August 28, 2011

Emergency Treat

Popped Amaranth Granola

I don't seek out granola or buy it often, but I'm always ready for something that tastes a whole lot better made in my own kitchen than off the grocery store shelf. I now also realize its a handy non-perishable item to have around, say, in the event of a hurricane?

I have granola notes from Martha Stewart, from the Food Network, and from an old roommate's ex-girlfriend. I do mix and match for the most part, but my favorite take on granola is from one of my favorite sites, It uses the grain Amaranth (I found mine at MOM's, but I've seen it at many other organic markets or health food stores) a grain that was first cultivated 8,000 years ago by the Aztecs. It's interesting to work with, especially in this recipe, where you start by roasting the grain in a pan and watch it begin to dance around and pop like popcorn. It has a nutty taste, and is quite crisp, allowing for a very fresh batch of granola.

Since you are in charge, you have control of how loose you'd like the mix or how many clusters of grains, oats, nuts and dried fruit you may ultimately want.  Make it sweeter with more dried fruit, chocolate or carob chips, or crisp and crunchy with more seeds and nuts. Add or subtract your favorite additions; others I also enjoy are peanut butter, wheat germ, dried dragonfruit or apricots, various seeds, chopped hazelnuts or macadamia nuts. Optional sticky binders that also work well are agave nectar or molasses, even maple syrup works in a pinch. As long as you watch the clock, the temperature and add fruits after baking so as not to burn them, you can make almost any combination you think up.

Hopefully you won't need emergency non-perishables often, but if you do, at least you'll have a treat you can look forward to while waiting out the storm.

Popped Amaranth Granola
(adapted from

*1/2 c. amaranth seeds
*4 Tbsp. unsalted butter
*1/4 c. packed dark brown sugar
*1/4 c. honey
*1 tsp. vanilla extract
*1/4 tsp. fine salt
*1/4 tsp. cinnamon
*1 c. whole, raw cashews (I only had almonds, but any nut of your choice will do), coarsely chopped
*1 c. flaked, unsweetened coconut
*1 c. old-fashioned oats
*1 c. dried cherries, coarsely chopped

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Begin by heating a pan over medium heat. When heated, add the amaranth seeds and cover, as the little seeds do start popping all over the place. Shake the pan often, until about half of the seeds have popped, about 2 minutes. Put aside.

Combine the butter, brown sugar and honey in a small sauce pan over medium heat. Stir until the butter has melted and brown sugar has dissolved. Bring to a boil and cook until slightly thickened, 3-4 minutes. Remove from heat. Stir in vanilla, salt and cinnamon and set aside.

Add sugar mixture, cashews (or nuts of choice), coconut and oats to amaranth and stir until mixture is moist throughout. Evenly spread the mixture on a baking sheet and bake until toasted and lightly browned, about 10 minutes. Stir and continue to bake for five more mintues. Remove from heat and let cool. Add and stir in cherries only when mixture has cooled.

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