It’s a noun. It’s a verb. It’s breakfast. It’s a snack. It’s granola, and it’s so easy to make that you just might forgo store-bought granola from now on.
Not to get all crunchy on you but there is more than one reason to make your own granola. First, it tastes great. Much fresher than anything you can pick up pre-made. Second, it’s much more economical. Third, you get to decide what goes into your granola, from your choice of nuts (or not), to flavorings that include your favorite dried fruits and other add ins. And anything you don’t want stays out, from preservatives to stabilizers to artificial sweeteners.
Once made, you can have it with milk, sprinkle it on yogurt, or snack on it straight from the bag.
Kids seem to love the versatility. Daughter 1, who recently turned 6, likes hers either with milk in the morning or as a snack later in the day. Daughter 2 almost always asks for it on yogurt — and sometimes as part of a healthy banana spit.
We made a special holiday version recently, using dried cherries and almonds with a hint of orange zest. Once in the oven the six-year-old couldn’t stop asking when it would be ready. Personally, I’d like to see individual servings of these on a platter at a cookie exchange. While I love a good pfeffernusse, taking home a little breakfast treat along with the other offerings is right up my alley.
On the local front, I encourage you to look for honey made in your county or state. There is a great local apiary — Birds and Bees Farm — that is currently selling honey at the Slow Foods Central New Jersey Winter Farmer’s Markets. Good stuff. Do yourself a favor and check them out, or look for a similar distributor in your area.
And when I said this was easy to make I really meant it. One bowl, one baking sheet, 45 minutes in the oven and you’ve got granola. Because we all know you need to get on to other things, like dying yak wool with hand-pressed huckleberries. Just kidding. After all, you’re only as crunchy as you allow yourself to be. But hey — this is vegetarian and vegan, so you can feel good about that!
Get your kids in the kitchen with this one. They will be amazed at what they are able to make in under an hour…and it might make breakfasts go that much easier when they start asking for “their” special granola.
Ours is a loose interpretation of the Cook’s Illustrated Pecan-Orange Granola with Dried Cranberries. (You’ll need a membership to access the link.) Make them both, and then work on a combo of your own. Happy crunching!
1/3 cup pure maple syrup
2 tablespoons honey
1/4 cup light brown sugar
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
3 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon Kosher salt
1 tablespoon grated orange zest (from one orange)
1/2 cup grapeseed or canola oil
2 cups (10 ounces) almonds
5 cups old-fashioned rolled oats
2 cups (10 ounces) dried cherries, roughly chopped
*Optional: 8 ounces melted semi-sweet chocolate
Preheat oven to 325 degrees.
Line a rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper and set aside.
In a large mixing bowl, combine the maple syrup, honey, light brown sugar, cinnamon, vanilla, salt, and orange zest. Whisk in the grapeseed oil, mixing until well combined.
In a food processor, pulse the almonds until they are roughly chopped, with distinct large and small pieces. Do not over process.
Fold the chopped almonds and the rolled oats into the ingredients in the mixing bowl until well coated.
Pour the mixture onto the parchment-paper lined baking sheet, firmly pressing down on it until it is evenly and compactly distributed in the pan.
Place the pan in the preheated oven for 40 to 45 minutes, rotating the pan half way through baking.
Remove the pan from the oven when the granola is a toasty golden color. Allow it to cool on the baking sheet for at least an hour.
Break the granola into chunks and mix in the dried cherries.
Granola will keep in an airtight container for up to two weeks.
*Optional: for a real holiday treat, drizzle 8 ounces of good-quality melted semi-sweet chocolate over the cooled granola on the baking sheet before breaking it into chunks and adding the cherries.
Makes approximately 9 cups of granola.
Kid rating: four stars. Daughter 2 loves hers with French vanilla yogurt. Daughter 1 liked everything but the nuts in this version. The next time we make it I may try a no-nuts version, upping the oat and dried fruit ratio to compensate for the almonds.
Parent rating: four stars. This smells like the holidays when it bakes and I love the versatility in serving it. I also love how easy it is to make. My husband thought the cherries were very “fruit forward” in this version. I like that, but think he prefers a more subtle flavor. Highly recommend the orange zest though — it brightens up the flavor and pulls everything together very nicely.