Weekend mornings are often less hurried than weekday mornings, so when I get the urge to cook, I’ll sometimes prepare something that I can eat for breakfast during the week. Muffins and scones will keep for a day or two, but for something that will really last all week, granola is just the thing. It keeps well, it can be made in big batches and you can do lots of different things with it.
This granola recipe started out when I began to play around with a recipe Zarah posted on her blog about a year ago. I was initially drawn to it because the recipe calls for applesauce and Zarah was very reassuring in stating that this helped it clump together well and didn’t affect the dryness after baking. I love clumpy granola and I also really liked the idea of a granola that had a minimal (none, in this case) amount of added fat because nuts and seeds, while good for you, are still quite fattening on their own.
My recipe calls for rolled oats, nuts, dried fruits, brown sugar and spices, in addition to applesauce. I always use some puffed rice cereal (Rice Krispies) for an extra, light crispness in my granola, too. This batch used maple syrup, but you can substitute in honey if you prefer to. Regardless of which you use, the granola will be crispy and will clump together very well during baking to produce a very satisfying cereal.
Since you can add in any kind of fruit, nuts or spices, I hesitate to give this granola a more definitive name than “mix-n-match.” It can be subject to many, many different variations. I used pecans, raisins and dried cranberries here, but almonds or any other kind of nut you like can be used. The same goes for the fruit and spices. I suggest using up to 1 1/2 cups nuts, but I rarely use that much unless I know I’m cooking for nut-lovers. I’ll keep it to about 1/2 cup nuts and go a bit heavy on the dried fruit, since I love the extra sweetness. It’s entirely possible never to get bored using this recipe, especially once you consider that not only can you vary the granola, but you can vary the ways you eat it, as well: plain, with milk, with warm milk, with yogurt, with fruit…
Mix-n-Match Applesauce Granola
3 1/2 cups rolled oats
2 cups puffed rice cereal
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1 tsp ground ginger
pinch ground cardamom
3/4 tsp salt
3/4 cup brown sugar
3/4 cup plain applesauce
1/4 cup maple syrup or honey
1 tsp vanilla extract
up to 1 1/2 cups chopped nuts
up to 1 cup dried fruit
nut suggestions: almonds, walnuts, pecans, hazelnuts, cashews, macadamia nuts, pumpkin seeds, etc
dried fruit suggestions: cranberries, raisins, apricots, cherries, blueberries, raspberries, etc.
Preheat the oven to 325F and line a large baking sheet (or two smaller sheets) with parchment paper.
In a large bowl, combine oats, puffed rice cereal, and spices. In a medium bowl, whisk together sugar, applesauce (do not use chunky applesauce), maple syrup and vanilla. Pour wet ingredients into dry ingredients along with chopped nuts and stir to combine. Spread on prepared baking sheet(s) in an even layer.
Bake for 30 minutes, then turn over the granola carefully using a large wide spatula, and bake for additional 15 minutes, until crisp and golden. Depending on the size of your baking sheet, the center might not be fully dried if your granola layer is thick, so if necessary remove the edges of the cooked granola to a cooling rack and let the rest cook for another 10-15 minutes until done.
Cool on pan or on a wire rack.
Break granola up as desired and stir in dried fruit. Store in an airtight container.
Makes about 8 servings, more depending on add-ins.