I was supposed to go out to brunch Sunday, but a little bully of a snowstorm derailed that. It wasn’t a blizzard, but it was enough slick roads and nastiness to keep me from getting on to the freeway and sliding around like a bumper car. After a high of about 50 degrees and walking around outside without a coat on Saturday, we are now sporting average highs around 20 degrees, blasting gales with wind chills in the single digits, and this lovely, freeze-y, arctic tundra landscape. Winter is finally upon us in Detroit! We’d been pretty spoiled so far this season with only one big snow prior to this last week. Reality check! Wah wah. But the one positive thing about inclement weather cancelling my plans on Sunday was that I got to stay home and make coconut chocolate banana granola.
It’s very rich and chocolatey, and I’m obsessed with the crunch of the toasted walnuts, and the freeze-dried bananas are very tasty, too. They soften when they bake and become chewy and more banana-like. And of course, as with most of my granola and dessert recipes, it’s also processed-sugar-free! So you’ll have the nutrient-fueled strength you’ll need to hack at a thick glaze of ice on your car windows or wrangle your children into their snowsuits. You can take winter head-on – hi-ya!
Ok, I may be using all of this encouraging, take-charge rhetoric to try to hype myself up about getting out into the dark, chilly, desolate landscape. I’m not a fan. Not many of us are. But we can do it! We’re gonna make it! And in the meantime, we have the consolation of this lovely granola.
-1 cup dried pitted Medjool dates
-Water preserved from soaking dates
-2 ½ cups old-fashioned oats
-1 ¼ cups walnuts
-1 cup unsweetened thick-shredded coconut
-1 cup freeze-dried banana slices (Look for no-sugar-added kinds. I used Nature’s All Foods organic freeze-dried bananas slices, which had no ingredients added; they are sold at health food stores such as Whole Foods.)
-2 tbs. flaxseed (optional if you don’t have a coffee or spice grinder to grind them in)
-1/2 tsp. sea salt
-1/2 tsp. cinnamon
-3 tbs. pure maple syrup
-2 tbs. honey
-1/4 cup coconut oil
-2 tbs. grapeseed oil
-1/4 cup unsweetened raw cacao
-1 tsp. pure vanilla extract
Add the dates to a bowl of hot water and let them soak for 15 minutes. Drain, then add fresh hot water and let them soak again for another 15 minutes. This time, remove the dates but save the water. Transfer the dates to a food processor or blender and pulse a few times to get them broken up. Then add a tablespoon or two of the water and blend on high for about 10 seconds or so. Stop the processor, scrape the sides of the mixing container, add a little more water, and blend on high again. Continue the process until the dates have achieved a smooth, finely pureed consistency. I used five tablespoons of water during this process.
Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Grind flaxseed to a fine powder in a coffee or spice grinder. Combine it in a large mixing bowl with the oats, walnuts, coconut, banana slices, sea salt, and cinnamon.
In a small pan over low heat, mix together the maple syrup, honey, coconut oil, grapeseed oil, unsweetened raw cacao, vanilla extract, and pureed dates. Stir constantly for three to four minutes, adjusting heat as necessary (you want it warm enough so all of the ingredients will melt and meld, but low enough so that it won’t burn), until a rich, well-blended sauce has formed. Pour over the dry oats mixture and mix well so that all of it is well-coated.
Spread the granola evenly over a large cookie sheet and bake for 45 minutes, removing it from the oven and stirring it to ensure it cooks evenly at the 30-minute and 15-minute marks. Makes about six to eight servings.