I think it is fitting that one of my first posts is a granola recipe. I say this because I find myself making granola at least once every couple of months. It is a staple at my house. I love it with Greek Yogurt for breakfast on the go (which is like every morning), when I’m craving a crunchy snack, and sometimes even for dinner. I have also been known on occasion to carry an extra bag in my purse to dump on tart frozen yogurt from my local yogurt shop! Granola is also an awesome gift. I just mailed some to friends that are about to have a baby and included it with their baby shower gift (extra food around the house when you’re new parents is a good thing right?). And did you know that granola freezes really well? I always make large batches and then freeze half, that way there is extra on hand when I need my granola fix.  

I started making granola about 8 years ago when my friend Caroline and I had just graduated from Culinary School and were co-chefing (yes chefing is a word) at a Cuban Cafe in San Francisco. We wanted a lighter option for the Cafe con Leche drinkers in the morning, and that is where our Tropical Cuban Granola recipe was born. Caroline at the time was an aspiring food writer and had just finished her internship with the San Francisco Chronicle. While she was there, she did a test kitchen series on granola and she was able to bring the best attributes of each recipe together.

The recipe Caroline and I created for the cafe was delicious, but I have tweaked it since then to make it a tad healthier. The original recipe had oil and a fair amount of brown sugar (most granola recipes do). I have found that I can make the granola taste just as good using honey and agave. I also change-up the recipe depending on the season or my mood. The great thing about granola is that you start with a base and then add whatever nuts and dried fruits suit you. We have had some rain in Reno recently which has reminded me of my days living in Portland. So the recipe that I am sharing includes hazelnuts and figs, my ode to Portland.

Ode to Portland Granola
Yield: 12 Cups

7 cups Old Fashioned Rolled Oats (I buy organic in the bulk grain section)
1 cup Coconut Flakes, unsweetened (I prefer Bob’s Red Mill)
¼ cup Flax Seeds, whole grain
1 cup Almonds, sliced raw*
1/2 cup Hazelnuts*
1 cup Oat Bran
1/4 cup Sunflower or Pumpkin Seeds
1 tsp Salt
1 tsp Cinnamon
12 ounces Honey
½ cup Agave, Organic Blue
1 ½ cups Figs, dried*

*You can replace the 1 ½ cups of hazelnuts & almonds and 1 ½ cups of figs with any nut and dried fruit of your choosing. Some of my favorites are pistachios, macadamia, mango, pineapple, currants, and apricots

  1. Preheat oven to 350F. Toast and de-skin the hazelnuts. You can do this by toasting the raw hazelnuts on a cookie sheet for about 10 minutes. When the skin begins to blister and crack, they are toasted. Once removed from the oven, let them cool two minutes and then place in a clean, dry kitchen towel (be careful because the nuts will still be hot). Twist the kitchen towel so the hazelnuts are securely wrapped inside. Using your free hand, agitate and rub the hazelnuts against the towel. The friction and heat should remove most the skin. Don’t worry if there is still a little skin left. Place the toasted hazelnuts aside.
  2. In a large bowl combine the Oats, Coconut, Flax Seed, Almonds, Oat Bran, Seeds, Salt and Cinnamon. Using two 13”x17” sheet trays, divide the mixture. I like to use silpats (silicone baking mat) or parchment to keep the granola from sticking. Toast the dry ingredients in the oven for 10 minutes.
  3. While the dry ingredients toast in the oven, chop the dried figs and toasted hazelnuts. Once the dried ingredients are removed from the oven, carefully pour them back into the large bowl. They should still be warm. Add the chopped figs and hazelnuts. Using a rubber spatula mix in the honey and agave. All the grains should look moist, and the overall consistency should be sticky.
  4. Turn the oven down to 300F. Divide the granola mixture between the two sheet trays and bake 30-35 minutes. Check after 20 minutes and use the rubber spatula to stir if the edges are more toasted then the center. Once the granola is removed from the oven, it may still look a little damp. As it cools, it will dry and become crisper.