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Healthy date-sweetened, nut and seed granola

May 26, 2018

Bowl of granola over yoghurt with fruit and a spoon

My relationship with breakfast cereal is a rocky one. In the early 1900s, Mr Kellogg et al ‘invented’ a new healthy food (with a healthier profit margin) and, from then on, swathes of the world were persuaded to swap their economical, sustaining porridge for a brightly, coloured, exciting box.

We had very little processed food in our house as most things were made from scratch or preserved from the garden, but we did start the day with cereal which was heavily marketing by TV ads at the time. Tony the cartoon Tiger for sugar-laden Frosties (“they’re grrrrrreat!”), Snap Crackle and Pop extruded Rice Krispies  (“Have you heard how good they are?”) and “Tell ’em about the honey, Mummy” Sugar Puffs (sugar-laden under the pretence of something natural). We loved the rustle of the packaging, reading all the exciting things written on the box, and the sweet milk they left at the bottom of the bowl. No wonder we had fillings in our teeth.

Leaving home my tastes matured and even muesli was too sweet for me. I don’t think I have bought a box of cereal in decades – apart from the Bran Flakes that KP eats nearly every single day (from the first time I met him).

I’m sure it’s fine to drizzle something sugary over your breakfast pancakes or French toast once in a while as a breakfast treat, but granola has always seemed to be another way of justifying eating something sweet under the guise of health on a daily basis. ‘Luxury’ seems to mean copious amounts of maple syrup, honey or chocolate chips, while branded varieties can contain a large helping of sugar, processed honey and oil to bind (rain-forest wrecking palm oil usually).

Bowl of granola over yoghurt with fruit and a spoon

So why turn to granola now?

I’m at a stage in my life where I’m facing new challenges which I’d like to try fighting with diet. Things like flaxseeds and nuts are touted as superfoods but, you know me, I’m sceptical of grandiose statements of one food over another. However, Suzi Grant of Alternative Aging recommends foods rich in natural plant oestrogens (called phyto-oestrogens) to help maintain hormonal balance as the body’s levels begin to fluctuate. Flaxseeds are a great source of Omega 3 (a high level plant oestrogen) which is claimed to help to improve cholesterol levels, and all sorts of other benefits including healthier looking skin. Nuts including walnuts, hazelnuts and pecans, plus seeds such as chia, sesame and hemp seeds also contain Omega 3.  I’d like an easy and palatable way to start including these into my diet.

How much to serve per portion?

Much has been made of the calorific density of granola, as well as the health benefits, with all those nuts and seeds. As mentioned, not all granola is created equal. 30g portions are advised usually but I think you can be slightly more generous with this granola due to the absence of fat, oil or any sugar except for the naturally occurring sweetness in the dates. Bulk it out by adding other sustaining, healthy things to your breakfast bowl along with it.

What to eat with granola

  • At its simplest, just serve in a bowl with your favourite kind of milk (dairy or plant-based).
  • Sprinkle over Greek-style yogurt and fresh fruit: grated apple, pear or even carrot goes well, drizzled with raw honey or some date caramel.
  • Use almonds and almond extract in the basic granola, add dried cherries, pour over almond milk and yoghurt and top with fresh cherries.
  • Again with an almond-heavy basic granola, or just some extra almonds (slivered would be good) add dried apricots or fresh apricots.
  • Use coconut milk, coconut yoghurt, fresh tropical fruit like ripe mango and sprinkle with freshly grated or toasted, dried shredded coconut.
  • Figs, fresh or dried (or both) with toasted hazelnuts.
  • Add chopped dates, vanilla yoghurt, finely sliced pistachios and a tiny drizzle of date syrup.
  • Sliced banana with yoghurt goes so well with walnuts.
  • Stir a little rose-water into some yoghurt – it goes beautifully with the cardamom (and some pistachios).
  • Add a teaspoon of bee pollen to every serving.

KP does occasionally deviate from his beloved Bran Flakes to granola. He’s a date hater and crinkled up his nose to this.  I eventually persuaded him to taste this, which he did with utmost reluctance, and he admitted that he thinks it’s good and will eat it.  Seal of approval!

Healthy, date-sweetened nut and seed granola

  • Servings: approx. 16
  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print

Homemade healthy, refined sugar-free and oil-free granola with the aroma of spices

The scent of the cardamom and cinnamon wafting through your house as this toasts gently in the oven is reason enough to make this. Vegan, oil-free, added sugar-free, its crunch and texture work well served simply with milk or paired with yoghurt and a range of fresh fruit for a healthy start to the day.

