Dark Chocolate Cherry Granola with Crunchy Quinoa
IT’S ALMOST CHRISTMAS!
I mentioned last week that my mom and I are spending Christmas at my great Uncle’s house, and we were supposed to make our holiday debut down south on Saturday. Welllll, things got pushed back slightly. Since both my mother I are famous for being fashionably late, I wasn’t exactly surprised when I got the call on Saturday morning that perhaps we should delay our trip until Monday.
I think I knew deep down that a Monday departure was inevitable, but in a fit of uncharacteristic organization, I was actually prepared to leave on Saturday. By Friday evening, I had finished my shopping, packed my bags, cleaned out my fridge, and watered my Christmas tree for what I thought was the last time. It was truly a miracle on 13th Street.
So, when my mother informed me that I was, in fact, ready two full days early, I was pretty psyched. 48 hours of stress-free, holiday-themed freedom? Don’t mind if I do! I took 3 baths, “elfed myself” sixty-five different ways, and nursed Friday’s holiday hangover while eating chicken fingers in the comfort of my own bed. It was glorious. I also made it through all of Beyonce’s video album (I was late to that party too), and I even had time to whip up a giant batch of Dark Chocolate Cherry Granola with Crunchy Quinoa yesterday afternoon. The latter was so epic that I felt the need to share it immediately, especially with those of you who are in the market for last-minute edible presents. I feel like Santa.
This granola is, in a word, delightful. Everyone knows granola is bomb, but this one is off-the-charts amazing, and it’s ridiculously easy to pull-off. All you have to do is toss a mixture of oats, pecans, flax seeds, chia seeds, and quinoa with some coconut oil, maple syrup and just the right amount of cinnamon until they’re lightly coated. Then spread the mixture onto baking sheets and pop it in the oven for about 40 minutes until it turns a beautiful shade of golden brown. This simple exercise will make you feel very domestic and make your kitchen smell like a magical wonderland. And if you’ve never tried quinoa in granola before, I can’t wait to take credit for introducing you to its awesomeness. The tiny grains get deliciously crispy in the oven and give the granola a little extra crunch. God bless quinoa.
Once the granola has cooled, chunks of dark chocolate and a few handfuls of tart-sweet dried cherries get thrown into the mix, elevating this taste treat to “holiday party in your mouth” status. To be honest, the flavor combination is downright decadent, and that’s not an adjective I would typically use to describe granola. You’re gonna love it.
The most thrilling aspect of this granola is that it will keep you off The Dude Diet naughty list this year. This stuff is incredibly good for you (surprise!), and it’s packed with fiber, protein, antioxidants, and omega-3s. I’d love to break down the myriad nutritional wonders of each ingredient, but I’m sure you have merrymaking to do, so I won’t keep you. Instead, I’ll just say that this vegan, gluten-free granola will make you smarter, prettier, and keep your spare tire at bay this holiday season. Plus, the mood boosting compounds in the dark chocolate will make you feel all kinds of happy, which is good news for everyone. Holly jolly Christmas.
Full disclosure, I’m feeling a teeny bit nervous about my Christmas adventure today, since I don’t really know my great uncle all that well. I’ve only met him briefly about seven years ago, and I found him slightly intimidating. However, he and my mom are very close, and she always describes him as “incredibly smart and hilarious,” so I look forward to getting to know the dude better.
I’m sure that “Unkie” and I will hit it off immediately based on the fact that my mom says I am also incredibly smart and hilarious. But on the off chance he is not immediately enamored with me, I plan to bust out this granola in a fancy, bow-tied mason jar. It looks very festive, and I’m 99% sure that it will win over even the toughest of 90-year-old male critics. (Unless he has dentures, in which case my granola may actually ruin his Christmas. I just thought of that. Yikes.)
For the record, I plan to crush my personal Ziploc of this granola (which I have packed in my purse like a security blanket) by the handful while I wrap my mom’s stocking tomorrow, but it’s pretty boss with a little bit of milk or swirled into your favorite yogurt. I also like the idea of sprinkling it over chocolate mousse or some ice cream, so you should maybe do that.
Blogger’s Note: Things are going to be relatively quiet around here for the next couple of weeks, since I’ll be busy rocking around the Christmas tree, making beef tenderloin, après skiing, and reading my latest teen novel. Happy Happy Holidays, friends!! May they be filled with nothing but deliciousness, love and laughter. Virtual fist bump.
Oh, and I made you a card…
2½ cups gluten free extra thick rolled oats
1 cup cooked quinoa (Make sure that you cook your quinoa using the 1:1½ quinoa to water ratio.)
1 cup chopped pecans
¼ cup chia seeds
¼ cup raw flax seeds
1½ teaspoons cinnamon
½ teaspoon salt
¼ cup melted coconut oil
½ cup good quality maple syrup
¾ cup dried cherries
2 ounces dark chocolate, chopped (You can use dark chocolate chips if you like, but I like to buy a bar of Lindt dark chocolate and just chop it up into small pieces.)
Preparing your Dark Chocolate Cherry Granola with Crunchy Quinoa:
-Pre-heat your oven to 300 degrees.
-In a large bowl combine the oats, cooked quinoa, pecans, chia and flax seeds, cinnamon and salt.
-In a small bowl, whisk together the coconut oil and maple syrup.
-Pour the wet ingredients over the dry ingredients.
-Mix well, making sure that the oat mixture is very well moistened. I like to get in there with my hands and mix for a good two minutes.
-Spread your granola in an even layer (about ¼-inch thick) on two parchment lined baking sheets.
-Transfer the granola to the oven and cook for 35-40 minutes until it’s golden brown. Remove the baking sheets from the oven every ten minutes and give the granola a stir to make sure it bakes evenly.
-Let your granola cool completely (this should take about an hour) so that it stiffens up a little bit. After the granola has cooled, you can break it up into clumps and pieces and fold in the dried cherries and dark chocolate.
-Store your granola in an airtight container for up to two weeks. Eat however/whenever your little heart desires.
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