For three nights this week, I was up late tending batches of granola for my husband's backpacking trip. I practically drooled as pan after pan of nutty, spiced oats came out of my oven tempting and taunting me, enough granola to sustain four men hiking seventy-five miles over a week, of which I could taste none. When my non-cereal eating husband sampled it and raved, I knew I had to make myself a nut-free version.
Sunflower seeds have been my new best friend this week. They look like a nut, taste like a nut, and bake like a nut, but for allergy purposes, they are not a nut. First I bought a jar of sunflower seed butter so I could keep eating my toast with bananas, and now they would be the perfect stand-in for nuts in my new granola recipe. Not to mention they're a good source of protein and very inexpensive. I've been in a tropical mood lately - the coconut milk is probably going to my head - so I added coconut and banana chips to the mix. I also used an array of spices, including cardamom, which I've been sort of obsessed with ever since that vanilla bean panna cotta with cardamom-infused apricot puree at a French restaurant several years ago. Cardamom is a prominent spice in chai tea, so I couldn't leave out its partners, cinnamon and ginger. Making granola is even easier than baking cookies, so get to it - it's worth it just for the aroma that will fill your home!
3 1/2 cups old-fashioned oats
2 Tbsp flax seed meal
1 cup raw sunflower seeds
1/2 cup unsweetened shredded coconut
1/4 cup brown sugar
1/4 tsp salt
1/4 tsp ground cinnamon
1/4 tsp ground cardamom
1/4 tsp ground ginger
1/3 cup honey
2 Tbsp coconut oil
2 Tbsp canola or vegetable oil
1 tsp vanilla
3/4 cup unsweetened banana chips, crumbled
1/2 cup dried apricots, chopped
Preheat your oven to 250 F and line a rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper or a silicone baking mat.
In large bowl, combine oats, flax seed meal, sunflower seeds, and coconut. Mix brown sugar, salt, and spices together in a small bowl and sprinkle over oats; stir to combine well. Whisk honey, coconut oil, canola oil, and vanilla together in glass measuring cup; pour over oat mixture. Stir with a wooden spoon until oats are evenly coated. Spread in even layer on prepared baking sheet.
Bake about 45 minutes to an hour, removing from oven and stirring thoroughly every 15 minutes. Watch carefully to prevent burning. Granola should be uniformly golden when done. Remove from oven and stir again; let cool. Stir in bananas and apricots. Store in airtight container.