Friday, January 2, 2009

cherry almond granola

In the spirit of the New Year, I was thinking about flexibility. Mostly about how I am not, currently, feeling very flexible, and how I had better get these winter bones back into a fitness routine. I'm no spring chicken, but I'm not old enough to be feeling quite this creaky.

I love the flexibility of granola, too. It's a perfect winter breakfast served with hot milk or sprinkled over a steaming bowl of oatmeal. But it's also great in the summertime, served with fresh cool yogurt, a bowl of just-picked berries, or even some homemade vanilla ice cream. Mmmm.

And of course, you can always just scoop handfuls out of the bowl and eat it plain. Not that I've been doing that this afternoon, or anything.

Cherry Almond Granola

4 cups old-fashioned oats
1 cup slivered almonds
1/2 cup roasted, salted sunflower seeds
1/3 cup packed brown sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon cinnamon
6 tablespoons butter (salted is fine)
1/4 cup honey
2 tablespoons granulated sugar
4 teaspoons vanilla
1 cup dried cherries

Preheat oven to 300 degrees. Butter a half sheet pan (or jelly roll pan). Mix oats, almonds, sunflower seeds, brown sugar, salt and cinnamon in a large bowl.

Combine butter, honey and sugar in a small saucepan over medium heat. Cook, stirring, until sugar is completely dissolved. Remove from heat and add vanilla.

Pour over oat mixture and stir until well combined. Spread granola on baking sheet and bake for 30 minutes, stirring every 10 minutes.

Remove from oven and let cool WITHOUT STIRRING. Once granola has cooled, break into chunks and mix in cherries.

Another beautiful thing about granola's flexibility is that it doesn't mind being adapted. Don't like cherries? Feel free to add raisins or dried apricots or whatever your heart desires. Almonds make you crazy? Well, go ahead and leave 'em out. Or substitute pecans or pistachios instead. I won't think any less of you. Think of this recipe as your blank canvas, and swap in or out as much as you'd like. You'll end up with your own personalized granola. And isn't that what flexibility is all about?

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