When I found out that Ryan was MSPI, I realized I was in trouble. I LOVE dairy. I LOVE ice cream, and cheese, and milk products. Oh, and soy? It’s in EVERYTHING. And lucky me, Ryan is in the minority with his soy sensitivity in that he is bothered by soy oil in addition to other forms of soy.
After Ryan was born and I was breastfeeding, I realized that the days of my stomach being full in three seconds due to a baby pushing on it were over, and the days of being constantly hungry were on. Snacks are a complete necessity in order for me to make it to the next meal without being the biggest grump ever. The first two weeks or so, I’d go for either some cheese and crackers, a bowl of yogurt and fruit, or a bowl of oatmeal with a big ol’ pat of butter. See? Dairy is my thaaaanng.
After the MSPI diagnosis, I realized that if I didn’t figure out something to snack on that fit my new diet, I’d be screwed. So I hit the interwebs and found some things that would be safe that I could totally get into. And since I knew I’d be home and needed to be saving money (IE not running through a whole box of Special K in a day and a half..) I figured I’d work on making some of them myself. I’m already a pro a hummus (I’ll share my recipe once I get more tahini!) but I wanted something I could just grab a handful of while nursing or rocking Ryan to sleep.
When Alex suggested making granola, I was hesitant. Yes, oatmeal is great for nursing moms, and yes, you can pack it with healthy bits, but I hate crumbled up granola where there’s just a box or bowl of individual oat grains. But with some googling and test batches, I found my perfect recipe for granola!
Toasty and crunchy with big clumps of deliciousness, this granola is perfect by the handful or as a cereal. If you use pecans, they get super buttery in the oven which is only made better with the maple brown sugar coating. An egg white added to the wet ingredients allows the granola to be broken into larger chunks and clusters, perfect for snacking on the go. Using olive oil makes this granola both MSPI friendly and gives it a bit of a fruity undertone, while dried cranberries added after baking give a great contrast of texture and tartness that really brings the granola together.
Omit nuts and substitute seeds (a mix of pumpkin and sunflower would be great!) to make nut free, use GF oats to make gluten free. This recipe is very flexible, so have fun with it! Let me know of any variations you make!
Easy Maple Brown Sugar Granola
3 cups old-fashioned oats
1 cup of nuts (I used chopped pecans)
1 tsp. kosher salt
1 egg white
2-3 tbs. brown sugar
1/3 cup(ish) maple syrup (you could probably sub or honey, but we’re a maple syrup household)
1/4 cup of oil + 1 tsp. for the pan (I use olive. It gives it a really nice flavor, and it’s MSPI safe – most vegetable oils have soy in them. You could definitely use vegetable, canola, coconut.. whatever you have on hand.)
1 tsp. vanilla extract
1 cup of dried fruit (I’ve been using dried cranberries, but I bet a mix of different kinds would be awesome – just make sure that whatever you use you chop into smaller pieces.)
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
In a large bowl combine the first 3 ingredients. If using pecans or another whole, large nut, I suggest breaking up any large pieces/ halves so that they will be more evenly dispersed throughout the granola and clusters. Measure and combine the rest of the ingredients except the cranberries, whisking with a fork to break up the brown sugar and incorporate the egg white. If you like things really sweet, go on the higher end of the sugar and maple syrup. If you like less sweet granola, opt for less brown sugar and maple syrup.
Pour the wet ingredients into the dry and mix, mix, mix. If it looks a little too wet, (excess sugar mixture on the bottom of the bowl) throw in a handful more oats. Once combined, pour the oats onto a baking sheet rubbed with the tsp. of remaining oil. You can also use a Silpat or parchment paper. Push the granola down into one tight layer all the way to the edge of the pan. (using a spatula to press and smush it tightly is really helpful)
Put the pan in the oven on the second to highest rack. This is very important if you have a super hot electric oven with the heating element on the bottom. If you put the rack in too low, the bottom will burn and that is no good.
Bake for 30-45 minutes. The edge will start to brown first, but don’t worry. Those will be for your snacking pleasure. To check if your granola’s done, take a spoon and take a spoonful out of the center of your pan. Put it on your counter and cool for a second. Test it out. Is it crunchy? Your granola is done. A bit chewy? Throw it back in the oven for 5 more minutes and check again.
Let the whole pan cool completely and gently remove the granola by wedging a fork under it to break up the sheet. Sprinkle the cranberries on top, put into container, and enjoy!