Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Nutcracker Granola --- Gorgeous Homemade Gluten-Free Gift

I'm up early this morning making a big batch of nutty granola.     It's way below freezing in Colorado Springs today and the temperatures are doing nothing but dropping through tomorrow.  A warm oven blowing the spicy aromas of cinnamon and cloves through the house, snow flying, coffee brewing; there's something sort of homey and comforting about it.  I do not have to go out in it, so I probably feel a bit differently than those who are out starting their cars.

My plan for the day--after the granola, that is--  is to stay inside so I can make two big pots of beef vegetable soup.  One for today that I'll share with a couple of neighbors and one for the freezer for over the holidays.  One pot may get a little barley thrown in or a couple of cans of chopped chiles for fun.  I have zucchini, Parmesan, and tiny pasta; the other could move toward minestrone. We'll see in what direction these cauldrons of goodness feel like moving.  One could even be stew.  So many soups, so little time.

Out the back door this morning, north toward Denver:

If I'm honest, I also know I need to do a little housework. I'm having neighbors in for a holiday meal Friday night --one leaves early for a  long December trip -- and it would make sense to do a thing or two ahead of time. Right? While that's so, more likely I'll do a last minute Windex-clean in the bathroom, blow dust off the coffee table, and light plenty of candles so no one can see much except one another.  My house isn't decorated either.We were gone all weekend and I've been running the roads the past couple of days with errands, early shopping, and grocery stock-up.The tree is up with lights; is that enough?

                                Miss Gab and Tucker keeping warm.

Meanwhile, you'd like to know how to make this great granola.  It's perfect to keep you healthy over the holidays, but maybe even better for gifts--especially if you don't bake very often, need a Gluten-Free goodie, or just don't feel like cookies.   Do let it cool totally before spooning into glass jars -- no plastic bags -- that you tie up with pretty ribbons.  Full of dried fall fruits --sorry, no sugarplums-- and high-protein nuts, this is is my basic granola ( very low fat/no sugar) all dressed up for Christmas.  Extra spices -- allspice and cloves in addition to the usual cinnamon and ginger -- perk it up high and a quick grind of black pepper provides a low note.  After it's out of the oven and at room temperature, you'll add some finely-chopped dark chocolate so that it not only feels like a cookie, it  tastes like one. The granola isn't overly chocolately, but there's a decadent hint of cocoa just every once in a while as you crunch. Spoon it over Greek yogurt and a bowl of chopped apples; you'll be glad you did.  Or, if you want a whole bowlful with milk, no problem; this isn't the highly caloric granola that frightens you off more than a big spoonful.  Help yourself, enjoy, and not to worry. Here's how:

This is a perfect gift for a friend who needs Gluten-Free treats; make sure the oats are GF, by the way.   

nutcracker granola
       makes a little over two quarts of granola
Listen to (or watch) The Dance of the Sugar Plum Fairy while you make the granola...
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1/3 cup each local honey and maple syrup
  • 1/2 cup applesauce
  • 5 cups oats
  • 2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 1/8 teaspoon each ground cloves, nutmeg, and fresh ground black pepper
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/2 cup each chopped walnuts and pecans or sliced almonds
  • 1/4 cup chopped sliced almonds
  • 1/2 cup dried cranberries 
  • 1/3 cup each chopped dried figs and dates*
  • 1/4 cup finely-chopped dark chocolate

Preheat oven to 300 degrees Fahrenheit.  Line two rimmed baking sheets with parchment paper or aluminum foil.

Into a small saucepan, pour the oil, honey, maple syrup, and apple sauce and heat over low flame, stirring, for 3 or 4 minutes until well-blended and warm.

Meantime,  into a very large bowl (or stockpot), measure the dry ingredients  (oats - dates, not chocolate) and toss together well.  Pour warmed liquid ingredients over the oats mixture and mix thoroughly.  Pour out onto the baking sheets and bake for 20 minutes--one sheet on each of two oven racks.  Stir granola and bake for another 25 minutes, switching the sheets between the racks.  Remove to cooling racks or top of stove and let cool for an hour or so until cool to the touch.  Sprinkle the chocolate evenly over all of the granola and stir gently until well-mixed. Store for up to one month in glass jars or Tupperware.

*Raisins or other dried fruit --chopped apricots, for instance -- can be subbed for the dates and figs if you like.

Enjoy cooking and taking care of someone else,


  1. I've always wanted to make granola, and this one looks like a good one to try! BTW, my Christmas tree is up, too, but without lights or decorations, so you're ahead of me! We are waiting for the chill to come today in Topeka. Burrrrr.

  2. Linda: Stay warm and eat granola:)


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