Good old granola. The standard of “health food” back in the day when a health food store was a small, stuffy place that smelled like patchouli, incense and vitamins. I used to go in them with my Mom to get apricot fruit leathers and sample the carob chips in hopes they would somehow start to taste like real chocolate. Ah, such disappointment for such a young girl. The apricot fruit leathers were good though, and I usually got to try something else that was pretty good like Hansens Natural Sodas or Terra Chips. It was also where she used to buy granola. It was always in a small, yellow box with a picture of a farmer or something on it and I thought it tasted like the best health food EVER! Crunchy, sweet, substantial and it didn’t get soggy in milk. If this was healthy, sign me up!
Turns out granola isn’t all that healthy. Not terrible, per se, but not the best nutritional choice for breakfast cereal either. Times they were a-changing. Now granola is a snack and health food stores are large, shiny, supermarket chains that bring healthier choices to the masses. The small Mom and Pop stores aren’t as plentiful and the yellow box granola is replaced on the shelves by 25 other brands boasting antioxidant, omega 3, and extra fiber power. They’re all great, but the little girl in me, sneezing from the patchouli incense, still kinda likes that crunchy granola in the yellow box. So I decided to make my own to pay homage to the very first granola I remember eating. It’s simple, easy to dress up or down, and still tastes great in a bowl with cold milk. Here’s how I made it:
Honey Vanilla Granola
2/3 c. light brown sugar (packed)
1/2 c. vegetable, canola or safflower oil
1/2. c. honey (use local, if you can)
2 t. vanilla extract
1 t. kosher salt
1 t. ground cinnamon
1/4 t. ground nutmeg
4 c. old fashioned oats (not quick cooking)
1 c. slivered almonds
1 c. chopped pecans
2 cups dried fruit (optional)- cranberries, blueberries, chopped apricots, raisins, etc. or any combination you like. For a variation, I used 1 cup of dried blueberries and 1 cup white chocolate chips to make a “blueberries and cream” granola.
Heat oven to 325 degrees.
In a large bowl, combine sugar, oil, honey, vanilla extract, salt, cinnamon and nutmeg. Stir until combined. Don’t worry if the oil separates, that is normal. Stir in oats until well combined.
Prepare two large baking sheets by lining with parchment paper and sprayed with a little cooking spray to prevent sticking. Divide the oats evenly between two pans. Spread out using a silicone spatula. Bake for 15 minutes.
Remove from oven. Sprinkle the slivered almonds over the two pans and stir to combine. Return to oven for 5 minutes.
Remove pans from oven. Sprinkle chopped pecans over the two pans, stirring again to combine. Return to oven and bake for 10 minutes.
Remove from oven and stir. Return to oven and bake for 5-10 minutes longer, keeping an eye on the color and aroma of the granola. It should be golden and smell toasty. This can happen rather quickly. Remove from oven and set on wire racks to cool. Don’t worry if the granola doesn’t seem crisp. As it cools, it will become crisp and crunchy. If using the dried fruit, stir in after the granola has cooled. Store in an airtight container for up to one month.
Eat as a cereal with cold milk, in a parfait layered with fruit and yogurt, stir into your favorite chocolate chip or peanut butter cookie dough, or just eat it as is, right out of the bag. This makes enough to share with friends or family who need more granola in their lives.