Cranberry Nut Granola

One of the major perks about my job is that we can exercise our discretion to work from home occasionally.  I like to do this every now and then because it gives me the chance to catch my breath and regroup mentally.  I can sleep in but still get more done because I don’t have to spend time commuting, I can lounge in my PJs if I want to, and I get to spend all day in my comfortable, sunshine-filled apartment rather than my freezing office.  It’s a win-win for all.

On a typical day when I work from home, I roll out of bed, brush my teeth, and wash my face – but I skip putting on makeup.  Sometimes I don’t mess with my hair either.  Things get crazy.  Then I take my laptop and set up shop in front of the TV.  I’m wedged in between my couch and my coffee table, which is a rather uncomfortable position, but it’s the only way I can work and watch TV at the same time.  Sacrifices.  At 9:00am, I tune in to Ellen.  Her dancing and peppiness wake me up.  (But now she’s moved to the afternoon; what am I going to do??)  Then at 10:00am I switch over to the Food Network, where I’m likely to stay for the rest of the day.  Cooking shows provide a nice background to document review, plus I really adore Paula Deen’s Southern drawl and the way she acts like putting two pounds of butter into everything is no biggie.

A few weeks ago, I stayed home because I was still feeling the effects from a weekend in New York.  Yes, I’m a grandma.  I was wonderfully mismatched in red sweatpants and a super-soft, shockingly bright magenta tee (the latter picked up in New York, incidentally, when we ducked into H&M to escape a torrential downpour).  In the early afternoon, Giada at Home came on and the episode was all about preparing food to take on a hike with her husband.  This being the Food Network, of course they couldn’t just eat turkey sandwiches and chips like normal people.  No, Giada made cranberry nut granola, grilled veggie and goat cheese sandwiches, and chocolate raspberry bars.  And strangely, in an episode that featured decadent-looking chewy chocolate bars with swirls of raspberry jam running through them, it was the cranberry nut granola that caught my attention and trigged a “MUST MAKE THIS NOW” reaction.

Let me just say that this granola is awesome in so many ways.  It doesn’t call for many ingredients and is a cinch to make, something you can squeeze in between a morning and afternoon chock-full of errands.  There’s a mild, tangy sweetness, but it’s not coyingly sweet the way some store-bought granola can be.  And finally, it’s chewy but the nuts and seeds give it a definite crunch.  I ate a giant bowl once the granola had barely cooled to the point where I wouldn’t burn myself and by the end my jaw was aching…in a good way.  Eat the granola with milk, sprinkle it over some thick Greek yogurt, or pick at it every time you walk past the container.  Share it with friends!  It’s a great way to brighten someone’s morning.

Cranberry Nut Granola

From Giada De Laurentiis

2 cups old fashioned rolled oats

1/4 teaspoon fine sea salt

1/3 cup raw pumpkin seeds (also called pepitas)

1/4 cup raw sunflower seeds

1/2 cup roasted and salted almonds (I left mine whole; you can chop them up if you want smaller pieces)

1 cup dried cranberries

1/3 cup maple syrup

2/3 cup packed brown sugar

1/2 cup unsweetened cranberry juice

1 1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon

Nonstick cooking spray

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

Spread pumpkin seeds and sunflower seeds on a 13×18 baking sheet.  Bake for 8 to 10 minutes until lightly toasted.  Cool.

In a medium bowl, mix together the oats, almonds, pumkin seeds, sunflower seeds, and salt.  Spray the baking sheet that had previously held the pumpkin/sunflower seeds with cooking spray.

In a small saucepan over medium heat, combine maple syrup, brown sugar, cranberry juice, and cinnamon.  Cook, stirring constantly, until sugar has dissolved.  This will take 5-10 minutes.

Pour maple syrup mixture over oat mixture and stir until thoroughly combined.  Spread mixture onto prepared baking sheet.  Bake for 20 minutes.  Remove baking sheet from oven and use a non-metal spatula to stir in cranberries.  Bake for another 10-15 minutes, until granola begins to turn golden brown.  Cool completely.  Store in an airtight plastic container for a couple of weeks.

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