Other than a few stubborn boxes of Cheerios, store bought cereal has finally been cleared from my pantry shelves. It was a long, hard battle over the course of, oh… a year. I’m not one to rush into these things. What can I say? I have a serious weakness for Peanut Butter Panda Puffs. My goal is to swap out processed food for the real deal whenever I can do it and my family will eat it. Cereal was the next item on the hit list.
My kids could live off pancakes, but I wanted to find a quick breakfast option to replace the now-absent bowl of Cheerios. No matter how hard I have tried, I cannot seem to maintain any sort of excitement about cooked oatmeal. I want to like it. It seems like such a wholesome way to start the day. In reality, I feel like I’m eating warm glue.
But slightly buttery, sweet crunchy oats mixed with nuts, seeds, and dried fruit? Yes, please.
I found this perfect granola recipe over at the cooking blog, Thoughtful Kitchen, started by my friend Michelle. It produces small crunchy clusters bursting with the perfect balance of sweet (maple syrup, dried fruit) and salty (butter, salt, nuts). Your kitchen will smell amazing while this is baking. Good luck waiting until the granola cools to start sampling.
You can mix and match the nuts and seeds to suit your own preferences. To make this granola as inexpensively as possible, you could definitely omit the dried fruit (I often do) or substitute brown sugar for some of the maple syrup.
If you have never made your own granola before, start today and use this recipe. The steps are simple and straightforward. And, oh man, the results are so superior to anything you will ever dump out of a box. Peanut Butter Panda Puffs included.
Granola is a great recipe to have in your kitchen toolbelt. If you have overnight guests or host a brunch, this is such an easy, versatile item to set out and let everyone help themselves. You could also bake up several batches, split the granola into decorative bags tied with bright ribbons, and give it as a gift. Add a jar of canned peaches or a funky set of bowls, and you will have friends for life.
A few of my favorite ways to eat granola:
- A dollop of plain yogurt, a drizzle of honey, and a few canned peaches
- A big spoonful each of plain yogurt and applesauce
- A scoop of vanilla yogurt and finely chopped fresh apple
Yum. Now those are breakfast combinations I can get excited about.
Maple Cluster Granola
recipe adapted from Thoughtful Kitchen
makes 1 gallon
6 c. old fashioned rolled oats (if gluten-free, use GF oats — here’s a great deal)
3 c. seeds and roughly chopped nuts (any combination of pecans, walnuts, cashews, almonds, pepitas, sunflower or flax seeds)
2 T. butter
1 c. maple syrup (or 1/2 c. maple syrup, 1/2 c. brown sugar, 2 T. water)
2 T. olive oil or coconut oil
1 t. salt
2 T. vanilla extract
1 1/2 c. roughly chopped dried fruit
- Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
- In a large bowl, combine the oats, nuts, seeds, and dried fruit.
- In a small saucepan over medium heat, combine the butter, maple syrup (and brown sugar & water, if using), oil, and salt. Stir for 2-3 minutes. Remove from heat and add the vanilla extract.
- Pour the maple syrup mixture over the oats in the large bowl.
- Split the granola between two greased, rimmed pans, lightly packing it down with a spatula. Bake at 350 for 10-15 minutes. Rotate pans. Bake for another 10-15 minutes or until golden brown.
- Let the granola cool completely before breaking it up into clusters. Store in an airtight container at room temperature. For a longer shelf life, you can also store granola in the freezer.
Got maple syrup? Amazon can deliver Anderson’s Pure Maple Syrup (at prices competitive to Trader Joe’s and Costco) to your doorstep.
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