In general, I think the word “amazing” is applied a bit too liberally in discussions about food. I’m guilty of it, too, of course; I typed “amazing” into the search bar over there to the right, just to see how many of my posts contain the word, and, uh… it’s a lot. So I know you’ll take it with a grain of salt when I tell you that, in the last few days, I’ve come across a couple of foods that were truly, dare I say literally, amazing.
The first was fresh mozzarella from Wolf Meadow Farm. I really wasn’t expecting much going into that tasting, since all the fresh mozzarella I’ve ever gotten my hands on was pretty dull. It’s possible that I was somewhat swept up in the experience of the tasting, which began with a thirty-minute talk with the cheesemaker himself, a native Italian with a passion for his work and a romantic accent to match. But the cheese… sigh. I haven’t stopped dreaming about it since that first bite. It actually had flavor! Delicious, sparkly, tangy flavor! And the texture was pleasantly firm and chewy where most mozzarellas are soft and flabby. It rocked my socks off.
The other amazing food moment, surprisingly enough, was a bag of granola. I know that the last time I brought up this subject, I had some not-so-nice things to say about bagged granola. Well, last week I was forced to eat my words, along with an entire bag of White Lion Baking Company’s grain-free granola. Again, I was skeptical as I cracked the bag open, partly because that bag was emblazoned with all sorts of red-flaggy terms like “Paleo” and “low carb” and “grain free.” But I soon stood corrected; that granola was far more delicious than any granola has a right to be.
The great thing about exceptional eating experiences is that they inspire me to jump into the kitchen and get busy. Fortunately, I had the good sense not to try to recreate the mozzarella experience (even though I do have a mozzarella-making kit in the back of the kitchen cabinet, collecting dust). But the granola seemed doable. Rather than try to recreate the exact product, I decided instead to make an oat-based granola and follow White Lion’s lead by throwing in a multitude of tasty ingredients; the granola I’m showing you here is decidedly not grain free or low carb (and I don’t know the rules of Paleo, but I’m pretty sure oats are out), but it has a flavor and texture similar to what I found in that life-changing bag.
First things first: shredded coconut and slivered almonds are toasted in the oven. They’ll go in the oven later with the rest of the granola, too, but pre-toasting them provides extra crunch factor. (And we all love crunch factor!) I think coconut chips would also be delicious in place of the shredded coconut, but they’re definitely more expensive, and they didn’t happen to be in my cabinet this week. Once the coconut and almonds are toasted, mix them in with some oats, roasted peanuts, wheat bran, and a touch of cinnamon.
All the dry ingredients are bound together with a mix of coconut oil, honey, and coconut butter. I’ll admit coconut butter is a little esoteric. I happened to have some on hand because I got it as a freebie from work (read: I took it home because it was technically expired). It’s delicious (notice that the label includes the word “amazing”), but you can easily swap in any other nut butter. The wet ingredients cook over low heat, just long enough for everything to meld together so they’ll combine evenly with the dry ingredients.
The granola bakes on a cookie sheet for about half an hour on fairly low heat. After it’s done, I like to let it cool completely, untouched, so that some clumps form.
There’s so much I love about that picture: the crusty edges of the granola, Alex singing and playing the piano in the background, and that one little rogue oat that clearly wanted no part of this project and jumped ship.
Once the granola has had a chance to cool, break it into chunks and mix it in a big bowl with big handfuls of dried cherries, dried cranberries, and golden raisins. And then try your best not to devour the whole giant bowl. (Seriously, it’s irresistible. And maybe a little bit amazing.)
1/2 cup shredded coconut
1/2 cup slivered almonds
3 cups rolled oats
1 cup roasted peanuts
1/4 cup wheat bran
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup coconut oil
1 cup honey
1/2 cup coconut butter (or your favorite nut butter)
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/3 cup golden raisins
1/3 cup dried cherries
1/3 cup dried cranberries
Preheat oven to 325°F. Spread shredded coconut and slivered almonds on a baking sheet and toast for about 7 minutes, until fragrant and golden brown. Reduce oven temperature to 300°F.
In a large bowl, combine oats, peanuts, bran, cinnamon, and salt; add toasted coconut and almonds and stir to combine.
In a medium saucepan, combine coconut oil, honey, coconut butter, and vanilla; cook over low heat, stirring occasionally, until melted and completely combined. Stir warm oil mixture into oat mixture and mix until well incorporated. Spread the mixture onto a baking sheet lined with parchment paper or foil and bake in preheated oven for 30 minutes, or until golden brown. Cool granola completely.
Once granola is cool, break it into pieces and mix in a large bowl with golden raisins, dried cherries, and dried cranberries. The granola will keep, tightly covered, for a week.