Yogurt has become more and more popular in the US over the last several years (although still substantially behind France and many European countries in daily consumption per person). The most recent craze is Greek-style yogurt, with its thicker, more dense consistency. Brands such as Fage and Chobani are now commonplace in supermarkets, Targets, and even many convenient stores. And also my fridge. I usually buy Fage, but I'm hoping that Whole Foods starts making the Greek-style yogurt in its 365 brand soon.
Aside from its breakfast appeal, Greek yogurt is a wonderful ingredient in the kitchen (just make sure to buy the plain variety and not one of the flavored/sweetened varieties). Try subbing it in recipes for your favorite homemade salad dressings and dips, which commonly rely on mayonnaise for that creamy texture. Also think of Greek yogurt for meals that call for sour cream (e.g. chili, tacos, etc.). It's not really all that different from sour cream in terms of absolute calories/fat, but it does offer its probiotic benefits. And like sour cream, yogurt is available in full fat, low-fat (2%), and fat-free. What's great about fat-free Greek yogurt is that because of its thick texture, it makes you think you're eating something deliciously fatty even though you're not.
Onto the actual topic for this entry. Granola! Delicious, decadent granola. The perfect topping for yogurt, granola is a combination of oats, baking spices, sugar, nuts, and raisins/dried fruit. A blend of very nutritious ingredients that offer a great, natural balance of carbs, fat, sugar, and other nutrients.
The first step is to buy quality ingredients. King Arthur (link) offers the best rolled oats I've ever tasted. From there, it's all about personal preferences. I love adding almonds, cashews, and pecans. You could toss in walnuts, pistachios, pumpkin seeds, or any other favorite nut. The one thing I would probably leave out would be peanuts.
For the sweetener, I love agave. It's a great sugar substitute made from the agave plant (the same source as tequila), and it doesn't boost your blood sugar levels as dramatically as cane sugar. Also, it's a liquid, so it makes for easier mixing/stirring in many recipes. Other options include honey and maple syrup (the real stuff...none of that sugar-water with maple syrup flavoring), which each offer a unique flavor and texture for the granola.
I love tossing in unsweetened shaved coconut and dried raisins. Feel free to skip the raisins, or add a different dried fruit, such as cranberries, currants, chopped figs, blueberries, etc. The dried fruit offers a nice sweet, chewy texture, different from the crunchy granola and nuts.
Last tip - make sure to stir every 15 minutes while baking. You don't want your granola to burn, and with the added sugar, it does tend to stick to the baking sheet. Enjoy some freshly baked granola on a bowl of Greek yogurt tomorrow!
3 cups rolled oats
1/2 cup slivered almonds
1/2 cup cashews, slightly crushed
1/2 cup pecans, slightly crushed
1/2 cup shredded sweet coconut
1/4 cup agave
2 T real maple syrup
2 T extra virgin olive oil
1 tsp salt
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1/4 tsp ground nutmeg
1/4 tsp ground cloves
1 cup raisins
1. Preheat oven to 250 F.
2. Combine all ingredients, except raisins (or other dried fruit), in a large bowl. Stir well.
3. Pour into a single layer onto a large baking sheet (preferably one with ridges to prevent the granola from spilling onto your oven). You might need two baking sheets.
4. Bake for at least 1 hour 30 minutes, and up to 2 hours (until it smells delicious and has a nice roasted color & texture; sampling is encouraged).
5. Place in a large bowl and let cool, then add raisins. Place into an air-tight storage container(s). Can be stored at room temperature for quite a while (I've had mine in the cupboard for over a month before).
Recipe inspiration: Food Network - Alton Brown's Granola Recipe