Easy No-Stir Olive Oil Maple Nut Spice Granola with Chia Seeds
Granola has been getting a bad rap lately in the press, which seems kind of unfair. On the one hand, it's great that people are aware of how much sugar can be in packaged granolas or even some recipes. But on the other hand, just because there are granolas out there pretending to be something they're not, hiding under the "healthy"-sounding name, doesn't mean all granolas are automatically wolves in sheep's clothing. Granola at its best combines all sorts of delicious, wholesome, real ingredients into a crunchy, storable, packable, anytime treat.
I started wanting to eat oats a lot last year while pregnant, and then this past spring, with a newborn around, cooking a bowl of oatmeal seemed like an epic task most days. Foods that were appealing plus super quick and easy to eat became ABSOLUTELY NECESSARY. If they were homemade and had oats and nuts in them, well that was a total bonus. Enter my granola obsession.
I always liked the stuff, but didn't want to buy it because of the cost and the added sweeteners. I never got around to making it myself because every recipe I came across required stirring several times in the oven, which seemed like a pain. I like baking of the "set it and forget it" variety, as in, put the stuff in the oven, set the timer, and go do some other stuff in the meantime. So when I found a no-stir recipe from America's Test Kitchen, I knew I was in business. Mixing up the whole batch takes less time than cooking a pot of oatmeal, and then it bakes while I go do other things, and all I have to do is set the baby down for a second while I take it out of the oven and hopefully remember to turn the oven off.
Over the past year or so, I've tweaked the recipe to meet my current needs in a granola, but the beauty of granola is that once you get your favorite version dialed, you can basically customize it however you'd like.
Add other seeds, nuts, flaked coconut, dried fruit, other spices if you want. Use different oils or sweeteners. The original recipe calls for brown sugar in addition to the maple syrup, to help form nice clusters, but I've discovered that I can substitute honey as long as I melt it down first. I've also cut back the total amount of sweetener in the recipe by A LOT (the version below basically works out to 4g of sweetener or so per heaping 1/2 cup of granola), so if you like your granola sweeter, you can add more. It will still be a far cry from dessert-level, but it is enough reminiscent of an oatmeal cookie that you might just want it for dessert anyhow.
NO STIR OLIVE OIL MAPLE NUT SPICE GRANOLA with CHIA
--5 cups rolled oats (choose gluten-free if you'd like a GF recipe)
--2 cups chopped raw nuts (I like pecans, almonds, cashews, walnuts, or a combo)
--1/2 cup chia seeds (or other seeds), optional
--1/2 cup olive oil (or vegetable oil, melted coconut oil, melted unsalted butter, or a combo--may I suggest half olive oil and half melted, good-quality butter for a special batch), plus a splash for the pan
--1/4 cup maple syrup
--4 tsp honey, or 2 T brown sugar
--2 tsp cinnamon (or pumpkin pie spice)
--2 tsp vanilla extract
--1/4 tsp pure vanilla powder, optional (I like this kind; expensive but so good and a little goes a long way--I've had the same jar for two years and I use it all the time)
--1 tsp kosher salt
Pre-heat the oven to 325 degrees. Drizzle some olive oil (or other oil) on a full size (18" x 26") rimmed sheet pan, or two half sized rimmed sheet pans, rubbing the oil all over with your fingers to coat the pan, making sure to get the edges and corners.
Mix oats and nuts in a large mixing bowl to combine, then sprinkle any small seeds on top.
In a small saucepan, combine the oil, syrup, and honey over low heat just until the honey melts into the other ingredients and the mixture is homogeneous. Remove from the heat and stir in the vanilla extract, salt, cinnamon, vanilla powder or other spices with a heat-proof rubber spatula. (If you are using brown sugar instead of honey, no need to heat--just stir together all the above ingredients in a bowl or measuring cup.) Pour the whole mixture over the oats and nuts, scraping the pan to get every drop. Stir and spread the liquid with the spatula slowly, turning and coating the oats and nuts and scraping the bottom of the bowl until no dry pockets of oats remain.
Spread the mixture evenly on the oiled sheet pan, pressing it down with the spatula.
Bake for 16-18 minutes, or until the granola is just starting to get the slightest bit golden brown. Let it stay in the pan until cool, then uproot the oats and clusters using a plastic pancake spatula. Stored in a sealed container in a dry place it should stay good for a few weeks, but it's never actually lasted long enough here to find out.