This past Sunday, I celebrated another birthday. Another year older, uggggghhhh!!!! I know, I know, “Well, Marta, think about the alternative. You could be dead.” Yes, I could. I could be dead. That actually wouldn’t be all that terrible because then I wouldn’t have to listen to people say that. I jest. Death isn’t cool. Living is what I want to do, so I’ve turned over a new leaf. I’m vowing to live a healthier lifestyle. Today I exercised. I lifted a 3 lb. weight, like, 15 times. I also made this super-healthy Tropical Granola to pour over yogurt and
ice cream other healthy things.
Most people that know me know full-well that I’m not a fan of working out. My poor saint of a husband attempted, once, to “train” me. After saddling up next to me, he showed me proper form and technique. Then he quietly stalked away after turning red in the face because I wouldn’t stop screaming, “I sprained my spleen!” He yelled at me that my spleen wasn’t “ruptured” (supposedly the “correct medical terminology”), but he’s a First Sergeant in the Army, not a doctor. And there was totally a bruise on my leg the next day, huh-looo…spleen injury?!?!? Ignorance of anatomy aside, my body just doesn’t respond well to working out. So, I don’t. But, I do wear yoga pants and walk with my arms bowed out to make it appear as if I exercise. Perception is everything, you guys.
I know the older I get, the more I need to take care of myself. My grey hairs and crow’s feet are a glaring reminder of that fact. I have decided to begin internally- with my diet, I mean; not my heart or any of that lame crap. We’ve always eaten surprisingly healthy, and not for health reasons. Ninety-five percent of what I cook is unprocessed (a girl needs a Twinkie every now and again), so the change hasn’t been dramatic. I have, however, begun to incorporate more vegetarian meals into our diets. Nuts and grains are also becoming more prominent in our meals. I want to be around for my grand-babies, so I know this is something I need to take serious…it should last about a week. Two weeks, tops.
This tropical granola is my contribution to my heart health and an homage to my peoples. The joy of granola is how adaptable it is to whatever nuts and dried fruits you want to add to it. A tropical granola reminds me of summer because of its bright, exotic flavors. Come fall or winter, a slight change of ingredients will compliment the season. For now, let’s stick with our tropical island paradise in a bowl.
Every granola worth its weight must start with a nice, hearty oatmeal. Don’t use those wimpy, scrawny little instant oats, either. Use the big, rough-and-tumble rolled oats. I love using Bob’s Red Mill Rolled Oats,which I buy in a value pack from Amazon. I go through this pack in a month, so for me, it’s the better deal. In general, I prefer BRM products because I feel like they actually care about what goes into their foods. These rolled oats are thick and provide 7g of protein, which for me, is beneficial since I don’t eat much else during the day.
For the full-on “tropical” experience, I’ve added shredded coconut. This organic shredded coconut is, hands-down, the best product in its class for the money. Most bagged, shredded coconut products that are sold in grocery stores are sweetened. If they’re not sweetened, they often have chemicals added to retain freshness or even salt. Anthony’s has coconut. That’s it. I like that because that’s all I need- is coconut.
The granola base consists of the oats, coconut, and a mixture of nuts. Here, I’ve used pecans, walnuts, pistachios and almonds. You could also use hazelnuts (filberts), macadamias, peanuts, and/or pumpkin seeds. Any combination (or only one) of nuts will work in this granola. You can also omit the nuts all together in case of allergies. Just be sure to replace them with additional coconut and oats.
Toss the base ingredients together in a large mixing bowl to combine. We don’t add the dried fruits yet because we don’t want/need to cook them with the base.
Everything is bound together with a tropical version of honey sauce. Normally, with a standard granola, the only binder is oil and honey. If I’m going to eat like a rabbit I’m going to enjoy every mouthful, so oil and honey ain’t cuttin’ the mustard. Nothing says “tropical” like rum, amiright? I am right. I’ve used rum extract instead of the real deal, because I’m also responsible. The honey I’m using is an organic honey from the Rare Hawaiian Honey Company. This honey is so amazingly delicious, I have been known to eat it with a spoon. Healthy? Maybe; maybe not. Don’t really care either way. You can purchase it here, or just use your favorite brand.
