Granola Galore: Four Tasty Variations!

As winter approaches, we northern folk begin to covet our time in bed like it’s gold.

Not necessarily because we’re sleepier come November; in fact, it’s easy to get to bed early in the later months — the pre-dinnertime darkness confuses us, and we spend our evenings alternately exclaiming “I can’t believe it’s only [insert time here]!” and “It’s so dark outside!” until we’re all tuckered out. 

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No, the reason those extra minutes in bed mean so much is because as soon as we crawl out from our caverns of quilts, it’s cold. And dark. For hours. If you see sunlight regularly between November and January, you’re one of the lucky few. 

So beds become refuges from reality where every extra minute under the sheets is used to mentally prepare ourselves for what’s coming: fewer hours of daylight and more degrees behind the minus Celsius sign. Those minutes, they mean everything.  

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So to help give you a bit more time to ready yourself for the real, chilly world, I’m passing along a recipe for a basic breakfast granola packed with nourishing, wintry things like oats, nuts and dried fruit. One batch will make eight cups — more than enough for seven days of super-speedy breakfasts — and will keep well, and keep you under the covers longer, for two weeks. 

I’ve written the recipe to be a starting point for your own granola experiments; use whatever nuts, spices and dried fruits you fancy most. And if you want to go further and swap a handful of oats for an equal amount of wheat germ or flax seed, or if you’d rather use oil than butter, go for it!

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To help you get started, I’ve given you instructions on how to make four simple, tasty variations. I tested each variation yesterday, making a half-batch of each (meaning I’m now the proud owner of 16 cups of granola), so I can vouch for their deliciousness and speediness.

Give the variations a try, or invent a few of your own. Just remember to make lots, serve the results with milk, yogurt or something else rich in that now-elusive vitamin D, and set your alarm a little bit later. Or earlier, maybe, if you want to consciously enjoy the cozy spoils of your efforts. I won’t judge. I’ll be doing the same. 
Infinitely Adaptable Basic Granola
Adapted from Bon Appetit
Makes 8 cups

3 1/2 cups old-fashioned oats (the kind that take 10-15 minutes to cook on the stove)
1 cup nuts, chopped or broken into bite-sized pieces*
1/2 cup unsweetened flaked coconut**
1/4 cup packed brown sugar
2 tsp spices of your choice (see variations below!)
1/4 tsp salt
1/3 cup unsalted butter, vegetable oil or coconut oil (I used butter for tasty times)
1/4 cup honey
2 tsp vanilla extract
1 - 1 1/2 cups of your favourite dried fruit, cut into bite-sized pieces

1. Place oven rack in middle of oven and preheat oven to 300 degrees Fahrenheit. Line a baking pan with parchment paper or a non-stick mat. In a large bowl, mix together oats, nuts, coconut, brown sugar, spices, and salt. In a small saucepan, melt together butter and honey over low heat, then turn off heat and stir in vanilla extract. Pour hot butter-honey-vanilla mixture over oat mixture and toss with your hands until the oat mixture is evenly coated with the tasty goo. 

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2. Spread oat mixture evenly over prepared baking sheet*** and bake in preheated oven for 30 minutes, stirring every 10 minutes to ensure even browning. After 30 minutes, or once the granola is a deep golden brown, remove from the oven and transfer baking pan to a cooling rack. Allow the granola to cool completely before breaking up into bits.

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3. Transfer granola clusters to a large bowl. Add dried fruit to granola and gently toss to disperse the fruit through the granola. Store in an airtight container and serve with milk or yogurt and some fresh fruit (I like sliced bananas). Granola will keep for two weeks. 

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*To preserve the crumbly texture of softer nuts - things like walnuts and pecans - break them into bite-sized pieces using your fingers, rather than a knife. For harder nuts - things like almonds and cashews - a knife will do just fine!
**If you’re not a coconut fan, swap the 1/2 cup of coconut for a 1/2 cup of oats, wheat bran, or something similar. 
***I made four half-batches and varied the combination of nuts, spices and fruits between each batch. To save time, I baked two half-batches at once, keeping the two on separate sides of the baking pan through the baking process (which is why, in the photos, you see a dividing line down the centre of the baking sheet). Handy!

Four Tasty Granola Variations
The variations below are scaled to work with the granola recipe above. Unless otherwise specified, the quantities of nuts, spices and fruits listed in the variations below are meant to replace the equivalent quantities in the recipe above.  

Almonds + Apricots + Vanilla
Make the basic granola as instructed, using 1 cup of slivered almonds, no spices, 4 tsp of vanilla extract (instead of 2 tsp), and 1 cup of diced, dried apricots.

Cashews + Dates + Orange Zest
Make the basic granola as instructed, using 1 cup of raw cashews (coarsely chopped), no spices, 2 tsp of freshly grated orange zest (stirred into the butter and honey mixture at the same time as the vanilla), and 1 cup of diced, dried dates. 

Walnuts + Figs + Cinnamon
Make the basic granola as instructed, using 1 cup of walnuts (broken into bite-sized bits), 2 tsp of ground cinnamon, and 1 cup of diced, dried figs.  

Pecans + Apples + Ginger
Make the basic granola as instructed, using 1 cup of pecans (broken into bite-sized bits), 2 tsp dried ground ginger, and 1 cup of diced, dried apples. 

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