Skip the cereal box – make super easy, low cost, environmentally friendly slow cooker SUMMER GRANOLA
My morning “go to” breakfast is a bowl of homemade granola with some nuts, fruits and yogurt or milk! But, during the summer, turning on the oven in my mountain home with no air conditioning is a rare occurrence since I don’t want to heat up the house. To keep the granola coming without heating the house, I turn to the slow cooker on the porch for endless batches of summer granola.
Granola cooked in a slow cooker is not quite a crunchy as the oven-cooked version, but so, so easy and still delicious. Lower temperatures in the slow cooker explain this lack of crunch and lighter color. When cooking granola in an oven, you are doing two things …. dehydrating and browning. When cooking granola in the slow cooker, you never get to temperatures necessary for “browning.” In order to “brown,” food needs to reach the temperature for the chemical reaction called the Maillard Reaction, (280 F to 330 F). This Maillard Reaction is responsible for the browning of our food and the associated flavors that come from that chemical reaction. The slow cooked version never hits these temperatures and so ends up more like muesli.
When using the slow cooker, it’s necessary to allow the moisture to escape from the granola so it can dehydrate. Just stick a spoon between the lid and the cooker to keep an air gap as it’s cooking. I’ve found that for a large batch of 8 cups of granola, the slow cooker should be on for 2 to 3 hours. Also – an occasional stirring every 30 minutes or so helps to move it around to make sure it all has a chance to dry. Wide-mouth slow cookers work well as they have a large surface area for the steam to escape, but I’ve tried it with the “slow cook” setting on an InstantPot and it worked fine – it just needed a little more time.
The recipe below is without fruits and nuts which allows for flexibility day to day. Today I topped mine with sliced almonds and fresh diced mango. Yesterday it was raw, unsalted pumpkin seeds and craisins. Making the granola plain also allows other family members to top it as they wish – mini chocolate chips, coconut flakes, walnuts, fresh blueberries – the list goes on and changes with the seasons.
I make a HUGE batch each week and it serves us for breakfast, snacking, ice cream and yogurt topping.
From an energy-use standpoint, the slow cooker option takes a fraction of the energy as the oven-baked option. No need to heat the entire 30 pounds of steel in the oven just to cook 8 cups of granola. My calculation shows that the traditional oven uses more than 5 TIMES more energy to cook this 8 cup batch of granola!
Slow cooker: My recent slow cooker batch took 0.18 kWh total.
Traditional Oven: Compare that to the approximate 0.6 kWh necessary just to preheat a traditional oven to 350F (2400W for 15 minutes). Add on the 20 minutes of cooking at approximately 1200W, (due to cycling on and off once preheated) and the grand total energy use for granola in the oven would be 1 kWh.
Changing with the seasons
In the summer time – I’d suggest plugging in the slow cooker outside so that the heat and moisture aren’t added to your home.
In the winter time – this same recipe is delicious in the oven – 350F. Load two large baking sheets with the mixture and cook for 7 minutes – take out and stir (especially get away from the edges), put it back in for 6 minutes – take out and stir and back in for 5 minutes. DONE!
Lastly – making your own granola can save a lot of money. Using store-brand old fashion oats results in approximately $0.25 per cup of prepared granola. Grocery store granola averages about $1 per cup and the fancy bakery or farmer’s market varieties will typically cost about $2 per cup! Even if you use organic oats, the home-cooked version is still only about $0.50 per cup!
Oh – one more thing … since you’re completely controlling the ingredients, you can ensure there are no artificial ingredients or preservatives.
What’s not to love? Try it out today! Enjoy!!
(for slow cooker or oven)
1/3 cup canola oil
¼ cup brown sugar
¼ cup honey (look for local!) **
¼ teaspoon salt
1-½ teaspoon cinnamon
2 teaspoon vanilla
¼ cup ground flaxseed (optional)
It’s best to buy this as whole flaxseeds and grind in a small coffee grinder
8 cups old fashioned oats (organic if possible)
Mix first 6 ingredients (oil thru vanilla) together.
Add ground flaxseed and oats.
Dump into the slow cooker on high.
Place a wooden spoon (or similar) between the lid and bowl to allow the steam to escape.
Stir every 30 minutes for 2 to 3 hours.
Let cool and put in an airtight container.
Top with fruit, nuts, yogurt, ….. and enjoy!!
** Note: if you don't have access to honey, a lower-cost substitute is to replace the sugar by increasing the brown sugar to 1/3 cup and adding 1/3 cup of natural (no sugar added) applesauce.