, flax seeds, brown sugar, cinnamon, and salt.
In a small bowl, whisk together honey, butter or coconut oil, and vanilla extract.
If using egg whites, fold them in now.
Pour the wet ingredients over the dry ingredients and stir until combined. In an even layer, spread the granola onto your prepared baking sheet.
Bake for 30-40 minutes, or until granola is golden brown, stirring and tossing once about halfway thru baking.
Remove from oven and stir in the dried cherries and rosemary. Let granola cool completely.
Serve over plain yogurt with orange supremes, as a cereal, or as a snack (binding agent suggested for snacking use)
Store in a dry place in an airtight container for up to one month.
*Egg whites – To make a vegan binding agent, make a slurry of 2 tablespoons ground chia seeds (or flax seeds) combined with 2 tablespoons boiling water, and stir.