All you need to do is heat the honey until it’s runny and whisk it into the oil; it doesn’t need to form an emulsion (read about those here). Add the rum and vanilla extracts, a pinch of salt and some ground cinnamon. Once you have combined these, pour the honey sauce over the granola base and toss to coat thoroughly.
Spread your sticky granola mixture onto a sheet pan lined with either a silicone mat, or sprayed lightly with non-stick spray, and bake for an hour.
You’ll need to toss and turn your granola every 15 minutes while baking to prevent it from burning and to ensure it toasts evenly. The goal is crisply toasted granola that holds together somewhat. If you would prefer to bake granola bars, you would lower the temp to 250 and bake without tossing the granola. However, if you do this, then you must make sure you pack the granola in nice and tight onto the pan, and bake for an additional 15 min. Once you’ve finished baking, you’d cut it into bars. But, we’re continuing with the loose stuff.
Once your granola base is evenly toasted for an hour, remove it from the oven and allow to cool for 45 minutes-1 hour, again, tossing every 15 minutes so that it cools evenly. Leaving it to cool, without tossing, on the pan will cause the buried granola to steam under the top layer. This will leave you with yucky, soggy granola. No bueno.
I have added dried mangos, bananas, pineapples, sour cherries and sultanas (golden raisins). The mangos and pineapples, I dried myself using my food dehydrator, but you can most certainly purchase them already dried. If you’re not a fan of one, or the other, of the fruits, just omit it and double up on the ones you like. Toss in the fruits once the granola has cooled to avoid cooking them.
Now, all that’s left to do is transfer it to an airtight container, and dole it out whenever you wanna fake like you’re a health-nut. Or, for breakfast, whichever is applicable. This Tropical Granola will keep in a dry place for up to a week…if it lasts that long. Pour it over yogurt, layer it in parfaits, take a bag full to work or pack it in a school bag for a snack. It’s the perfect addition, texturally and nutritionally, to any meal. Pin it for when you decide to get right with your health, or just need a delicious granola to munch on.
Tropical Fruit Granola
Yield 12 cups
Tropical fruits make this unique granola the perfect addition to yogurt, parfaits, or just as a snack.
4 cups old-fashioned rolled oats*
2 cups coconut flakes (sweetened or unsweetened)
1 cup (each) chopped, shelled pistachios, almonds, pecans, and chopped walnuts*
1 cup vegetable oil
3/4 cup good quality honey
1 tsp rum extract (optional)
1 tsp vanilla extract
pinch of kosher salt
2 tsp ground cinnamon
1 cup (each) dried bananas, dried cherries, dried mango, dried pineapple, sultanas (golden raisins)
- Preheat your oven to 350°F. Line a sheet pan with a silicone mat or lightly spray with non-stick cooking spray. Set aside.
- In a large bowl, combine the oats, coconut flakes, and nuts. In a medium-size, microwavable bowl, heat the honey until it is runny. Whisk in the oil, extracts, salt and cinnamon until smooth.
- Pour the honey sauce over the oat mixture and toss to combine, and coat, thoroughly. Pour the oats onto the sheet pan and spread out into an even layer.
- Bake the oats for one hour, stirring every 15 minutes to ensure even baking.
- Remove the oats from the oven and allow to cool for another hour, once again, stirring every 15 minutes to cool evenly.
- Toss in the dried fruits and serve, or store, in an airtight container, for up to a week.
*Do not use quick-cooking or instant oatmeal
* Any variation of nuts can be used. You can also omit the nuts altogether, just replace them with additional oats and coconut.
* This recipe can be divided in half for a smaller yield.
Check out these other healthy recipes:
Mediterranean Summer Salad
General Tso’s Vegan Chicken
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