Thursday, November 22, 2012

Chocolate Mint Granola

You might say that I'm on a bit of a granola kick. This is, as I explained in a previous post, partly because I now live in an area where my GF cereal of choice isn't as cheap as I'm used to and I'm living on a fairly small budget. Granola, of course, is a little more expensive to make than just eating oatmeal, but it's also more satisfying when I want something crunchy (or if I just don't want hot cereal). Plus, during these cooler months of the year, it's an excuse to turn on the oven for an hour or so while creating something useful.

I'd been wanting to make a chocolate mint granola for a while -- in part because I love mint patties, but no longer eat them for a variety of reasons, and in part because I have mint extract from my green-mint smoothie phase earlier this year. I wanted to make it gluten-free, of course, and also vegan since I've embarked on eating mostly vegan.

This granola, like my others, isn't overly sweet, but if you drink vanilla soy / coconut /almond milk it is just sweet enough, and almost exactly the flavor of eating mint patties. For the record, I use organic spearmint extract when I make this granola, but I imagine it would turn out similarly using a peppermint extract. Note, these are both different than using mint oil. Baking Bites has a great article about the differences, that I won't rehash here -- but you should check it out. I like adding lentils to the granola, to increase the complexity of my morning meal, but you could omit them if you wanted (just skip those steps in the recipe below). I also like eating this with pumpkin seeds or sunflower kernels.

This would make a wonderful surprise breakfast for your kiddos who really, really want that chocolate sugary cereal from the grocery store since it's pretty much fat-free, doesn't contain much sugar, and still tastes like chocolate. Or, you could make a double-batch and wrap it up in pretty jars and give it as a holiday gift. Or, you could just make some for yourself, a small indulgence.
Yum! Chocolate Mint Granola (with red lentils)

Chocolate Mint Granola
1/3 cup split red lentils, boiled in 1 cup of water for 5 minutes and allowed to rest in hot water for 20-30 minutes (optional)

3 cups gluten-free rolled oats
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/3 cup cocoa powder
2 tablespoons agave nectar
1 1/2 teaspoons pure mint extract (note, this is different than oil)
1/4 teaspoon salt

Preheat oven to 275 degrees F.

Mix together your oats, brown sugar, cocoa powder, and salt in a medium-size mixing bowl.
Dry Ingredients
If using lentils, add the mint extract and agave nectar to the lentils and mix well (otherwise, mix the agave and mint extract together in a separate bowl with 1/3 cup warm water). Add the lentils, and their liquid, to the oat mixture. Stir until the oats are evenly moist.

Spread the granola on a baking sheet, and place in the oven. Bake for about 1 hour, stirring every 15-20 minutes, until the oats have turned dry and crispy* (in moist climates, this may take a little longer). Remove from oven and allow to cool completely. Store in an airtight container.

*Note: As with other granolas, it's important to remember that the oats will continue to turn crispy as they dry. If you have some oats that are not completely dry, but others that area, you can turn the granola once more time and then turn off the oven. In another 20-30 minutes, your oats should all be crispy.

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