‘Sweet Southern Dreams’ Sweet Potato Granola with Molasses-Glazed Walnuts

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I woke to another inch of new snow sifted over the snow pile that was formerly known as my yard. Dreams of sitting on sugar sands beaches in March are stronger than ever. There are actually places where, right now, flowers are blooming. That fact is enough to make my frozen heart melt. As this Wednesday promises to be yet another frigid affair, I’m channeling one of my favorite southern ingredients, the flavorful and highly nutritious sweet potato, for today’s recipe post.

Recently I borrowed a copy of Terry Bryant’s Afro-Vegan from the local library. A cookbook that promises “African, Caribbean, and Southern flavors remixed” is a cookbook that contains the kind of warm-weather magic I’m craving this week. And if Bryant’s recipe for Sweet Potato Granola with Molasses-Glazed Walnuts is any indication, I’ll be dishing up his vegan food for years to come. As you can see from the recipe directions, this is not a five-minute prep meal, but if you set aside a little while this weekend to try your hand at creating this homemade granola, you won’t be disappointed. Sweet but not cloying with just a hint of the savory, Cameron and I have almost finished the entire batch and I made it on Sunday.

Sweet Potato Granola
Image by author.

Sweet Potato Granola with Molasses-Glazed Walnuts
An Afro-Vegan recipe
Makes 10 to 12 servings

Directions
– 1 medium sweet potato (about 12 oz.)

– 3 cups old-fashioned oats

– 1/2 cup pure maple syrup

– 1/2 cup sunflower or canola oil

– 2 TBS maple or date sugar (I couldn’t find either at the grocery store, so I substituted dark brown sugar.)

– 1 tsp unsulfured molasses

– 2 cups Molasses-Glazed Walnuts (recipe follows)

– 1 tsp ground cinnamon

– 1/4 tsp ground nutmeg

– 1/4 tsp fine sea salt

Directions
1. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. With a fork, pierce the sweet potato all over. Wrap in aluminum foil, and bake for 45 to 60 minutes, until fork-tender. Turn down oven to 350 degrees F. (I needed to save time so I opted for the microwave method. Pierce the sweet potato all over with a knife. Then wrap in plastic cling, and microwave for 5 minutes. Remove from microwave, and remove plastic wrap, setting it aside until it’s cool enough to handle. Then, split down the middle and scoop out the flesh into a bowl. Measure out 1 cup and reserve remaining purée for another use.

2. Evenly spread the oats on a large, rimmed baking sheet and bake (if using microwave for potato, then be sure to preheat your oven to 350 degrees F), stirring after 5 minutes for even toasting, for 10 minutes, until lightly toasted. Remove from the oven, and turn oven down to 300 degrees F.

3. Meanwhile, put the maple syrup, oil, sugar, and molasses in a small saucepan. Cook over medium heat, stirring often, until the sugar is dissolved and the mixture is hot. Transfer to a blender, and add the sweet potato, cover the blender with its lid, cover the lid with a kitchen towel, and process until smooth.

4. Line a large, rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper.

5. Put the oats, molasses-glazed walnuts, cinnamon, nutmeg, and salt in a large bowl and mix well. Pour in the sweet potato mixture and stir until all the ingredients are well combined and the oats and walnuts are evenly coated. Transfer the mixture to the lined baking sheet, and spread in an even layer with a rubber spatula.

6. Bake for 35 minutes, then break up and stir the mixture with a fork. Return to the oven, and bake for 10 minutes, until well toasted. Turn off the oven, partially open the oven door, and leave the granola in for 10 more minutes. Transfer the baking sheet to a rack and let cool to room temperature. Stored in a tightly sealed container in the fridge, it will keep for one month.

Molasses-Glazed Walnuts
(an Afro-Vegan recipe)
Makes 2 cups

Ingredients
– 2 cups walnut pieces

– 1 TBS sunflower or canola oil

– 2 TBS unsulfured molasses

– 1 TBS raw cane sugar

– 1/4 tso fine sea salt

Directions
1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Line a large, rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper.

2. Spread the walnuts on the line baking sheet and bake, stirring after 4 minutes, for 8 minutes, until fragrant and starting to toast. Set aside until cool enough to handle. Transfer to a sieve and, holding the sieve over the sink, rub the walnuts against the wire gently until their skins loosen and fall off. (This removes the bitter aftertaste often leveled at walnuts.)

3. Put the walnuts in a large bowl. Drizzle with the oil and stir until evenly coated. Drizzle with the molasses, and stir until evenly coated, then sprinkle with the sugar and salt and stir until evenly coated.

4. Warm a large, dry cast-iron skillet over medium-high heat. Add the walnuts, scraping the bowl to get all of the seasonings into the skillet. Cook, stirring constantly, until the walnuts are fragrant, about 3 minutes. Transfer the walnuts to a sheet of parchment paper and quickly spread them out, separating them so they don’t stick together in a huge walnut chunk.

5. Let cool to room temperature. Stored in a sealed container at room temperature, the walnuts will keep for a few weeks.

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