Chocolate Lover’s Granola (vegan | dairy-free | vegetarian | gluten-free)
Chocolate. Like cheese, it’s a kryptonite situation for me. In other words, I can’t resist it and therefor have no choice but to stay away from it. Just kidding! I eat chocolate on the reg, and I’m not ashamed to say it. However, like anything else sugary and indulgent, I practice balance and moderation…and when that doesn’t work, I utilize my creativity and health-supportive culinary skills to make chocolate a bit healthier and more beneficial. That’s where my ultra-addictive chocolate granola comes in. It’s everything a chocolatey treat should be – sweet, a bit salty, and totally satisfying. Additionally, whole grain oats, buttery cashews and heart-healthy coconut make this granola nourishing and health-supportive too.
Another bonus? Granola is super easy to make. Just mix everything together and bake. That’s literally it (note – literal use of “literal”). Once baked, I let it to cool in a big pile to allow for clusters to form. From there, I eat this stuff by the handful. It’s also amazing with milk (think cereal), on yogurt (see pics), or a topping for any sweet treat that needs a little chocolate action (waffles, ice cream, crepes, you name it).
As many of my readers know, I recently graduated from the Natural Gourmet Institute in New York City. Among countless other things, we learned to use whole, high-quality and health-supportive ingredients whenever possible. You know the idea, little changes lead to big differences. And because my personal cooking is based around this idea, I thought it a good idea to lay out the health-supportive ingredients and techniques in my recipes going forward, so that everyone can learn and adopt this philosophy. In this recipe, I’d say there are four nutritional elements to focus on…
Maple Syrup is the most common sweetener used in my household. Maple syrup is inherently less refined than cane sugar or other refined sugars. Additionally, maple syrup contains trace vitamins and minerals such as manganese and zinc. It is also a source of antioxidants.
Rolled Oats are an all-natural whole grain, meaning that a high quality brand of rolled oats will contain only rolled oats. Whole grains like rolled oats provide substantial amounts of fiber and protein, which keeps your body moving and your tummy full.
Cashews are soft nuts with a subtly creamy and sweet flavor. Cashews are high in”good fats”, meaning that the fat in cashews helps to rid the body of bad fats. They are also rich in protein and fiber, as well as vitamins and minerals such as copper, manganese, magnesium and vitamin K.
Coconut, both oil and unsweetened flakes, contains medium-chain-fatty-acids, allowing coconut to provide immediate energy while being easier to digest, great for weight loss or weight management. Coconut is also known to aid in digestion and possesses anti-fungal and -bacterial qualities. I recommend choosing a virgin, organic coconut oil (less processed) and always opting for unsweetened coconut flakes.
And while we’re on the coconut note, I’ll add that this granola does not taste coconutty, there’s just not enough of it to overpower the chocolate. So if coconut flavor isn’t your thing, no worries, this recipe will work for your taste buds. If you are a fan of the coconut-chocolate combo, which I am, check out my vegan mounds cake recipe here, it’s to die for.
One last thought before I get to the recipe. I don’t mean to hold you up, but I think this is an essential point as I preach the health benefits of a sweet granola like this. Anything, and I repeat, ANYTHING made with sugar (cane, honey, maple syrup, coconut sugar, etc) should generally be enjoyed in moderation. Just because I’m using organic maple syrup and organic, virgin coconut oil instead of refined white sugar and a gmo-ladened vegetable oil doesn’t mean I should eat a whole batch to myself every day. After all, sugar is sugar, and too much sugar too often will lead to long- and short-term health problems. It just will. But life is about enjoying food and everyone’s gotta allow themselves a pig-out-session every once in awhile. So if and when I binge (and trust me, I do), at the very least I’d like to be binging on something like this granola, because while it contains sugar, the other components are giving my body clean, whole and beneficial foods too.
So I guess that’s my main point here. And by “here,” I don’t just mean this post. I mean the point to my entire blog and the point of my whole philosophy – if I’m going to overeat from time to time, if I’m going to enjoy sweet and fattening foods, then I’m going to make theses treats as clean, whole and beneficial as possible, while ensuring that I’m balancing those indulgences with lighter meals, exercise and plenty of produce. I’ve spent most of my life battling between loving to eat and staying healthy, and I finally realized, it’s not one or the other. Adopt my mentality and you’ll see how good life can be as a dedicated whole-foodie.
Chocolate Lovers Vegan Granola
Serves: 6 (1/3 cup per serving) Start to Finish: 45 minutes (plus cooling time)
3 tbs cocoa powder
1/3 cup maple syrup
1/4 tsp vanilla
2 tbs coconut oil
1/2 tsp sea salt (+ more to taste)
1 cup oats
1/2 cup shredded coconut, unsweetened
1/2 cup cashews, roughly chopped
Preheat oven to 325 degrees (F). Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
In a small mixing bowl, combine ingredients cocoa powder through salt. Mix until smooth paste forms.
In a medium-size mixing bowl, add liquid mixture, oats, coconut and cashews. Mix until well combined (I use my hands, it’s the easiest way). Transfer to baking sheet, keeping the mixture together in a flat-topped mound. Note that one batch shouldn’t fill up an entire baking sheet (see picture).
Bake for 25-30 minutes, mixing and re-forming into a mound every 10-12 minutes.
Remove from oven and allow to cool without disturbing the mound. Once cool, gently break apart. Store in an airtight container at room temperature.