I’m not much of a granola-eater unless I get around to making it myself. Something about most store-bought granolas, crackling with sugar like crisp toffee, makes the whole eat-healthy endeavor seem fruitless. But I do love some oats, nuts and other whole grains and whatnot in the morning. And the fact that you can use any combination and ratio of them when you’re making granola yourself.
For instance, I realize that one of the ingredients in this post’s title is a bit of a head-scratcher. It’s not meant to make you feel like a woefully out-of-touch health food neophyte—I had never heard of hemp seed hearts until they fell on my lap by way of Bob’s Red Mill. The front of the package merely says, “Packed with Potential,” which I took to mean that they also had no idea what it was supposed to be used for.
And “packed with potential” is a pretty good moniker for just about anything in your kitchen cabinets, at any given time. Granola is a good use for leftover nuts, dried fruits (or roots, in the case of ginger here) and quick to cook whole grains like oats. Those simply can be used to sprinkle on top of your yogurt or milk or to mix into your other cereal at any other time, too (or toast up as a crunchy topping for a salad?). To save yourself an arm and a leg what with baking, or from buying expensive store-bought granolas, you can skip the rest of your post and fashion your own muesli or something similarly un-toasted from just simple oats and nuts instead.
But I had a big batch in mind, so I went whole hog and toasted up a tray full of granola. One of my dear friends recently had a baby, and with her hands full, quick eating options were in demand. Also, oats are good for lactation.
So I set out to make a complete granola with things around, which included rolled oats (also from Bob’s Red Mill), almonds, peanuts, a knob of ginger, and a mystery substance called hemp seed hearts. The latter are not grains but crushed seeds of the hemp plant, and as such they taste like toasty nibbles of crushed nuts, a pleasing savoriness. They are also totally soft, I’m guessing because they’re the “hearts” of the seed, so there were no brittle or fibrous bits to be found. I like a good blend of flavors and textures in granola, perhaps in equal doses of savory and sweet, so these lent a perfect additional something-something to the mix.
Starting with the ginger, I boiled peeled strips of the root in water and sugar, and created a syrup with that. The syrup was used to drizzle in with the mixture of oats, nuts and hemp seeds, while the softened slices of ginger were further sliced and slivered, and mixed in with all that. Spread on a baking sheet and toasted in a low-temperature oven, the granola was done in about thirty minutes’ time. I suppose you could add more of the syrupy stuff, or mix in honey or maple syrup to bind and sweeten the bits some more. But to me, the harmony of flavors thanks to the zinginess of the ginger throughout and all those crunchy nuts worked. You can always add more chunkiness with nuts—whole—which commercially-made granolas sometimes skimp on because they’re expensive ingredients. The hemp seed hearts studded throughout and nearly invisible in the finished granola added flavor and stuck together much better than anything else. Finally, coconut oil was tossed in with everything to help it toast up and add another dimension of nutty flavor.
I only wish I had made more. I didn’t explain anything about what was in here to my new mom-pal, but soon after receiving the granola, she reported back about eating it every morning and being pleasantly surprised by the ginger. I hope her little one can taste a little zing from it, too.
Granola with Almonds, Ginger and Hemp Seed Hearts
(makes about 4 cups)
2-inch piece of ginger, peeled and sliced thinly
2 cups water
1/4 cup brown sugar
2 cups whole rolled oats
1 cup roasted almonds
1/2 cup roasted peanuts
1/4 cup hemp seed hearts
2 tablespoons coconut oil
1/4 teaspoon salt
Combine the ginger, water and brown sugar in a small pot so that all the ginger pieces are submerged. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to a simmer. Cook uncovered for about 20 minutes, or until the water has reduced by about half. Reserve the syrup leftover and let the ginger pieces cool. Once cooled, julienne the slices.
Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Combine the oats, nuts, hemp seed hearts, coconut oil, salt and ginger pieces in a large bowl. Drizzle in the syrup and mix thoroughly. Spread on a baking sheet (lined with parchment paper for easy cleanup) and bake for about 30 minutes, or until just slightly darker in color; be careful to watch and check after each 10 minute interval to make sure nothing’s burning.
Let the granola cool for several minutes before scraping from the pan. Can be stored for up to 4 weeks for best flavor.
(for 4 cups granola, or 10-12 servings)
2 cups oats: $1.75
1 cup roasted almonds: $2.00
1/2 cup roasted peanuts: $0.50
1/4 cup hemp seed hearts: $0.50
1/4 cup brown sugar: $0.25
2 tablespoons coconut oil: $0.25
Three brownie points: I wouldn’t eat granola without anything as a complete meal, but it should do the trick for a healthy trail snack. This granola is filling thanks to plenty of nuts, and it has plenty of protein thanks to those, and the hemp seed hearts. The oats have protein as well as fiber and unless whole grain bread of some sort, whole grains alone are low on the glycemic index so your blood sugar levels won’t leave you crashing and burning after eating a lot.
Seven maple leaves: This is something you can make at any time of year, as it’s based on all pantry items (that is, if you also have dried-out warbly roots of ginger commonly in your pantry, too). Mix it with some fresh fruit in season near you, or your favorite yogurt or milk from a dairy you like.