It's so easy to be fooled by how supposedly healthful foods are marketed. Protein bars, sports drinks, trail mix... their levels of fat, simple sugars, and calories belie the packaging. Granola is one of the worst offenders. Our local Fairway has bins of the stuff in any flavor you could imagine. If it's anything like the boxed stuff, it's terrible for you. Solution: make your own!
Using all-natural, freshly-ground peanut butter gives you the oil needed for a crispy granola, not to mention a delightful flavor, but without a lot of added sugar. On that note, nothing drives home the massive amounts of sugar used in commercial granolas and cereals like making your own with a half-cup of sweetener and getting only a very lightly sweet product. I tried a really artificial sugar-free pancake syrup I've had hanging around. It was...fine. Much better was the pop of chopped dried apple and ginger.
Peanut butter quinoa granola
1/2 cup peanut butter (the freshly ground kind, not the artificial kind)
2 tablespoons flaxseeds
1 cup raw quinoa
1/2 cup amaranth or millet
2 cups rolled oats
1/4 to 1/2 cup honey, agave syrup, or maple syrup
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract, or the contents of 1/2 large vanilla bean
1/4 teaspoon almond extract
3/4 to 1 cup chopped dried ginger, apple, dates... whatever you like
2 tablespoons grated fresh ginger
nutmeg, cloves, cinnamon, or other spices to taste (try black pepper, too!)
1 teaspoon sea salt, plus more to taste
2 egg whites
optional: 1/2 cup coconut flakes (unsweetened, if you can find it)
optional: other nuts and seeds of your choice
optional: use hazelnut extract and add some bittersweet chocolate for a Nutella-esque flavor
Rinse the quinoa well to get rid of those nasty saponins. Heat an empty pot over medium heat with about 1/2 teaspoon olive or sesame oil. Add the quinoa and amaranth/millet. Stir frequently for about 10 minutes, or until the quinoa puffs up and smells toasty; you'll see the volume in the pot increase when this happens, but the grains won't turn transluscent or anything. Set aside to cool.
Preheat your oven to 250 degrees and line a large cookie sheet with parchment paper. In a big bowl, combine the coconut, sweetener, extracts, and peanut butter. Add the rest of the ingredients and mix very well. In a separate bowl, whisk the egg whites until frothy and mix into the granola until just combined. Spread the granola mix in a 1-inch layer on the prepared cookie sheet and pat down firmly to form one contiguous layer.
Bake for 30 minutes, then flip the granola (without breaking the sheet, if you can!) and bake for another hour or so, flipping about every 15 minutes. Allow to cool for 1 hour after baking, then break up and store in an airtight container to keep it crispy.