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Maple Granola with Macadamia Nuts and Dried Cherries

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There is something really fun to me about making a homemade Christmas gift.  This is not to say that I don’t buy gifts for my family as well, but in the past few years, I have come to really enjoy making a little something extra to give away.  I have a cousin whose ‘gift’ for making homemade gifts is exceptional – she’s got big time talent in the woodworking and sewing departments paired with some phenomenal creativity.  Some of her creations that I have received in the past few years have included a Christmas themed pillow, a beautiful hand crafted cutting board (which I use a lot for staging my food pics), and this year I received a lovely hand sewn and monogrammed fire wood tote.  Personally, I get scared when I see a sewing machine and I wouldn’t trust myself around a jigsaw.  Instead, as you may have guessed, I much prefer to create my homemade gift in my kitchen.  A few years ago, it was Mexican hot chocolate mix and last year it was homemade salsa.  This year I was all set on making flavored coffee syrups and then I did one trial run and wasn’t sold on it so I started again.  After a few hours on Pinterest and various websites, I found what I deemed as a pretty good guide to making homemade granola.  I made a test batch for my family and I was convinced it had great promise.  I made two more batches, one with macadamia nuts and dried cherries and the other with walnuts and dried cranberries.  Both were delicious – really light, crunchy and fresh. I got some great reviews from the recipients of my granola gift and even my pickiest of daughters is loving it! For the price of those fancy granolas out there, I’d suggest you give this a try and see if you could be converted to making your own from now on.   I’d bet you will!

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Maple Granola with Macadamia Nuts and Dried Cherries (Makes 4-5 cups)

Ingredients:

4 cups rolled oats (not instant and not steel cut)

¾ cup coconut oil, melted

¼ cup pure maple syrup

1 tsp vanilla

¾ tsp cinnamon

½ tsp salt

½-1 cup nuts (macadamia nuts, walnuts, pecans, pistachios, hazelnuts etc.)

½-1 cup dried fruit (cherries, cranberries, raisins, blueberries, peaches etc.)

If you are making this as a gift, add some of the higher price nuts and fruits to make it more unique

Directions:

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  In a large bowl, mix together oats, coconut oil (melted in microwave) and maple syrup.  Toss oats to combine very well with oil and syrup.  Add vanilla, cinnamon and salt and mix again.  Layer oat mixture onto a large ungreased baking sheet and bake for 13-15 minutes when oats start to dry out and brown slightly.  Remove from oven and stir.  Add nuts and return to oven for 6-8 more minutes when nuts start to brown slightly.  Remove from oven, stir and let cool (the cooling stage is when the granola will develop it’s crunch – do not expect it to be crunchy right at the end of the roasting process).  Add dried fruit.  When granola is cooled completely, scoop into airtight container like a mason jar or air tight Tupperware container.

*If you like clumpier granola, add slightly more (1-2 Tbsp) maple syrup or honey.

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Inspired by article on grist.org titled Enough with Christmas Cookies: Five Unpredictable Homemade Food Gifts