For many years I baked up a storm for the kids teachers, the neighbors, the mail carrier and anyone else I felt needed a little holiday cheer. Cookies, breads, chocolate covered pretzels, and fudge covered the counters of my kitchen. Then my sister-in-law told me she had made granola for all her people instead one year. I was a little hesitant – she is from California and she may feel comfortable handing out granola in the midst of Snickerdoodles and haystacks but I was not so sure about the whole idea. So I experimented with the recipe in the summer and realized there may be lots of folks interested in something to temper all of the sweets of the holidays.
So now everyone gets granola for the holidays. I have tried a few different recipes but always come back to a nice, basic recipe by one of my favorite Food Network chefs – Alton Brown. Making homemade granola is on par with making homemade Chex Party Mix; stir a bunch of stuff together, toss it in liquid, then bake at a low temperature for an hour, stirring every 15 minutes. You can choose the dried fruit you like and also regulate the sweetness. This recipe uses a little brown sugar and maple syrup to sweeten the mixture. Other recipes use honey – feel free to use this recipe as a starting point and then create your own.
I prefer my granola with the old-fashioned oats but I have made it with quick-cook oats also. It is just changes the texture but not really the taste. I also make sure to use real maple syrup. I break down and buy most of the ingredients at our Sam’s Club; the nuts and dried fruit are much better priced.
Preheat the oven to 250 degrees. In a large bowl combine the following: 3 cups rolled oats, 2 cups slivered almonds, 3/4 cup shredded sweet coconut, and 1/3 cup brown sugar. In a separate small bowl (I use a salad dressing cruet) combine 1/3 cup maple syrup, 1/4 cup vegetable oil and 3/4 teaspoon salt. Combine both mixtures and divide onto two sheet pans. Cook for 1 hour, stirring every 15 minutes to ensure an even color.
Remove from the oven and transfer into a large bowl. Add 3 cups of your favorite dried fruit. I used a mixture of dried apricots, craisins, and dried cherries in this last batch. Sometimes I can find a bag of mixed dried berries that I use, sometimes I will include dates or golden raisins.
This one batch made about 6 gift bags filled with a little over 2 cups each. The reaction from everyone down here below the Mason-Dixon line has been pretty positive over the last few years except for one of the men I teach math with. He didn’t realize it was a gift, handed it back to me with the statement “I don’t eat this kind of stuff.” After being shamed by the other math teachers, he took it home. His wife probably ate it – or the birds!
Make a batch for gifts or for yourself this holiday season! Let me know what other ideas you have for healthy gifts during the holidays.
~ The Mildly Manic Mom