|Sugar-Free, Low-Carb Granola|
As with so many of my low-carb creations, this new recipe was born one day when I was thinking wistfully about eating some of my yummy maple granola with flax. Or rather, thinking about how I couldn't eat it anymore, and yes, feeling a little sorry for myself. Sniff. Sniff. Isn't it interesting that inspiration is often born out of desperation? I immediately thought about how I could make sugar-free, low-carb granola; I would raise the amount of protein and lower the amount of carbohydrates by replacing a substantial percentage of the grains with nuts, seeds, and coconut. (And coconut is good for the immune system, too!) There was just one problem; what to use as a sweetener?
I love using the sugar alcohols erythritol and xylitol; they are naturally low glycemic and low carbohydrate. They even help prevent tooth decay. There's just one major problem; their drive to re-cyrstalize is very hard to overcome. If you dissolve some in boiling water and let it sit, it will turn into rock candy in less than 24 hours. In my baked goods, I prevent this by using plenty of moist, fiber-filled fruits and vegetables (apple sauce, sweet potatoes, bananas) which bond with the sugar alcohols and keep them from linking back up again. Unfortunately, I didn't see how that would work with granola. And of course, stevia has that yucky licorice-y aftertaste - not what I wanted at all.
There is a third commonly used sugar alcohol which readily stays in a looser, liquid state; maltitol. Maltitol has the consistency and appearance of light corn syrup, and has a very neutral flavor. It is very commonly used in commercial sugar-free products, such as sugar-free chocolates and energy bars, presumably because of its resistance to re-crystalizing. There is only one problem with maltitol - okay, two. The first is that, far more than any of the other sugar substitutes, it causes intense flatulence. I could deal with this by using it very sparingly, but.... the other problem is that it is not readily available to the general public, sold only to food manufacturers. After googling extensively, I was able to find some retailed on the internet.
By using some stevia along with the malitol, I was able to use the malitol sparingly, helping each sweetener to overcome its issues. And the results? This granola was really, really, REALLY good.
*BUT.... UPDATE: JULY, 2014: Since writing this post, I have done further research on maltitol which makes me uncomfortable with using it or promoting it. Many sources now say that maltitol raises blood sugar, and actually has a much higher number of usable carbs in it than the label indicates. Given all this, I will no longer be buying, or using, products with maltitol.
Enter the new darling of the low-carb world: yacon syrup! Yacon is a South American tuber, much like jicama in flavor. When squeezed and cooked down, it creates a thick, dark, tangy syrup which is nutrient-rich, low glycemic, and very good for you. As usual, it's expensive. As usual, it's hard to get. And since Dr. Oz promoted it, a shortage hit. Sigh. Friends at Coracao Confections (organic, raw, low-glycemic, vegan, and fantastic!) referred me to Raw Food World for their syrup. These folks are lovely - great customer service, good products - and I've stocked up. Again, buy using stevia, you can stretch your yacon syrup in the recipe.
The best way to eat it, in my opinion, is with whole milk Greek yoghurt, which is creamy and delicious, and very low in carbs. The Fage brand has the lowest carbohydrate content of all of the other brands whose labels I've examined, and is super thick, rich and mild-tasting - no sour yoghurt action at all. Trader Joe's also makes a very good whole milk Greek-style yoghurt - and at a great price! I like to sweeten the yoghurt with some erythritol, and then add a little vanilla for flavor. Let it sit for a moment to allow the erythritol crystals to dissolve into the yoghurt. Then sprinkle on the granola....... mmmm.
Sugar-Free, Low Carb Granola with Flax
2 cups quinoa flakes
2 cups rolled oats (not quick cooking oats)
OR: 4 cups rolled oats
1 1/2 cups unsweetened coconut flakes - the big pieces, not the shredded kind
1/2 cup flax seeds
1 cup toasted almonds, preferably slivered
1 cup walnuts, broken into smaller pieces
1 cup pecans, broken into smaller pieces
(or your choice of nuts)
1/4 cup pumpkin seeds
1/4 cup sesame seeds
1/4 cup sunflower seeds
3/4 tsp powdered stevia extract
3 TB flax oil
3 TB coconut oil, or a neutral oil such as canola or sunflower
4 TB yacon syrup or 6 TB maltitol syrup
Pre-heat the oven to 350 F. Combine all of the grains and nuts in a large bowl. Sprinkle the stevia powder over the top and toss and stir to combine well.
In an microwave proof cup (such as pyrex) measure all of the oils and the yacon syrup. Heat them in the microwave until they are hot and have thinned out.
Pour the liquids all over the grain mixture, and stir well to coat all of the contents. Pour the granola mixture into a roasting or baking pan large enough to hold it all.
When the oven is at temperature, place the pan onto a rack in the center of the oven. Set the timer for 15-20 minutes. After the timer goes off, stir well to redistribute the contents. Set the timer for 10-15 minutes, and stir again. Be careful not to let the contents burn; your goal is golden toasting and drying of all the layers. Set the timer for 5-10 minutes, and stir again. If it is golden through and through, remove it from the oven and turn the oven off. If it is not yet golden, return it to the oven for another 5 minutes or so. At this point, you can turn the oven off and let the granola toast in the residual heat left in the oven.
Cool in the pan, and then store in an airtight container. It will keep for several weeks, but is at its tastiest when it is fresh.