Ah, the good ol’ two-step. Like the dance, this one carries a myriad of variations. Then again, I never did learn the dance, in any style, and now I kind of wonder what happened to that swing and formal dance revival that took hold of the city several years ago. For that matter, what happened to any kind of dance craze?
There has been a bit of a granola craze going on as far as I can tell — everywhere I turn, from health food store to bakery, I seem to find another brand of locally produced, often organic, rustic homestyle-looking granola that I’d never seen before. Like Ambrosia Granola, or Donala Granola, and there was another Brooklyn-begat brand that I can’t remember the name of that looked really yummy, too. My favorite one for a while had been Baked bakery’s “house blend” granola. But at $7.50 for a small bag, it’s definitely an indulgence.
This is probably as simple as making granola is going to get, yet I’ve tried a number of methods and this one seems to work the best. I’ve tried increases in this or that; tried carmelizing the sugar in butter first, but that only led to an impossibly messy pot, and too much butter or oil yielded less crunchy granola. I’ve tried baking it for longer, but that only led to tougher grains and slightly burnt nuts. So I’m going to throw in the towel to simplicity: the darn thing just wants to keep it real.
As you can probably see, I didn’t go crazy with the ingredients. In fact, this two-step has only three main ones. But you could throw in any kind or combination of nuts, unsalted sunflower seeds, dried fruits, coconut, and grains like toasted wheat germ, barley, bulgur, flax and any or all of those fiber-rich healthy wonderful things. (Note: this goes really well with ice cream. For breakfast.)
Super Nutty Crunchy Two-Step Granola
(makes about 4 servings)
1 cup rolled oats, or combination of oats and other grains
1/2 cup nuts, chopped or just whole
1/3 cup dried fruits such as cranberries
1 tsp brown sugar or more to taste
1 Tb vegetable oil
2 Tb honey (or corn syrup)
Preheat oven to 300 degrees. Combine grains, nuts, dried fruit and brown sugar in a bowl. Drizzle oil and honey over mixture, stirring once before drizzling the second half of the honey. Stir mixture. Spread out evenly on a baking sheet, and bake for about 30 minutes. Let mixture cool completely (only then will it be super crunchy).
(for about 4 servings)
1 cup rolled oats (at $0.89/lb): $0.40
1/2 cup pecans (at $4.99/pkg): $0.75
1/3 cup dried cranberries (at $2.29/pkg): $0.50
2 Tb honey: $0.20
1 tsp brown sugar: $0.05
1 Tb vegetable oil: $0.05
Two brownie points — I’m not very big on sweet sweets, so I use quite a bit less sugar in creating my own than what I’m accustomed to tasting in most store-bought brands. However high the sugar content, though, there’s no doubt that granola fills you up and fulfills so many vitamin categories like fiber and protein — served with milk, you’ve got calcium. And flax (if you can find it) will even give you precious omega 6 and omega 3 fatty acids.