When you invite someone to go to “The Nutcracker,” it goes without saying it’ll be one of the events of the season complete with everyone dressed in their best holiday duds and ready for a yummy tea or fancy dinner before or after. It’s a special occasion and worth every bit of the extra effort it takes to get little girls’ hair tied up with ribbons or talking the teenager into some shoes besides banged up sneakers or clunker boots — even if you’re watching from the comfort of your own couch this year:
If I’m making my Nutcracker Granola for breakfast or gifts in December, I’m feeling the same way about what goes into that great big mixing bowl:
My tenderest, most colorful dried fruit, crispiest fresh nuts, and ultra-fragrant warm spices are jumping into that mix to make it the most delicious and irresistible choice for a cold winter’s morning. When homemade cereal is all dolled up for breakfast, it’s guaranteed to bring out the biggest smiles at the table whether it’s eaten in a bowl with milk, ladled on top of a snowy scoop of Greek yogurt, or quickly snarfed up out of hand if you’re in a hurry.
I first wrote a blog post and recipe for NUTCRACKER GRANOLA back in 2013 on my dinner place blog on a morning much like today’s–brrrr. Here’s a tiny blurb:
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.
Looking at a blog I ended years ago is a common occurrence at this computer, though, if only because some of my favorite recipes still reside there. Bringing up the post for this granola the other day made me realize it was time for an update. I thought maybe just new pictures would be fun — more holiday-ish and all — but the recipe wasn’t printable and didn’t even read right in retrospect. Time to retest the recipe and to write a complete refresh right here on More Time at the Table. So here you go!
Nutcracker Granola is a riff on my basic granola recipe (inspiration from David Lebovitz and Nigella Lawson–thank you, thank you!) that includes extra nuts, special holiday fruits like dates and figs, a variety of spices including black pepper and optional, but worthwhile cayenne, as well a precious scattering of finely diced dark chocolate just because, well, just because it’s December. And why shouldn’t breakfast include chocolate during the holidays? This variety has been a favorite gift item for those who follow a Gluten-Free diet because it’s easier than attempting to bake G-F cookies if you don’t normally do so or keep those special ingredients on hand. Do make sure you buy oats labeled Gluten-Free if you need them because while oats are traditionally free of gluten, they may have been processed in a plant with gluten-containing grains or grown in fields near those grains. If you’re baking for a friend who follows a vegan diet, skip honey (use all maple or agave syrup) and make sure you check the label on the chocolate. Not a cookie baker? This granola might be a fun alternate homemade gift for you, too.
Considering gifting some granola? Try to find jars with tightly-fitted lids or reusable sturdy containers you can decorate or tie up with ribbons or bows. Plastic bags are not a good fit there as the granola quickly will go stale in them. If that’s all you have on hand or you want to use the attractively decorated cellophane bags, make sure and include a note for your friend to store the granola in glass or plastic storage containers with lids.
Granola can be stored in the cupboard for two months and frozen for up to 3 months. If freezing, wait to add the dried fruit until after you’ve thawed it for 24 hours on the counter.
Whether you’re making a batch for you or the neighbors, press the play button on a youtube Nutcracker, and dance around the kitchen while you try this. By the way, you might never buy store-bought cereal again. Did I mention it smells just like Christmas?
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 1/3 cup each local honey and maple syrup–can sub agave syrup for one of the these
- 1/2 cup unsweetened applesauce
- 5 cups oats, gluten-free if needed
- 2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
- 1 teaspoon ground ginger
- 1/8 teaspoon each ground cloves, nutmeg, fresh ground black pepper, and ground cayenne (Cayenne is optional but yummy and not too hot at all.)
- 1 teaspoon kosher salt
- 1/2 cup each chopped walnuts and pecans
- 1/4 cup chopped sliced almonds or pistachios
- 1/2 cup dried cranberries
- 1/3 cup each chopped dried figs and dates*
- 1/4 cup (1.5 oz) finely chopped dark chocolate
- Preheat oven to 250 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, measure oats, spices and nuts into a very large bowl or stockpot. Toss together well. Pour warmed liquid ingredients over the oats mixture and mix thoroughly. Divide mixture between the baking sheets, spread out in even layers, and bake for 25 minutes–one sheet on each of two oven racks. Stir granola and bake for another 25 minutes or until browned and crisp, also switching the sheets between the racks to insure even baking.
- Remove to cooling racks, add the dried fruit evenly over both pans of granola and let cool for an hour or so until cool to the touch. Sprinkle the chocolate evenly over all and stir gently.STORAGE: Store for up to two months in glass jars or Tupperware. Granola does not keep well in plastic bags. If you’d like to freeze the granola (up to 3 months), don’t add the dried fruit until you’ve thawed it overnight on the counter.
COVID-CAVEAT BAKING: Any dried fruit will work in this granola, as will skipping dried fruit totally, which you might want to do if you need to cut sugar. More or fewer nuts are fine, as are additions like favorites seeds such as pepitas or flaxseed (go easy on the latter until your digestive system is accustomed to this seed). The spices are changeable and you can leave some out, of course, but I wouldn’t skip salt and at least cinnamon or the granola will be quite bland. If sodium is a problem, try cutting the salt in half before alleviating it totally. Since there’s no granulated or brown sugar, the syrup(s) and/or honey are almost necessary, as is the applesauce. You can go with all agave syrup for a lower glycemic product.
MORE INFO THAN YOU WANTED:
LIFE GOES ON:
I hope your spirits are bright and that you’ll turn the oven on to make my granola….which might fill your kitchen with visions of sugar plums— or maybe just aromas!
Stay well; stay warm; stay watchful,