Peanut Butter, Chocolate, and Banana Granola

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It’s customary to reflect on the past twelve months this time of year. Best-of-the-year lists are compiled, retrospectives are assembled, Barbara Walters unveils the people that fascinated her, and Oprah tempts us with her favorite things. We look back with sadness at the bad things that happened and with joy at the milestones we accomplished. And as the midnight hour of December 31st approaches, we hope that this arbitrary moment in time, chosen by men centuries ago, will somehow be unique, a marker of change. People make resolutions, to do less of some things and more of others, to be someone other than who they’ve always been, to want less and give more. Some drink and kiss, penned like abused animals in Times Square, others watch fireworks on their TV sets, and some are asleep long before the ball drops. In the end, the new year is always the same, like a bowl of granola: mostly familiar days, one after the other, studded with the occasional sweet surprise or bitter moment.

Happy New Year.

Peanut Butter, Chocolate, and Banana Granola – Adapted from David Lebovitz


3 cups (300g) rolled oats (not the quick cooking kind)
1 cup (150g) roasted pecans, very coarsely chopped
1/2 cup (70g) sunflower seeds
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 cup (130g) smooth peanut butter (regular or natural)
1/4 cup (80g) maple syrup
1/4 cup (85g) honey
1/4 cup (60g) packed light brown sugar
2 tablespoons water
4oz (115g) dark chocolate, chopped
1/2 cup (45g) sweetened banana chips, chopped


Preheat the oven to 325ºF (165ºC.)

In a large bowl, mix together the oats, chopped pecans, sunflower seeds, cinnamon, and salt.

In a small saucepan, warm the peanut butter, maple syrup, honey, brown sugar, and water over low heat, stirring constantly, until the mixture is smooth.

Scrape the peanut butter mixture into the dry ingredients and mix it in well.

Transfer the granola mixture to a baking sheet and spread it in an even layer. Toast the granola in the oven for 25 to 30 minutes, stirring a few times during baking, until the granola is a golden brown. (It will crisp up as it cools.) Remove from oven and let cool completely. Once cool, mix in chocolate and banana chips.

Storage: Store the granola in an airtight container at room temperature. It will keep for one to two months.

Honey and Fennel Granola


Surprises aren’t always welcome. And I’m not just talking about bad ones (Surprise! Your appendix burst!). Sometimes even good surprises can be unpleasant. When I was in 7th grade, some of my classmates and I organized a surprise birthday party for a boy who was at the time my best friend. We went to his house while he was away and anxiously waited for him to arrive. When his parents (who were working with us for the surprise) brought him in the door, we yelled “Surprise!“, at which point he immediately burst into tears and ran off. It took his parents 3o minutes to calm him down and bring him back to the party, which ended up being a lot of fun.

I never understood why he reacted that way until four years later, my parents announced to my sister and me that we were going out to dinner. When we got to the restaurant and opened the door, about 50 of our friends from school were there yelling “Surprise!” They had organized the party for both of our birthdays (which are four days apart) with the help of our parents. This was such a wonderful thing that our friends and parents did, but my immediate reaction was to want to turn around and run away. It was too much for me, the unexpected obligation to be at this party, to adjust from a quiet dinner out with my family to a night of dancing with my friends. I got over it after a few minutes, but I finally understood why my 7th grade friend had run away like that when we surprised him.

In food, good surprises are always welcome. In fact, I long for them. Bad surprises are never good (Surprise! That was a glass shard you just chewed on!). But an unexpected ingredient or an unknown cooking technique, they make me deliriously happy.

Granola isn’t known for its ability to surprise. But when I made this recipe and we tasted it for the first time, we pursed our lips and nodded in satisfaction. It was unexpected. The fennel and honey combined to make a truly unique flavor, at least for granola. We were surprised. Pleasantly. And we didn’t run away. We dug in for seconds.

Honey and Fennel Granola – From Bon Appétit


⅓ cup pine nuts
⅓ cup raw sunflower seeds
¼ cup slivered almonds
1 tablespoon sesame seeds
2 teaspoons fennel seeds
½ cup honey
3 tablespoons smooth peanut butter
3 tablespoons vegetable oil
½ teaspoon finely grated orange zest
1 tablespoon fresh orange juice
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
2 cups old-fashioned oats
½ teaspoon kosher salt
½ cup dried apricots, chopped
½ cup sweetened dried cranberries, chopped


Preheat oven to 350°. Toast pine nuts, sunflower seeds, almonds, sesame seeds, and fennel seeds on a rimmed baking sheet, tossing occasionally, until lightly golden, 5–7 minutes. Reduce oven temperature to 275°.

Meanwhile, whisk honey, peanut butter, oil, orange zest and juice, and vanilla in a medium bowl until smooth. Toss nuts and seeds, oats, and salt in a large bowl. Pour honey mixture over and gently mix until oat mixture is completely coated.

Spread out on a parchment-lined rimmed baking sheet and bake, stirring halfway through (edges will take on color before center does), until golden brown, 20–25 minutes. Let cool; granola will crisp as it cools. Break up into pieces, then stir in apricots and cranberries.

Do Ahead: Granola can be made 1 week ahead. Store tightly covered at room temperature.

Chocolate Orange Granola


The weather in New York has been strange this week. A few days ago it was so hot and humid that walking outside felt like having a dryer vent as a permanent escort. Then yesterday the temperatures suddenly dropped and it got cold enough that I needed a sweatshirt to walk outside in the middle of the day. And today we woke up to a dark and cloudy morning, as if it was the middle of November. IMG_2248

This suddenly cooler and fall-like weather has given me back-to-school anxiety. With only a month left before the end of the summer, it seems like it’s going by too fast. Every summer I go through this, until September comes and I realize that just because it’s no longer officially summer, it doesn’t mean it’s winter. In fact, we can have summer-like weather (or even better, beautiful indian summers) all through the end of October.


