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My new project: GRANOLA!

For those of you who know me and the way I eat, I enjoy taking recipes I find for foods I crave and adapting them to make them healthier. My parents aren't always convinced my substitutions and alterations are for the best, but when my mom exclaimed to me that she snuck a few handfuls of my peach granola I made today and complemented me on how well it tasted, I knew I had finally done something right!

When I love a certain food, I eat a lot of it...all of it. So I realized about 5 years ago when I started experimenting and making my own food, the healthier I made it, the more I could eat. At first, I played the game of seeing how many calories I could cut and still make the food appealing enough to eat. After taking many nutrition and sports medicine classes in college and doing additional research and reading about proper nutrition on my own, I soon realized it isn't always about the calories but about the quality of the ingredients and what they can do for my body. It always fascinates me to learn how particular fats are better than others, simply because of their chemical structures and how, as a result, they are digested. Or, when certain foods are eaten together (i.e. rice and beans, dark greens and olive oil) the body can obtain more nutrients from the food, thereby being able to utilize the nutrients better. And finally, what certain foods can do to heal the body and treat certain diseases and ailments many turn to medications to cure.

So, I've digressed from my granola. What one often buys in the grocery store is loaded with sugar and fat. It isn't unheard of to look at the nutrition label and find a single serving (usually a half a cup) is over 250 calories. It wouldn't be such a big issue if the ingredients included more nuts, seeds, and fruit. However, what generally accounts for the calorie overload are added sweeteners and a tremendous amount of fat.

I took the opportunity over my Christmas break to select a random granola recipe I found online and tweak it to better adhere to my high standards of good, healthy nutrition. I used dehydrated/dried raspberries I had frozen from my garden this past summer in my first batch for the fruit. For this second batch, I used dehydrated/dried peaches I had picked from Greenbluff this past August. Any fruit will work, but I advise you add things like raisins, cranberries, and other fruits AFTER the granola has finished baking. Otherwise, they cook faster than the oats and you end up with burnt fruit.

Here is the peach granola recipe I adapted today, including nutritional information I garnered from Nutritiondata.com. If you haven't yet explored this site, it is great for designing your own recipes, choosing the ingredients you use, and adjusting the serving amounts and sizes.

Peach Granola
5 cups Quaker oats, dry
3 cups almonds, coarsely chopped (I used my Cuisinart)
1 cup raw sunflower seeds
1 cup raw pepitas (green pumpkin seeds)
2 tablespoons cinnamon
1 teaspoon salt
Mix together in a large bowl and set aside.

1 cup applesauce, unsweetened
1/2 cup honey
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 cup dehydrated/dried peaches, chopped (I again used my Cuisinart)
Mix these wet ingredients with the peaches together and heat in a saucepan until warmed. Then add to the dry ingredients above and mix THOROUGHLY to ensure everything is coated.

Use two baking sheets or jelly-roll pans and evenly distribute the granola. Bake for 40 minutes at 350 degrees, stirring every 10 minutes until the granola is a deep golden brown.

Let the granola cool completely so it becomes crispy. This recipe made about 11 cups (after I snacked on it a little :) to make about 20 heaping 1/2-cup servings.

Nutrition data (1/2c serving):

Calories: 307
Total Fat: 19g
    Sat: 2g
Total Carbohydrate: 30g
    Dietary Fiber: 5g
    Sugar: 9g
Protein: 10g

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