Sunday, October 27, 2013

Berry Almond Oatmeal Kale Granola

Stay with me!  I know this sounds weird...or gross...or unappealing.  It's not - it's awesome.  Let me explain.  Regular granola is great, but isn't it such a disappointment at how unhealthy it really is?  High calorie and so fatty, ugh.  When I stumbled upon this recipe from Eating Bird Food, I just had to give it a shot.  Plus, I love to try out unusual flavor combinations.  For example, when I gave our Executive Director  THIS cupcake without telling him what flavor it was he said, "Knowing you, it's something weird, but good."

If calling this 'granola' is too much to wrap your head around, just think of it as sweet kale chips!  Now kale has a pretty distinct bitter flavor, but the preparation really cuts through that and makes a light, crispy, sweet, cinnamon-y treat.  The original recipe calls for a dehydrator, but since I do not have one, I'm extremely grateful that the author of Eating Bird Food figured out how to bake them in the oven.

It's quite clever how a paste of dates and mango (two of the sweetest fruits to combat kale's bitterness) with cinnamon is then rubbed into the leaves and transforms this hearty leaf to a crispy and sweet treat.  Add in your favorite dried fruit (I used craisins and cherries) and sliced almonds.  The original recipe also called for shredded coconut, but I cut that out since I don't really care for it.  After my first batch, I thought it would be nice to make it a bit more granola-like, so at a friend's suggestion I added oatmeal.

You're still not sold.  Okay, imagine a warm, cinnamon-y scent wafting through your kitchen.  Smells great, right?  (Yes, there are a multitude of other ways to accomplish this - apple pie, zucchini bread, cinnamon rolls, etc, but this one won't leave you feeling lethargic and sugar-blasted.  And it's really tasty.)

Almost everyone that I gave a sample to liked it (and even the husband was snatching a few off the cookie sheet).  In addition to snacking on it dry, I'd also like to note that it's quite good on yogurt, just like regular granola.  It's a fun way to get your greens, so be daring and give it a try!

Berry Almond Oatmeal Kale Granola
(Adapted from Eating Bird Food)

1 large bunch of kale, washed, dried, de-stemmed and torn into bite-size pieces
5-6 pitted medjool dates (I used fresh because they were available, but dried is okay too)
½ cup fresh or frozen mango (thawed), chopped into chunks
1 teaspoon cinnamon
½ teaspoon sea salt
½ cup dried cherries, blueberries or cranberries
½ cup sliced almonds
½ cup oatmeal (I used 1 minute oats, just because they're smaller and this is such a light and crispy snack, but rolled oats would be fine)
  1. In a medium bowl, soak the dates in ½ cup water for at least 30 minutes, or until softened.
  2. Make sure your kale is as dry as you can get it. Then place it in a large bowl.
  3. In a food processor, chopper or high powered blender, combine the soaked dates + 1 tablespoon of soaking liquid and fresh mango. Blend until it is a thick paste. Add the cinnamon and salt and blend briefly to combine.
  4. Add paste to kale leaves and massage with your hands to coat each leaf, until all leaves are coated
  5. Add in the dried berries, almonds and oatmeal and mix well so these items get coated as well.
  6. Pre-heat your oven to 300°, spread kale into a thin layer on two cookie sheets lined with parchment paper.  Bake for roughly 30 - 40 minutes with the oven door slightly ajar (a wooden spoon wedged in the oven door works perfectly for this). Maybe sure to watch at the 30 minute mark gets close so that the kale doesn’t start to burn.  Spread and flip the kale, if needed, to completely dry it out.  You want it light and crispy, but not scorched.
  7. Once cooled, store in an airtight container.

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