This Ain’t Your Grandma’s Oatmeal
Berkshire native Alana Chernila, local politician, mother of two, and author of the new cookbook, The Homemade Pantry: 101 Foods You Can Stop Buying & Start Making (Clarkson Potter), dispenses change and cooking ideas to readers and friends. She shares her peak-of-the-season recipes with Rural Intelligence to help us make the most of what’s growing in our region. Her first cookbook has achieved top-seller status, and Chernila has just announced that she has a new one in the works: Meals from the Homemade Pantry (Clarkson Potter), due out in 2014.
Have I told you the story about how when I sent my book proposal for The Homemade Pantry to my agent, I also sent granola?
Scour the internet (as we tend to do when looking for direction on big, life-changing things that have no guidebook), and the rules on how to send a book proposal are very clear. First, don’t send it. Write an email, and wait for a polite request. Second, don’t ever use gimmicks, or wrap things up in a special way. And third, don’t EVER send food.
Well we sent it. And not only that, but Joey and I bought a cereal box, deconstructed it, silkscreened it, and put the proposal inside. How’s that for a gimmick? Tuck a bag of granola in there (which of course, we did) and you have broken every rule. Moral of the story? Don’t always listen to the internet.
That was 2009, and it was pretty much the same recipe I make now. I made the granola for every editor who might have considered buying the manuscript, for every TV and radio station who might have featured the book, and for anyone else who might need a bag. Over the last few years, I have made hundreds and hundreds of pounds of granola, all the same recipe. And it’s still the granola I make for us here every week. I’m not even sick of it. I trust this granola, and it hasn’t let me down yet.
But last week, I started tasting something new in my imagination. I’m not even sure where it came from, but there it was, and after a few tries, here it is. I don’t think this is THE new granola–it certainly won’t replace the old standby. But it certainly is A new granola, and what can I say? Sometimes change sneaks up on you.
This granola is lighter and softer than what I usually make, and I’m just loving that. It’s still got a good crunch to it, but because there’s so much orange juice involved, the oats get saturated in a nice muesli sort of way. It’s also all seeds and no nuts, so I can send it to school with Joey and the girls to their nut-free school.
A few notes on ingredients and process here. This granola has cocoa nibs, which I know are a little pricey and can be difficult to find. A little goes a long way, and a bag lasts a while for me (and then there are all sorts of delicious things to do with them). But feel free to leave them out if they’re not on your shelf. Also, many of you responded to my first baking post with questions about your convection oven. We’ll talk about it soon, but in the mean time, the best way to prepare for the conversation is to use it! Convection is great for granola, so if you’ve got the setting, try it out. I’ll give baking times for both methods.
Orange Cocoa Nib Granola
Makes about 8 1/2 cups
6 cups rolled oats
1 cup pepitas (pumpkin seeds)
1/2 cup flax seeds
1/2 cup sunflower seeds
1/4 cup cocoa nibs
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground cardamom
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon orange zest (from about 2 unsprayed oranges)
2/3 cup fresh orange juice (from those very same 2 oranges)
1/2 cup maple syrup
1/2 cup packed brown sugar
2/3 cup olive oil
1. If you’re using convection, preheat the oven to 275 degrees. If you’re using the regular setting, preheat to 300 degrees. Line 2 rimmed baking sheets with parchment paper.
2. In a large mixing bowl, combine the oats, pepitas, flax seeds, sunflower seeds, cocoa nibs, cinnamon, cardamom, and salt.
3. In a medium bowl or measuring cup, combine the orange zest, juice, maple syrup, brown sugar, and olive oil. Whisk until the mixture is well combined.
4. Pour the wet mixture over the dry, and stir until all the oats are wet. Divide evenly between the two trays, and spread in a thin layer on each tray. In a convection oven, bake for 40 minutes, giving the trays a little shuffle with a spatula after 20 minutes. In a regular oven, bake for 60 minutes, giving the trays a little shuffle with a spatula AND switching the positions of the trays after 30 minutes. Allow to cool, and store in an airtight jar for 2 weeks (or in the freezer for much longer).
Reprinted with permission from Eatingfromthegroundup.com. All text and photos copyright 2008-13 by Alana Chernila.