Top: The original granola add-on: a yogurt parfait from Fruits From Chile. Second: Granola as a salad topping at Nuts About Granola. Third: Spicy Thai coleslaw with granola from Nuts About Granola (here’s the recipe). Fourth: Granola-coated chicken or fish, from SayWhatYouNeedBlog.com (here’s the recipe). Bottom: Baked apples stuffed with granola from Reynolds Kitchen (here’s the recipe).
Granola was originally devised by a doctor in 1863, as a spartan breakfast food. It was packed with fiber, intended to help people with digestive problems.
Granola was reborn in the second half of the 20th century as a sweet breakfast creal, packed with dried fruit, refined sugars and fats. Most commercial brands of granola don’t qualify as a “healthy alternative” (just read the nutrition labels).
Even when natural sugars are used—honey or maple syrup, for example—the calorie and carb count is just as high. Although natural sweeteners are theoretically “better” than refined sugars, the body metabolizes them exactly the same way*.
Thus, today’s tip is to look for a granola that is low in sugars; or to make your own with agave or brown rice syrup, natural sweeteners with low glycemic indices.
Then, try new uses for your granola: as a crouton substitute on salads, as a coating for chicken or fish fillets, etc. You’ll find ways to use it in every meal of the day, beyond the already-mainstay granola snack bars, cookies, muffins and yogurt parfaits.
Be sure to try it with vegetables, from sweet potatoes to roasted carrots and other sweet veggies (beets, squash, sugar snap peas, rutabaga) but not corn: It’s overkill.
Here’s a recipe for homemade, sugar-free granola, plus a way to use it to make crispy chicken breasts or fish fillets.
RECIPE: SUGAR-FREE GRANOLA RECIPE
Making your own granola lets you control the type and amount of sweetener and fat, while enabling you to add your favorite flavors: cinnamon, dark chocolate, nuts, peanut butter, vanilla, etc. You can make it organic, raw, whatever you like. Best of all, there is no “correct” recipe. Use whatever you like, in the proportions you like.
Prep time is 10 minutes, bake time is 20 minutes.
2 cups whole rolled (“old fashioned”) oats
½ cup nuts, chopped or sliced
¼ cup seeds (sunflower or pumpkin seeds, plus chia or flaxseed if you like them)
2 tablespoons agave nectar or brown rice syrup
2 tablespoons virgin coconut oil, other healthy cooking oil or butter‡
½ teaspoon vanilla extract or almond extract
1 large pinch salt
Optional: ½ cup unsweetened dried blueberries, cranberries or other fruit†
1. PREHEAT the oven to 300°F. Combine all ingredients in a mixing bowl, mix well and toss to thoroughly coat the ingredients with the sweetener and fat.
2. SPREAD the granola in a thin layer on a rimmed baking sheet and bake for 10 minutes, until lightly toasted. That’s it!
3. COOL, then store in an airtight container in a cool, dry place. Use it within 2 weeks.
RECIPE: CRISP CHICKEN CUTLETS OR FISH FILLETS WITH GRANOLA
Instead of Corn Flakes, coat your chicken or fish fillets with granola. This recipe from Viki’s Granola uses crisp panko bread crumbs to cut the sweetness; but if you’ve made your own lightly-sweetened granola, you can lessen or eliminate the panko. You may also want to use a granola without added fruit†, although chopped nuts add some nice crunch.
2 eggs, beaten
1 cup panko
1/2 cup granola (Viki’s uses its Honey Granola)
1/2 cup flour
1-1/4 pounds chicken cutlets (substitute fish fillets)
Canola or vegetable oil for frying
1. PLACE the beaten eggs in a shallow dish. Pulse the panko and granola in a food processor and place in a separate shallow dish. Place the flour in a third dish.
2. SEASON the cutlets with salt and pepper. Place 1/8 inch of oil in a large frying pan over medium heat. While the oil heats…
3. DIP the cutlets first in the flour, then in the egg, then in the panko, shaking off the excess with each addition. When the oil is hot, add the cutlets.
4. COOK until the bottoms are golden brown, about 3 minutes; then flip and brown the other side. Transfer to a platter lined with a paper towel.
*There are natural, low-glycemic sweeteners: agave, glycemic index (GI) is 32, half that of sugar; and brown rice syrup, GI of 20. Agave is 1.4 to 1.5 times sweeter than sugar and honey, so you don’t need to use as much. By comparison, the GI for honey is 58, pure maple syrup is 54 and refined sugar is 60-65.
†You can keep your granola flexible by not adding dried fruit initially. It’s easy to mix it in when you want it.
‡Butter has recently been de-demonized as a bad fat. Margarine remains a demon.