The Best Sweet and Salty Nut-Free (or Not) Granola

Since I gave up breakfast cereal so many years ago, I needed an easy, healthy, homemade granola clusters recipe that was quick to make. Oh, and didn't call for nuts. That's a tall order, but I did it. Honey and coconut oil replace less healthy oils and sugar. I can eat this guilt-free and enjoy every last bite.

"You'd better get a wet rag and clean that up before mom finds out we've been eating in here." My bowl of cereal sloshed over again as I set it down on the carpet and ran for a rag. I shot off the floor without waiting for the commercials, but I could still hear Scooby Doo's antics floating into the kitchen. Our after-school ritual consisted less of school books and #2 pencils and more of cereal and cartoons. Can you blame us? Is there a greater combination in this world? 

Despite my L-O-V-E of cereal, I have never, not once, ever bought a box of cereal for my kids, even though I was raised on all the best ones (Cinnamon Toast Crunch, anyone?). My siblings and I used to pound a box or two after school every day. I still crave cereal sometimes. A lot of times. It's sweet and crunchy, and it makes that delicious sweet milk that is perfect for drinking straight from the bowl. I can enjoy bowl after bowl after bowl and not feel full. That's not actually a good thing, unless you have the world's greatest metabolism. Which I don't anymore.

Over the years I learned two things. First, I started putting a cookie sheet under my cereal bowl so I didn't spill on the carpet anymore. Second, I learned that despite the delicious appeal, cereal does us no favors, and after reading this very disturbing article, I was extra glad I never started my kids on it (don't worry, they still get it at Gran's house. They aren't completely deprived). Still, sometimes I want a bowl of crunchy, sweet goodness drowned in milk. Don't we all?

Granola sounds so much more virtuous than Froot Loops, but the store-bought versions aren't any better than Cap'n Crunch. I don't eat gluten, I limit my sugar, my kids have peanut and tree-nut allergies, and that eliminates most store-bought granolas. Several years ago I decided to make up my own granola recipe, and threw in the salty factor because sweet is never my first choice, but sweet AND salty? I'm in. The beauty of this recipe is you can swap ingredients in and out as long as the proportions remain the same. If nuts are no problem for you, add them. The only nut my family can eat is almonds, and I add those. It's just as delicious without them.

Making granola is so easy. I can mix up a big bowl before the oven is done preheating. Then I bake it, let it cool, and it's done!

 

Sweet and Salty Nut-Free (or Not) Granola

2/3 cup coconut oil
2/3-1 cup honey
2 tablespoons molasses
4 teaspoons vanilla
7 cups old fashioned rolled oats (check the label for gluten-free if you need that)
2 cup crispy rice or sprouted buckwheat (or decrease the oats a little and use both) 
4 tbsp whole or ground flax seed (optional)
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 cup of add-ins: pecans, walnuts, almonds, coconut flakes, pepitas, sunflower seeds, chocolate chips*, dried fruit like apples, bananas, raisins, craisins, strawberries, or whatever you like
1-2 teaspoons salt (if you don’t like sweet and salty, use 1/4 tsp, I love salty and use 2 tsp)

 

Mix the oil, honey, and molasses in a microwave-safe glass container that is taller than the total ingredients (the mixture will bubble up at least twice as high). Microwave for 2 minutes; it should be thin enough to stir and pour. You can also do this on the stovetop. While the sugar mixture is heating, stir together the dry ingredients. When the honey mixture is done, add the vanilla (but stand back or you will get a face full of the alcohol vapors burning off) and stir. Add to the oat mixture and stir well.

Spray two jelly roll pans and press half the mixture on each. Bake 25 minutes at 325. Allow to cool completely before touching if you want clusters, or stir it while it’s warm if you want it loose like cereal.

After it’s cool, store in an air-tight container if you don't eat it all right then and there. This is a very adaptable recipe to fit your needs and preferences. My family will eat this entire batch in one sitting. If you have more restraint, it stores and freezes great. I used to make it in huge batches and store in Zip-loc bags or Snapware containers. It makes a great topping on Greek yogurt or ice cream, or, the classic, in a bowl of milk. My kids love when I include some in their school lunches.

 

My kids' after-school ritual is all about the school books and #2 pencils, but sometimes after they are in bed, I sink into the couch with a bowl of granola in almond milk. Instead of Scooby Doo, I watch BBC period dramas, and I rarely spill on the carpet anymore (don't tell my mom).

 

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