Hearty granola

This undated photo provided by Elizabeth Karmel shows a dish made from her recipe for homemade Granola. The bottom line is that granola is all about what are your favorite flavors. If you like almonds and dried figs, hazelnuts, or even bits of dark chocolate, use them instead of, or alongside her mix-ins. 

Elizabeth Karmel, Associated Press

I have been a fan of homemade granola for as long as I can remember. I literally grew up with it as my mother made it way before it was a trend to do so.

When I was in college, I would pack big tins of her granola to take back to school with me. I would snack on it when I studied, and top my college cafeteria salads with it. Today, I love having a hearty homemade granola on hand to add to my morning yogurt or take with me as an easy breakfast snack when I travel.

As I began cooking for myself, I adapted my mother’s recipe with my favorite fruit and nuts. My favorite granola changed as my tastes changed.

And, that is the great thing about granola. It is totally customizable. You can add or subtract anything you don’t like as long as you have an oat base. Recently, I was in Los Angeles visiting two of my favorite food friends and it just so happened that we all brought our granola as gifts. I brought my recipe that I am sharing here.

Bob gave me some of his new granola that he made a bit more austere for his January cleanse. He uses a base of half rolled oats and half rye flakes, and the addition of rye flakes gives his granola a delicious savoriness. Finally, Anthony gave me a jar of his version of Eleven Madison Park restaurant’s sweet and salty granola that is so addicting, you can eat it by the handfuls.

There are similarities between all three granolas—we all use maple syrup and dried cherries—but there are differences too, and that is the sheer beauty and deliciousness of it.

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I like my granola crisp, but not crunchy, and I have found that if you add a little granulated white sugar to the oats as they toast, it helps to crisp the mixture. Generally, all the sweeteners are melted with the oil because that is the easiest way to coat the oats and nuts. The added granulated sugar is not melted and therefore adds a rougher crisp texture as it cooks into the mixture.

Besides the secret addition of granulated sugar, I use olive oil where others use coconut oil or canola oil because I like the flavor and viscosity of olive oil, and it is healthy to boot. I sometimes use unsweetened dried coconut, but sweetened dried coconut is easier to find. Since I have a low sugar to oats and nuts ratio, it adds some sweetness. I also add salt and vanilla extract to my oil and maple syrup mixture for dimension. When it comes to adding fruit, I always add dried cherries, crystallized ginger and Turkish apricots. Then I add whatever else I have in the pantry including dried cranberries, and white raisins.

The bottom line is that granola is all about what your favorite flavors are. If you like almonds and dried figs, or hazelnuts, or even bits of dark chocolate, use them instead or alongside my mix-ins. If you have a Trader Joe’s store near you, I have found that they are the best and least expensive source for all your granola ingredients. You may decide to try some of their more unusual dried fruits like dried mango in your version. Let me know what your favorite combinations are.

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