Sunday, August 15, 2010

Granola Parfait

I was toying with the idea of starting this post with an apology because it's been delayed far longer than I intended. However, it's going to get monotonous if I keep allowing ten days to lapse between posts. So I'll just say that I'll try my best to keep them coming, but I make no promises. Onward then.

Today I am addressing one of my favourite breakfast treats. Well, actually I'll eat at it just about any time of the day. It is the yogurt parfait.

First experienced at Starbucks with fruit and granola I was enamored by the first bite. Truly, fruit, yogurt, and granola belong together. The wonderful thing about it is its versatility. If you're like me, you're a bit of a creature of habit, but at the same time get bored by constant, unending repetition. Herein lies the secret of the yogurt parfait. You can change up the yogurt, you can change up the fruit, you can change up the granola, all the while keeping the essentials the same.

My personal favourite combination involves Greek style plain yogurt (the unsweetened kind), a good squirt of honey, homemade granola, and whatever fruit I have lying around (though I'm partial to strawberries). The tangy bite of the yogurt perks up your taste buds for the smoothly sweet honey. Strawberries add their own sweetness and occasional tang. Bananas are divinely sweet, lending a softness to both flavour and texture. Granola adds complexity and, of course, that ever satisfying crunch. But don't take my word for it. Try it. Change it.

Opt for plain yogurt sweetened with brown sugar (like my sister Laurelle). Toss in some fresh blueberries, or dried fruit in winter. Dried cherries are my absolute favourite in the dehydrated fruit department. And the granola. If you make it yourself there truly are unlimited ways of changing it. Even if you don't, store bought varieties abound. So take your pick.

Ever since making the granola we sell at work I have been preoccupied with the desire to make my own granola. I know. I don't think anything epitomizes hippie food more than granola, let alone homemade granola. But so be it. There are so many things you can do with it to make it your own. Change the nuts, change the seeds, change the spices, add whatever dried fruits you want. Seriously, you won't be disappointed.

Just to get you started here's a recipe that I adapted from Jamie Oliver. He calls it Honey Cherry Granola, but I left the cherries out since Laurelle didn't want them. Of course any dried fruit will do. So I'll just call it Honey Bunch Granola. Perhaps it's a bit too quaint, but I like it anyway.

Honey Bunch Granola
Adapted from Jamie Oliver

2 tbsp vegetable oil
6 tbsp honey
1 tsp vanilla extract
1/4 tsp ground cardamom
3 3/4 cups rolled oats
1/4 cup sliced almonds
1/4 cup chopped pecans
4 tbsp sunflower seeds
4 tbsp flax seeds

Preheat the oven to 300F.
Mix together the oil, honey, vanilla, and cardamom.
Toss everything else together, then add the liquids. It's easiest to use your hands to mix it together. This ensures that everything is well coated.
Spread the mix out on a baking sheet and bake for 25 minutes.

Jamie Oliver recommends 6 tbsp of cherries. You can, of course, add any dried fruit you like. Just make sure you add it to the granola after it comes out of the oven. Otherwise you'll end up with some seriously dried out fruit. The original recipe also calls for sesame seeds rather than flax seeds. I don't really care for sesame seeds so I switched it. The cardamom was my addition and can be substituted for cinnamon, nutmeg, allspice, whatever you want really. The flavour of honey (buckwheat, wildflower, etc.) will also change the flavour of your granola, so experiment with that until you find one you like best.

Really just play with the recipe. And eat it any way you want. While I wholeheartedly recommend it with yogurt it would be delicious eaten with milk as a cereal. Or even just in handfuls as a snack. Let me know if you come up with any fantastic or inspired innovations of your own.

For breakfast, for lunch, for whenever: c'est parfait.

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