Ingredients

  • 230g dates with stones (200g if unstoned)
  • 300g rolled oats
  • 50g ground almonds
  • 70g chopped walnuts (or your favourite variety of nut)
  • 3 tablespoons chia seeds (black or white)
  • 75g pumpkin seeds
  • 3 tablespoons sesame seeds
  • 3 tablespoons flax seeds
  • 50g fresh coconut, shredded (or the dried kind)
  • 5 green cardamom pods
  • 1 level teaspoon ground cinnamon (or more to taste)
  • 1 tablespoon vanilla extract

Directions

  1. The night before, put the dates in a bowl and just cover with cold water and leave to soak.
  2. The next day preheat the oven to 120 C/110 F and line a baking tray with baking parchment or a silicone mat.
  3. In a mixing bowl (or the bowl of a food mixer that has a paddle attachment such as a Kitchenaid) weigh in the oats, ground almonds, nuts, seeds and coconut.
  4. Remove the seeds from the cardamom pods and bash them in a pestle and mortar to break down a little. Add the pounded seeds and cinnamon to the mixture. Stir well to combine.
  5. Strain the dates reserving the soaking liquid. Slip the stones and stems out of the dates and put them into a blender with 120ml of the reserved soaking water and the vanilla extract. Whizz to a paste, the consistency of a loose paste. Use a spatula to get every scrap from your blender into the bowl. Use the spatula to fold the date paste through the dry mixture making sure that every grain is evenly coated and combined. You can do this in your mixer with a paddle for ease.
  6. Tip the mixture carefully onto the lined tray and spread out to a roughly even layer with the spatula.
  7. Put in the oven for 1 1/2 hours in total, turning with the spatula every 20 minutes to ensure even cooking. If you use a silicone mat the cooking time might be over 2 hours. Watch carefully towards the end of cooking so the nuts do not catch (leading to an unpleasant bitter flavour). It’s ready when light golden brown and starting to crisp up.
  8. Leave to cool and store in an airtight jar.

Options:

  • When cool stir in 100 – 150g of dried fruit such as apricots, figs, barberries, cranberries or even chopped dates.
  • You can substitute other seeds or ingredients such as goji berries or leave some out.

bowl of yoghurt with date, nut and seed granola

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Let me know what you think of this if you make it. What’s your favourite healthy (ish) breakfast?

12 Comments leave one →
  1. May 27, 2018 10:15 am

    Not to take away from your writing but your food photography is impressive! 😀

  2. May 27, 2018 2:38 pm

    I’ve just eaten a boring bowl of cornflakes and now you come at me with this!! Oh my god it looks incredible!!

  3. May 27, 2018 2:43 pm

    Love those beautiful flat lays!! And this granola looks scrumptious!

  4. May 27, 2018 4:49 pm

    I love the sound of this nutty granola and adding dates for sweetness is a great idea. Adding the fruit makes it look so pretty and appetizing too!

  5. Jheelam permalink
    May 27, 2018 8:28 pm

    I’m from India and having boxed cereals at break-fast here is quite a status symbol these days, hidden sugar and processing notwithstanding.

    Thank you for this delish recipe.

    My fav breakfast is- hot,fluffy idlis (try it if you like Indian foods) with chai.

  6. May 28, 2018 10:40 am

    Oh, wow! The granola looks amazing!
    I love the idea of sweetening it with dates. 🙂

    • May 29, 2018 3:05 pm

      It’s a really healthy way of getting some natural sweetness in there – plus the fact that good dates taste like toffee!

  7. May 28, 2018 8:03 pm

    I always love the idea of homemade granola – and it’s definitely a frugal way to indulge – plus as you so ably demonstrate, you can make a healthier version. I tend to eat the lot too quickly though if I make my own! My favourite way of indulging is a little sprinkled on natural greek yoghurt.

    • May 29, 2018 3:00 pm

      That’s my favourite too Fiona – on Greek style yoghurt… and the Yeo Valley one at that … full fat – none of this low fat nonsense!

  8. June 12, 2018 1:59 pm

    What a wonderful article i love it. The granola is terrific looks yummy!

  9. June 25, 2018 3:14 pm

    Woww…. dates as a natural sweetener… that is so interesting!! My favourite is Granola and banana slices with Greek yogurt!!! loved your article 🙂 XOXO https://thetulipproject2017.wordpress.com

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