Power Up with Homemade Granola!

One of the biggest challenges we face when we adventure travel is how to reduce costs. We’ve figured out how to manage lodging costs by camping, staying at Airbnb, or mixing the two. We really just need a decent bed, a shower, and a place to stash our gear, and we’re good.

Our ‘chill’ vacations are a different matter, as we’re spending more time on site, hanging around the pool. Let me tell you, there is a huge difference between $900/week all-inclusive resorts and $1,400/week ones. I want comfy sheets, stellar customer service, and attentive pool or beach staff who are willing to indulge my passion for rum.

On those vacations, local cuisine, thoughtfully prepared, is where it is at. And hey, it’s all included, so we’re not really thinking about prices, you know?

Adventure travel requires a different strategy. When you spend an entire day hiking or climbing, or put your back into a full day kayak or rafting trip, your body needs fuel. Unfortunately, even destinations that cater to lovers of the great outdoors seem to fall short when it comes to affordable, healthy food.

I absolutely refuse to spend $8 for a single bowl of oatmeal when I can pack my own in pre-portioned containers, pick up almond milk for $4, and have breakfast ready to go for a week. So that’s what we do. Check out my protein-packed overnight oatmeal recipes and find a new favorite.

Commercially prepared granola just doesn’t cut it as adventure fuel. Many brands are loaded with sodium and sugar, and that kind of defeats the purpose.

Nutritionix, a company that tracks grocery store purchases as well as nutrition, cites Nature Valley Oats ‘n Honey Protein as the most popular granola on the market.

I do like the protein and potassium, but with refiner’s syrup, rice starch, and ‘added flavors’, the nutrition takes a slight downturn. I’d buy it in a pinch, but…eh.

Even though this brand is pretty high on the nutrition scale, I still want to know exactly what I’m putting in my body, especially if I need it to get me through the next 5 miles, uphill, both ways.

So I learned to make my own. And I have to tell you, once you start making homemade granola, you’ll never buy commercial granola again. It’s super easy, you control the ingredients, and the flavor is off the charts by comparison.

I love using local honey – particularly orange blossom – when I can get it, but there are some great commercial brands out there that add great flavor without adding refined sugars.

My recipe makes 22, 1/4-cup servings. Keep in mind, though, that this is a base recipe. If you add ingredients, you alter the nutrition and the calorie count. There’s nothing wrong with that, but you should be aware. Calories are calories, even when they are healthy ones.

Whatever you add, just keep in mind that you’re looking to keep the protein and healthy carbs high, and the sugar low.

Here is the base recipe:

  • 4 cups rolled oats
  • 1 1/2 cups almonds (I’m on a pecan kick, though, so that’s my new go-to! And walnuts would be YUM.)
  • 2 tbsp cinnamon (feel free to play with quantity here)
  • 1 tsp nutmeg (optional, but yummy for fall!)
  • 1 tsp cloves (also optional)
  • 3/4 tsp salt
  • 1/2 cup honey
  • 1/2 cup olive oil (you can sub coconut oil here if you prefer)
  • 2 tsp vanilla (Real vanilla is best, but sometimes the budget doesn’t stretch that far. I’ve stopped feeling guilty.)
  • 1 cup dried fruit of choice (I love dried cranberries, but we’ve used cut up cherries, apple, and mango makes things VERY interesting!)

Optional add-ins: unsweetened coconut, pepitas (dried pumpkin seeds), sunflower seeds

Gingerbread variation: Swap out the honey for 1/4 cup molasses & 1/4 cup REAL maple syrup. Add 1/3-1/2 cup finely-chopped candied ginger, although powdered ginger will work in a pinch.

  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Use parchment paper to line a large cookie sheet. Be sure to use one with a rim so your granola doesn’t fall off.
  2. Combine the first 6 ingredients in a large bowl; stir to blend well.
  3. Pour in the honey, olive oil, and vanilla
  4. Mix thoroughly, until all ingredients are blended together, and the oats and nuts are well-coated.
  5. Spread the mixture on the cookie sheet, using a spatula to create an even layer approximately 1/2-3/4 inch thick. (Thick is good, as you get chunky granola at the end.)
  6. Bake until golden brown, approximately 20 minutes, stirring halfway through. This is a good time to add your coconut, if using this option. I find it gets a little too crispy for me if you add it at the beginning, but that’s an option, too. Again, be sure to press the granola into that 1/2-3/4 inch layer.
  7. When you remove the granola from the oven, press the dried fruit into the top. (You can wait until it cools, but adding it here helps it clump together.)
  8. Let the granola cool completely. It will crisp up as it cools. Break it into chunks and store in an air-tight container for up to 10 days, or in the freezer for up to 2 months. Just let it warm up to room temperature before serving.

Since this is a go-to recipe for our adventures, I’ve packed it in either a resealable plastic bag or a long, flat reusable container, both of which fit nicely in a suitcase for travel. In fact, we’ll be taking a batch of this on our camping trip around Iceland next summer.

Use as an energy boost while on the trail, or add unsweetened almond milk in the morning for a great start to your adventures!

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