Confession time for Bad Mama Genny: I’ve been using my Crockpot a lot lately. Also, my text software just tried to edit “Crockpot” to read “crack pot”.
Please let it be known that I have not been using my crack pot a lot lately.
It’s addictive, that thing.
The Crockpot, not the crack pot.
Okay, you know what? We’re gonna call it a slow cooker from this point forward.
So I’ve been using the slow cooker a lot lately, and once you get started and master a few basics, it’s actually pretty amazing and easy to end up with very nice food that doesn’t always taste like beef stew.
Unless it’s beef stew, and then it tastes like beef stew. Or, at least, it should. And if you have a problem with that, well, why were you making beef stew in the first place?
So last night I felt that it wasn’t enough to make salmon croquettes with lemon aioli and a side of steamed spinach and artichokes for dinner. Hmm, surely there’s SOME ridiculous project I could start too late in the day?…I know! I know!
Except I’m not a glutton for punishment (lie, totally am, but still) and I’ve burned more than my fair share of granola by leaving it in the oven for 0.29 seconds too long. This here granola is a delicate business, folks. And I just wasn’t up for a delicate project.
I’d heard that you could make substantially less finicky granola in a slow cooker, but only recently did I look into it for really reals. And you know where you should go for the basics?
Right here, to Stephanie O’Dea’s site. She’s the genius behind the cookbook, “Make it Fast, Cook it Slow,” a bible for those of you who heart your slow cooker big time. Or your Crockpot. Or heck, even your crack pot.
I didn’t use Stephanie’s granola recipe, and decided instead to go off in my own direction. See, while O’Dea’s recipe calls for two liquid components–butter and honey–mine adds a third: fruit puree. what worked for me was 1/2 cup fat, 1/2 cup sweet stuff, 1/2 cup fruit puree. This cuts down on the amount of fat and sugar you need, adds flavor, and–oh, fluffernutter!–gives you even more scope for the imagination when it comes to cool taste combos.
Yesterday I made pumpkin granola. I used pureed sugar pie pumpkin and added cinnamon, ginger, cloves, and a pinch of nutmeg. Three words: OM NOM NOM.
I wish I could explain just how good this smelled while it cooked. But I can’t. They just haven’t invented Smell-o-Vision yet. Or the Smell-ternet.
So now that we’ve added that fruit component, let’s review just a few of the taste combinations that come to mind:
Pumpkin puree with pecans, raisins, pie spices, and butter.
Apple butter with walnuts, pumpkin seeds, raisins, pie spices, and butter.
Any fruit puree you desire, or none, with maple syrup instead of honey, and walnuts
Coconut oil instead of butter, banana puree, banana chips (or dehydrated banana, added after cooling), macadamia nuts, chunks of dried pineapple, and shaved, unsweetened coconut
Cherries and almonds. Mmmm….
Apple butter with blueberries, almonds, and butter…just like a muffin!
Banana puree with walnuts and butter, and dehydrated bananas added after cooling…like banana nut bread!
Pumpkin puree with dried cranberries and pecans…perfect for Thanksgiving breakfast!
Basically, what I’m saying here is: this is the easiest granola you will ever make. You will not go back to burning tray after tray of granola in the oven and sobbing all over your own The Boy while he tries to console you about all those wasted ingredients. And the sky’s the limit with this recipe–if you can imagine it, you can do it!
Who’s that on the phone? It’s Legal? And they’re telling me I can’t guarantee that if you can imagine it, you can do it?
Okay, revision. More like, if you can imagine it, you can try it, be my guest, but I won’t be held responsible for the results.
There, that’s better. Legal should be happy with that.
Hey, what are you still doing here? Shouldn’t you be playing with your crack pot? I mean, Crockpot. I mean, slow cooker.
Damn. Legal again.
Crockpot Granola, a Jillion Different Ways
5 cups oats
1/2 cup honey (or maple syrup, etc.)
1/2 cup butter (or coconut oil, or Earth Balance, or half butter/half peanut butter, etc.)
1/2 cup fruit puree of your choice
1 heaping teaspoon cinnamon
2 Tablespoons wheat germ
1/2 cups sliced almonds
1/2 cup sunflower seeds
3/4 cup dried fruit and/or dehydrated fruit (Trader Joe’s, among other places, sells fruit that’s been dehydrated–the second it comes into contact with moisture, it rehydrates and becomes soft again. While dried fruit can be added during cooking, I’d hold off on adding dehydrated fruit until you’re bagging the cooled mixture.)
Toss all ingredients except for dried fruit (and any dehydrated fruit you may be using) into the stoneware and set it to high. Don’t bother melting the fat and honey together first, as O’Dea recommends. While this is a nice touch, I can’t bear the thought of washing an extra pot when I’m already using the slow cooker. Call me crazy. Vent the slow cooker by sticking a wooden spoon in between the lid and the stoneware. This will help your granola to lose excess moisture.
During the first hour, your butter will melt and you’ll want to make sure it gets evenly distributed, along with the honey or whatever other sweetener you’re using, throughout the dry ingredients. Watch this stuff–you won’t have to stir much at the beginning, but as your granola gets further along, you’ll wanna give it a stir every few minutes or, as O’Dea says, whenever you can smell it cooking.
When you’re 2/3 of the way through, put in your dried fruit (NOT yet on the dehydrated fruit). O’Dea has you adding everything at the beginning. This does work, but my fruit got a bit dark where it touched the stoneware. I’d hold off next time.
And that’s it! Keep stirring every so often, and after 3 to 4 hours, everything will look nice and toasty. It will NOT be dried out. I’d say, when everything’s golden brown and there’s no excess moisture, you’re probably there. Toss the mixture onto some parchment-lined cookie sheets and let it cool. Once the mixture is cool, you can add any dehydrated fruits you’ve been holding onto and put it all into an airtight container or gallon-size ziploc bag.