My friend Lindsay taught me how to run. I mean, I was always physically capable, I think, but I had viewed running mostly as something that was necessary only when being chased. Or something conceived by my high school gym teachers, who would torture us by seeing how many times we could run around the school yard in 12 minutes. Which, by the way, I still don't know, but I can tell you how many times you can *walk* around the school yard in 12 minutes: once.
In any case, sometime around 2003 I decided to become a runner, and my friend Lindsay, a Human Kinetics student at the time, took on the task of dragging my whining self through a learn to run 10k walk / run program. We worked at the same facility at the time and would go out for runs on my lunch break or after work, and I remember the early days of the program where it was walk four minutes then run one minute x 10 and that one minute of running seemed like an eternity of burning hell. Lindsay would always be beside me "motivating" (read: threatening) me to keep running, and keep running I did. Somewhere along the line a change happened and I realized that I had actually started to *like* running, which may have had something to do with the Very Cute Triathlete I had started dating around that time. Or maybe I just actually truly had learned to like running because I had worked up to it properly rather than just being told to go run for 12 minutes. Whatever it was, I had become a runner, and in 2009 I did my first half marathon. Take that, 12 minute run.
Fast forward to now, and Lindsay, ever motivating people around her to do good things for themselves, has got a bunch of people doing this 30 day fitness challenge. It's pretty simple, you choose an exercise or set of exercises for yourself and commit to doing it every day for 30 days. You have to check in each day and confirm you've done them, and if you don't do them or if you forget to check in, you go back to day one and start again. I have had to re-start twice now, both times due to jet lag when I chose sleep over exercises. I'm on day 19 now. There is also the option of doing a tandem nutrition challenge for the 30 days; I've committed to eating extra greens each day, which I've been getting in most often by adding a handful of spinach to my daily smoothie. Lindsay, because she's hard core, has given up refined sugar for 30 days. And because she's super hard core, she's not even eating unrefined sugars like maple syrup or honey, just naturally occurring sugars in fruits. And because I like a challenge, I told her that I would make her dinner and include a dessert which wouldn't break any rules. Enter this granola.
As it happened, around the time I was brainstorming a no sugar dessert, Angela over at Oh She Glows posted a recipe for chocolate dessert granola, which looked amazing. Her recipe was the inspiration for this granola for sure, but she had used brown rice syrup and chocolate chips in her granola, neither of which I'd be able to use in mine. Remember back when I posted this recipe for No Sugar Banana Branners? I started thinking about the date base that served as the sweetener for those muffins, and I wondered if I used the same technique with the dates but then pureed them with cocoa, coconut oil, and a little vanilla, would I get a chocolate syrup that would work as both the chocolate component and the sweetener for granola? Folks! It worked like a dream. A delicious chocolaty dream. Honestly, you could make the puree and stop right there; you'd have a great no (refined) sugar chocolate sauce. You could eat it by the bowl-full like a pudding. When Lindsay arrived at my house I handed her the bowl from the food processor to lick out, and she had at it without stopping even once to question whether it fit within the confines of her no sugar challenge (trust, friends. trust.) and licked that baby clean.
I have made three batches of this granola in under a week. It comes together incredibly quickly, it's tasty and nutritious, and it seems to keep disappearing. I've tried it with nothing but oats and a handful of peanuts, but my preferred combo, also referred to as 'test batch two', uses oats, large coconut flakes, and chopped almonds. It's amazing straight out of the jar eaten by the handful, over some plain yoghurt, or, if you're feeling wild and crazy, sprinkled over vanilla ice cream. The recipe uses no refined sugar, is vegan, and gluten-free*. If you're sensitive to nuts you can leave them out.
*Current food labeling laws in Canada actually prohibit labeling anything that contains oats as being gluten free. Often oats are processed in the same facilities that process wheat, which creates problems for people with serious gluten sensitivities. Be cautious purchasing oats if you're truly gluten-free, or consider swapping the oats for another rolled grain.
No (refined) Sugar Chocolate Coconut Granola Recipe:
I have used coconut oil in this recipe because it is a great natural oil which doesn't impart any flavour to the recipe. If you don't have any you could sub in another light flavoured vegetable oil, like grape seed oil or canola. The finished granola isn't as sweet as the chocolate sauce is, but it is still plenty sweet, and has a great toothsome chewiness to it.
