In December I make double and triple batches of granola to give as Christmas presents, party favors and host gifts: my customary mix of oats, oat bran, coconut chips, spices and lots of nuts and seeds.
This year I added popped quinoa, which is quinoa that is toasted until the seeds begin to pop, like popcorn. It’s crunchy but not hard, with a flavor both grassy and nutty.
I’m seeing popped quinoa in restaurant dishes and in recipes, where the popped seeds are sometimes used to garnish soups, cooked grains or yogurt and fruit. They enrich this granola in the nicest way, adding texture and flavor, as well as a bit of “stealth health” – the quinoa bumps up the protein content.
One of the reasons I prefer to make my own granola is that most commercial granola is too sweet for my palate. I like it sweet, mind you, but not cloying. I find that a half-cup of sweetener is more than adequate for this nine-cup batch. I used agave syrup, which, like honey, has more depth of flavor than sugar. But unlike honey, it also works for vegans.
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For fat, I use a mix of fragrant coconut oil tempered with lighter, more neutral grapeseed oil. If you want a richer result with a stronger coconut flavor, you can use all coconut oil. But this granola, fragrant with vanilla, cinnamon and nutmeg, and generous with its nuts, tastes plenty rich to me.
Granola With Popped Quinoa
Time: 1 hour; yield: About 9 cups
1/2 cup quinoa (do not use red or black quinoa)
4 cups flaked or rolled oats
1 cup oat bran
1 cup coconut chips
1 to 1 1/2 cups coarsely chopped nuts (preferably a mix of almonds, pecans and cashews), to taste
1/4 cup pumpkinseeds or sunflower seeds
1/2 to 1 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg, to taste
1 tablespoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon salt
3 tablespoons coconut oil
3 tablespoons grapeseed or canola oil
1/2 cup agave syrup
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
Place quinoa in a wide skillet and heat over medium heat. Stir or shake the pan and toast until the quinoa begins to pop and smell like popcorn, 5 to 7 minutes. As soon as the quinoa is popping, pour into a very large bowl and allow to cool.
Heat oven to 300 degrees. Line two sheet pans with parchment. Add all of the remaining dry ingredients to the bowl with the quinoa and toss together.
In a saucepan, combine the oils, agave syrup and vanilla. Warm over low heat, stirring, just until the mixture is fluid. You can also heat in a microwave at 50 percent power for 30 to 60 seconds. Do not let it come to a simmer. Remove from the heat, stir to blend, and stir into the dry ingredients. Mix until evenly coated.
Divide the granola mixture between the two sheet pans and spread evenly to cover the parchment in a thin layer. Bake, without stirring, for 30 to 35 minutes or until golden, rotating the baking pans front to back and top to bottom halfway through. Remove from the heat and allow to cool before storing. Break it up into clumps if you’d like. Store in well-sealed jars, bags or containers.
Tip: This granola will keep well for several weeks in a well-sealed jar.