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Easy Homemade Crunchy Maple Walnut Granola

by Susan Russo
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granolaIf I say, "She's so granola," you know exactly what I mean -- she's a tree-hugging, free-spirited, hemp-wearing woman with long graying hair who wears her well-worn Birkenstocks to walk to the local co-op where she buys only fair-trade goods.

Does that mean that a short-haired, Anthrolpologie-wearing, Cosmo-drinking girl with a 401K like me can't be "granola"? Cause I eat a lot of it.

I don't buy it at the local co-op; I make my own, while wearing high heels. Making homemade granola is easy and allows you to control the fat, sugar, and calorie content. It's also less expensive. Don't pay $5.00/pound for pre-made granola when you can buy oats for 79 cents a pound.

My current favorite is Easy Homemade Crunchy Maple Walnut Granola, a hearty maple-coated granola loaded with clusters of sticky walnuts and coconut, crisp banana chips, and tart cherries. I know it's expensive, but you have to use pure maple syrup.  

Recently someone said to me, "You're so Mad Men in that dress." Hah. Little do they know I'm so granola.

Easy Homemade Crunchy Maple Walnut Granola
Yield: Approximately 7 cups

4 cups old-fashioned rolled oats
3/4 cup shredded sweetened coconut
1 1/2 cups coarsely chopped walnuts
3/4 cup dried tart cherries
3/4 cup dried banana chips
3/4 cup pure maple syrup
1/4 cup unsalted butter (or butter substitute such as Smart Balance)
1-2 teaspoons maple extract*
1 /2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg

1. Preheat oven to 300 degrees F. Combine first 5 ingredients in a medium bowl.

2. In a small pan over medium heat, melt maple syrup and butter. Remove from heat; stir in maple extract, salt, cinnamon, and nutmeg.

3. Pour maple-butter mixture over the oat mixture and stir until well coated. Spread mixture on a large rimmed baking sheet coated with cooking spray. Bake for 20-25 minutes, stirring once or twice, until granola is golden brown. (If you want it extra crunchy, then turn off heat and leave in the warm oven for another 20-25 minutes.) Cool completely. Store in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 2 weeks.

*Note: Maple extract is intensely flavored, so it's a great, reduced calorie way to cut down on the amount of maple syrup needed. It's available in the spice section of most major supermarkets. If you can't find it, then add an extra 1/4 cup of maple syrup to the recipe.

 

Susan Russo is a free lance food writer in San Diego, California. She publishes stories, recipes, and photos on her cooking blog, <Food Blogga and is a regular contributor to NPR’s <Kitchen Window. She is also the author of two upcoming books that will be published in the fall of 2010.  

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