200g (about 1 ½ cups) of chopped dates
1 cup water
1 teaspoon baking soda
3 tablespoon coconut oil (or other light flavoured vegetable oil)
¼ cup Dutch process cocoa powder
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
½ teaspoon sea salt
3 ½ cups whole rolled oats
1 cup large flake coconut
1 cup almonds, roughly chopped
Pre-heat oven to 325 F / 160 C. Line a large cookie sheet or cake pan with parchment paper.
In a medium pot, combine chopped dates and one cup of cold water. Uncovered, bring to a rolling boil. Add 1 teaspoon of baking soda, stir, and remove from heat. The date mixture will foam up for a few min, this is normal. Stir a few times, and set aside to cool slightly.
In a large bowl, combine oats, coconut, and chopped almonds.
Combine cooled date mixture, coconut oil, cocoa, vanilla, and salt in a food processor. Puree until smooth, stopping to scrape down the sides a couple of times.
Pour the chocolate sauce over the oat mixture, and stir well to combine. Turn granola mixture out onto the prepared baking sheet, and spread out evenly. Bake for 20 minutes, then remove from the oven and using a spatula, carefully turn the granola over. Bake for another 20 minutes. Remove from oven and cool. Store in a glass jar.
All text and photos © The Muffin Myth 2011
I've just made a batch, and can hardly climb the stairs to bed, as I've eaten so much. This is a fantastic recipe. I did take some of the already crunchy bits off the cookie sheet, and then returned it to the oven for another 10 min as some of it was still a bit soft. Next time, I would either cook it on convection at a slightly lower temp, or divide it between 2 cookie sheets to expose it all to the heat a bit better. This will definitely become a treat in my house, and would make a wonderful hostess gift instead of wine!!!! (also, it would cost less than wine!) Thank you, Katie!
Can I make this without nuts? Because I really want to. YUM.
Of course! You could use extra oats or coconut, or sub in another favourite granola ingredient. Can you do seeds at all? I bet pumpkin seeds would work nicely.
Awesome Teacher Friend
PS. Made it without oats to be nice to my tummy and it is honestly, heavenly. Also may have added more cocoa. Oops 🙂
Awesome Teacher Friend
Cammy - I thought the same thing about the pudding. Or roll them into balls to make little chocolate ball treats.
When I made it today, Katie, I think you might have missed a crucial step. At the end of the recipe you might want suggest readers lick the bowl. It cuts down on water usage when you clean up. And we all know how important the environment is.
How could I have forgotten that! I'll have to adjust it right away!
I just made this today. The liquid ingredients all blended up are sooooo good. It would make a great vegan/sugar free chocolate pudding. The granola comes out with only a very subtle sweetness, but would be amazing with a little milk. Jude an I just ate it plain and it was a great little snack!
I'm glad it worked out for you. It is interesting how the sweetness disappears so much from the end product. I'm trying to figure out the science behind why that happens. I don't think it's a bad thing though, I don't really want granola to be overwhelmingly sweet. I haven't tried it with milk yet, I've been too busy eating it by the handful out of the jar, or sprinkling it over yoghurt and fruit. Yum!
Thank you so much for another "clean" recipe Katie. I stopped eating white sugars/flour/processed foods some time ago, and your muffins are an absolute staple at my house. I add shredded zucchini to them as well, and I have also added raisins in with the dates...it makes them plump and moist in the muffins. Can't wait to try this granola!
Tara, I made a delish batch of the no sugar muffins yesterday, and I swapped in 1 cup of roasted pumpkin puree for the bananas, and then added a handful of walnuts and chopped figs. Yum! I also realize that the bran we get in Sweden is a lot finer than the bran we get here, so I've spun my bran around in the food processor for a few min to make it a finer powder, and you get a much more tender muffin that way. Give it a try!
This is timely. I have recently seen some really interesting press on the potential benefits of coconut oil in our diet. A perfect opportunity and a great looking recipe.
Coconut oil is a great natural fat. And it's solid at room temperature, so it subs well for butter.
Can't wait to make this! I love love love sweetening my life with nothing but unrefined sugar.
I knew you'd be a fan of this one. Let me know how yours turns out!
That looks/sounds awesome! We are 99% sugar-free at our house so I love coming across recipes like this.
I'm glad! I've got a banana muffin using the same date puree base you might also like 🙂
This looks just wonderful. I have a few recipes that use dates as a sweetener. Great strategy.
I hope you'll try it and let me know how it turns out. I've also got a muffin recipe that uses the same date base as a sweetener. What other sorts of recipes do you use date sweeteners in?