Sweet & Crunchy Granola

I have a bit of a thing for cereal. Not in the normal eat-it-for-breakfast way that most people enjoy cereal, but the get-(pathetically)-excited-about-picking-out-a-new-cereal-at-the-store kind of way.  Part of this excitement might stem from the fact that I don't actually eat these cereals for breakfast (I eat muesli unless I forget to make it the night before), but rather the cereals serve as new snacks and something to sprinkle over fruit and yogurt.  But I think the main thing that keeps me excited about cereal is the crunchy texture of the flakes, clusters, nuts, etc. combined with a large amount of refreshingly cold milk poured over the top.  It's definitely a gestalt.     

I'm also a huge fan of variety, and so I tend to acquire a decent number of cereals in the cupboard without actually finishing most of them.  This particular habit of mine used to drive my mom crazy when I was a kid.  I would be wild about a particular cereal for a month or so, and my mom would stock up on that cereal right around the time that I would lose interest.  She'd pretend like she was going to make me finish it, but then I'd just pick out a new kind of cereal the next time we went to the store and the whole process would start over.

I never grew out of that habit, and as a result, it's not unusual to find a number of partially-full boxes of cereal in the apartment, just waiting to be finished off.  Granola is my answer to this "problem."  It's the perfect way to use up a few different types of cereal and produce something entirely new.  I also add 2 to 3 different types of nuts that I have in the fridge (yes, I keep nuts in the fridge, or the freezer, because it keeps them from going stale).  Finally, you need a sweet and flavorful mixture to bring the granola together, and my secret ingredient is a baked sweet potato. 

I love adding vegetable and fruit purées to baked goods (à la Jessica Seinfeld) and sweet potatoes are especially easy.  You can bake them in the microwave, peel the skin off easily, and then have purée all ready to put in your recipe (you can see a more-detailed explanation of how to bake the sweet potato in an earlier post). 

The sweet potato adds lots of flavor to the granola and completely makes up for the fact that there is no oil in this recipe.  The lack of oil is extremely unusual in a granola recipe, but I promise that you won't miss it (because you'll be too busy eating the granola to remember what went into it).  A tip from Jessica Seinfeld's "Double Delicious!" granola recipe is to distribute the granola into 1/2-cup portions after making it so that you don't get carried away.  I'm not quite that disciplined, but it's worth mentioning.  

Sweet & Crunchy Granola (Makes 4 cups)
1 cup old-fashioned rolled oats
1 cup crispy brown rice cereal (unsweetened)
1/2 cup bran flakes (I use Nature's Path Organic Heritage multigrain cereal)
1/4 cup raw almonds
1/4 cup raw cashews (either unsalted or lightly salted)
1 sweet potato, baked in the microwave and peeled (you need about 1/2 cup of purée)
1 teaspoon of cinnamon
1/8 teaspoon nutmeg
1/8 - 1/4 teaspoon salt (depending on whether the nuts are salted)
2 Tablespoons honey
1 Tablespoon maple syrup
2 Tablespoons orange juice (preferably freshly squeezed, but bottled is fine too)

Preheat the oven to 325 degrees.  Prepare a baking pan with a piece of parchment paper.

1. Mix together the oats, cereals, almonds, and cashews in a large mixing bowl.
2.  In a smaller mixing bowl, or using a stand mixer, whisk together the sweet potato, cinnamon, nutmeg, salt, honey, maple syrup, and orange juice until the mixture is smooth. (*You could also throw everything in the blender and then pour the liquid directly onto the dry ingredients)  

3.  Pour the liquid mixture over the dry ingredients.  Then, use a spoon or your hands to mix the granola until the liquid is evenly distributed throughout the mixture.  
4.  Transfer the mixture to the prepared baking sheet and spread the granola out so that it cooks evenly. 
5.  Bake for 25-30 minutes at 325 degrees, stirring every 5 to 10 minutes to ensure even browning, until the granola becomes fragrant and lightly browned.  Keep an eye on it during the last 5 minutes of baking to make sure it doesn't burn.   

6.  Allow the granola to cool completely before transferring to an airtight container or plastic bag for storage.

You can eat the granola plain or with milk, or you can use it as a topping on yogurt and other desserts.  
This recipe makes 4 cups of granola (8 total servings).  Here are the nutrition facts for each half-cup serving:
Nutrition Facts
Serving Size 54 g
Amount Per Serving
Calories from Fat 
% Daily Value*
Total Fat 
Saturated Fat 
Trans Fat 
Total Carbohydrates 
Dietary Fiber 
Vitamin A 55%Vitamin C 8%
Calcium 2%Iron 6%

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