So, if you are like me and are already dreading the end of summer, take a deep breath and relax. Reward yourself by making (and eating) this chocolate orange granola. Have it for breakfast with milk or as an afternoon snack. Or eat it for dessert if you want. The summer is the time to bend the rules a little bit.


This is based on a recipe that appeared in the New York Times, called “My Favorite Granola.” Unlike the olive oil and maple granola recipe I posted a little while ago, this produces a sticky, chunky granola that comes out in sweet clusters. The original recipe combined orange and vanilla flavors but I found that too cloying and too reminiscent of a panforte. So, I changed it a bit, toned down the orange and added chocolate.


Chocolate Orange Granola – Adapted from the New York Times

2 cups old-fashioned rolled oats (not quick-cooking)
2 cups cornflakes
1 cup steel-cut oats
1 cup sliced almonds
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 cup honey
1/2 cup maple syrup
1/4 cup canola oil
Finely grated zest of 1 orange
1/2 cup of bittersweet or semi-sweet mini chocolate chips (or your favorite dark chocolate chopped into small pieces)

1. Heat oven to 325 degrees. In a large bowl, combine rolled oats, cornflakes, steel-cut oats, almonds, salt and cinnamon. Mix until well combined.

2. In a small saucepan, combine honey, maple syrup, canola oil, and orange zest. Place over medium heat and boil for 1 minute. Discard vanilla beans, and pour hot liquid over dry ingredients. Using a rubber spatula, mix until well combined.

3. Line a large rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper, and spread evenly with the granola. Bake until golden brown and evenly toasted, tossing once about halfway through, about 30 minutes. Remove baking sheet from oven and place on a rack to cool; mixture will be soft and sticky while hot, but will dry and become crisp as it cools.

4. When granola is completely cool and dry, break into bite-size pieces and mix with the mini chocolate chips. Store in an airtight container.

Olive Oil and Maple Granola

I’ve been watching the new season of “Mad Men” and, like most people who watch the show, I’ve been pretty disappointed by it. I’ve been a really big fan of the show since it started. The first season was remarkable simply for the 60s factor and the “remember when [blank] was acceptable” game. Drinking at work, smoking everywhere, sexual harassment in the office. They were all there for us to watch and laugh at, feeling smug in our contemporary,better lives, but also a little nostalgic for our childhoods.


By season too, the show became more than a neat time trick. It started exploring the main characters more deeply by placing them in situations that showed their inner gears. The writing was taut and the direction was beautiful but not showy. Some episodes were like literature. There was the one titled “The Suitcase” that was pure magic. A year or two ago there was an article on “Mad Men” in Entertainment Weekly and they asked the cast members to name their favorite episode. Most of them said it was “The Suitcase.”


But this season has been uneven, at best. There have been what, four, five episodes? And yet it feels like nothing’s happened. Everyone seems to just be going through the motions and each episode is written less about the characters and more about a different important historical event of the late 60s. It’s like a history lesson with actors.


I’ve read a few articles bemoaning this and analyzing the reasons for the show’s slump. But for me the reason is clear: there are just too many characters. As the main ones (Don, Peggy, Joan, Pete, and Roger) started to get married, divorced, remarried, to have lovers and parents and kids, too many people joined the show and the focus was lost. The show never spends enough time on the few important characters because it now has to also cover everyone else, even a little bit. The result is a watered down, overloaded soap opera.


It’s the same with food (I know you were wondering where I was going with the “Mad Men” diatribe). There is such a thing as too many ingredients, one too many techniques, or too many courses. Most of the time, I’d rather have few, good ingredients that come together beautifully and support each other in the final product, than a complicated recipe with fifteen ingredients and thirty steps to make.

This recipe for olive oil and maple granola is somewhere in the middle. It has quite a few ingredients, all easy to find, but very few steps. Mix and bake, stirring a few times along the way. The result is probably the best granola I’ve ever tasted. It’s not too sweet, with a good combination of nuts and seeds, along with toasted coconut flakes to up the ante. The olive oil is all the way in the background, a grassy note to complement the maple syrup’s smoky sweetness. It all comes together perfectly, like an early episode of “Mad Men.”


Olive Oil and Maple Granola – Adapted from Orangette

Makes about 7 cups

300 grams (3 cups) rolled oats (not the quick cooking kind)
125 grams (1 cup) raw hulled pumpkin seeds (aka pepitas)
130 grams (1 cup) raw hulled sunflower seeds
50 grams (1 cup) unsweetened coconut chips (you can substitute unsweetened, grated coconut if you can’t find the chips)
135 grams (1 ¼ cup) raw pecans, whole or chopped (you can also use any combination of nuts; almonds and pistachios work well)
85 grams (packed ½ cup) light brown sugar
1 tsp. kosher salt
175 ml (¾ cup) maple syrup
120 ml (½ cup) olive oil

Preheat the oven to 300°F and line a rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper.

In a large bowl, combine the oats, pumpkin seeds, sunflower seeds, coconut chips, pecans, light brown sugar, and salt. Stir with a spoon or spatula to mix. Add the olive oil and maple syrup, and stir until everything is well combined. Spread the mixture in an even layer on the prepared sheet pan. Bake, stirring every 15 minutes, until the granola is golden brown and toasted, about 45-55 minutes. If you like your granola more clumpy, stir only once or twice in the beginning and then do not stir anymore.

Remove the granola from the oven and cool completely on a wire rack. Store in an airtight container, where it will keep for about a month.