Rise 'n Shine

Granola is one of the most versatile foods I make. It ends up starring in many a morning meal, used as toppings for everything from yogurt to ice cream and functioning as an integral part of my favorite crumbly pie crusts. It's even great just drowned in milk as a cereal.

The recipe I'm presenting this month is for one of my favorite renditions of granola. It combines many of the traditional granola ingredients -- rolled oats, nuts and dried fruit -- with some items that give it a special flair -- like cinnamon, orange juice and maple syrup.

It's also a quick mix to make, taking only about 25 minutes. The time it takes for the granola to bake is perfect for chopping the dried fruit -- if you haven't already done so. Once it's completely cooled, all you have to do is find a place to store it. If you think it will be used within 2 weeks, find a good spot on the pantry shelf. If it will take a little longer to enjoy it, put it in an airtight container -- a resealable plastic bag will do the trick -- and pop it in the refrigerator.

Before I share the recipe, here are a few of my favorite ways to enjoy granola:

  • Drizzle a combination of two or three of your favorite chopped fresh fruits with maple syrup, warm in the microwave and top with a healthy dose of granola.
  • Layer granola and yogurt in a parfait glass for an elegant morning meal.
  • Sprinkle toasted granola over your favorite vanilla ice cream. If you're really adventurous, try drizzling a flavored syrup over that!
  • Sprinkle a tablespoon of granola over muffin batter before baking to add a crunchy top to your favorite muffins.
  • Incorporate some toasted granola into the toppings for your favorite fruit crisps and pies.
  • Grab a bowl of granola the next time you find yourself with the munchies -- it sure beats a bowl of greasy potato chips.

Feel free to share your granola ideas with me too! And now, without further ado, I give you ...

Toasted Granola

  • 3 c. rolled oats
  • 1 c. wheat germ
  • 1/2 c. chopped almonds
  • 1/3 c. chopped walnuts
  • 1 tsp. ground cinnamon
  • 1/3 c. orange juice
  • 1/3 c. maple syrup
  • 2 T. butter
  • 1 c. chopped dried fruit

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

In a large bowl, combine the oats, wheat germ, almonds, walnuts and cinnamon. Mix to combine. Set aside.

In a small saucepan, combine the orange juice, maple syrup and butter. Heat over medium heat -- stirring constantly -- until the butter melts. Do not allow the mixture to boil -- reduce or remove from the heat if necessary.

Pour the orange juice mixture over the oat mixture and toss to coat evenly. Spread the mixture into an even layer on a large baking sheet and bake in the preheated oven for 15 minutes -- mixing thoroughly after every 5 minutes. Cool the granola completely and add the dried fruit. Mix to combine and store tightly sealed in a cool, dry place. The granola will store for about 2 weeks on the pantry shelf and 6 weeks in the refrigerator.

  • Yields: about 6 cups
  • Preparation Time: 25 minutes