Vanilla Almond Cherry Granola
DATES: Chewy and sweet, dates are high in fiber and antioxidants. Dates help to lower inflammation in the body and they are a healthier alternative to white sugar due to their increased nutritional profile.
OATMEAL: Scientifically proven, there are few foods better at combatting heart disease or diabetes. Oats contain a unique fiber called beta-glucan;, eating just 3 grams a day can decrease your bad LDL cholesterol levels by 8-23%. Highly significant if you take into account that a 1% decrease in LDL cholesterol lowers your risk of heart disease by 2%.
ALMONDS: Almonds are high in monounsaturated fat reducing your risk for heart disease and lowering cholesterol levels. Combined with the flavonoids found in the skin and the Vitamin E contained in the flesh, almonds contain a high amount of cancer-fighting antioxidants.
CASHEWS: Not only do cashews have a lower fat content than most nuts, but over 80% is heart-healthy unsaturated fatty acid. Cashews are also high in copper and magnesium, the first vitally important in antioxidant defenses and energy production, and the latter helping with bone strength.
FLAX MEAL: Made from ground flax seed, flax is high in fiber and offers a high concentration of plant-based Omega 3 fatty acids, being good for heart health and brain function. Packed with anti-oxidants, research shows the flax helps prevent cancers like breast, prostate and colon cancer.
Gluten-Free, Refined Sugar Free, Oil Free
Serves about 6-8
1 cup old-fashioned oats (not steel-cut nor instant, gluten-
free if needed)
½ cup almonds, roughly chopped
½ cup cashews, roughly chopped
1/3 cup dried cherries
½ cup ground flaxseed
1/2 tsp cinnamon
¼ tsp salt
1 cup (about 12 large) dried medjool dates, soaked in hot
3 tbsp smooth almond butter
1/2 cup date water (from soaked dates), maybe a little more
½ cup unsweetened shredded coconut
Start by placing the dried dates in a bowl and pour hot water over them until they are completely covered. Let stand for at least 10 minutes, preferably about 30 minutes.
Preheat the oven to 300F and line a large baking tray, or two smaller ones, with baking parchment paper.
In a large bowl, mix together all the dry ingredients EXCEPT for the coconut (oats, chopped almonds, chopped cashews, dried cherries, ground flaxseed, and cinnamon).
Drain the dates, reserving the water, and place the dates in a blender. Add the almond butter and 1/2 cup of the reserved date water. Blend until smooth, adding more water if necessary a little at a time to get a smooth consistency with no large date chunks.
Pour the date and nut butter blend over the dry ingredients and mix well.
Spread the mixture over the baking tray(s) and place in the preheated oven.
Bake for 20-25 minutes. The oats in the granola should be golden, but the cherries should NOT be black. Every oven is different however, so I start to check mine every 5 minutes after 15 minutes. At 300F, mine consistently takes 25 minutes.
Remove the granola from the oven and leave it to cool completely, then mix in the shredded coconut.
Store in an airtight container.
If you prefer a sweeter granola, add part water and part maple syrup or agave nectar instead. Add enough to your to taste, but add no more than 1/2 cup of liquid total.
This recipe is a wonderful base recipe for other flavors, so feel free to experiment with flavor profiles of your own. Here are some I experimented with in the past that are delicious to give you more ideas:
SOUTHERN APPLE PIE: Replace cherries with dried apples, replace cashews with pecans, and increase cinnamon to 1 tsp total.
SPICY PINEAPPLE PARADISE: Replace cherries with dried pineapple (chopped),add ¼ cup dried diced mangoes, replace almonds with macadamia nuts, replace cinnamon with chili powder (start small, and to your taste, totally optional) and increase coconut to 1 cup at the end.