Cheap Christmas Food Gift Idea: Make Crunchy Granola, No Baking Required
Homemade granola makes a great Christmas gift, and it's a nice alternative to cookies or cakes. It's inexpensive to make and perfect to munch on as a healthy snack or to top yogurt, ice cream, or fruit. Nonetheless, homemade granola often is either tooth shattering or on the mushy side. This one isn't. It's full of oats that provide chew but won't break your teeth. The secret is to toast the oats in a skillet on the top of the stove. First, though, you toast some walnuts--in the same skillet--which provide more crunch to the granola. Where is the dried fruit? I don't add it, but you can. Do it after making the granola, preferably just before you serve or give the granola. Otherwise the dried fruit will dry out further, and, if it's moist, it will make the granola soggy. Do not even think about toasting the dried fruit with the oats and nuts unless you want a trip to the dentist for a broken tooth. Really bad idea. How is the granola? It's great, even without dried fruit! It's crunchy, sweet (but not too sweet), and flavored with a little cinnamon and honey. The combination heightens rather than hides the taste of the oats and nuts. Make up a batch and you'll be hooked. So will those who are lucky enough to receive a batch for a Christmas gift.
Homemade Stove Top Granola (Makes 2+ cups)
2 tablespoons of canola oil
1 cup of very coarsely chopped or broken walnuts
1 1/2 cups of oats (Old Fashioned)
1/4 cup of honey
1 teaspoon of vanilla
1/2 - 3/4 teaspoon of cinnamon (depending on how much you like it)
1/4 teaspoon of salt
In a large skillet over medium heat, heat the oil until it shimmers. Sprinkle the walnuts into the pan and, stirring them often, toast them in the oil for about 5 minutes or until they darken a bit and release a nice, toasty aroma. Stir in the oats. Keep stirring the walnut/oat mixture periodically for about 5-8 minutes or until the oats darken a shade or two and the nuts are toasted. While the nuts/oats are toasting, mix the honey, vanilla, cinnamon, and salt in a cup. Put a sheet of parchment paper on a baking sheet or your counter. When the nuts/oats have toasted, drizzle in the honey mixture while continuing to stir. Continue cooking the granola mixture for 3-5 minutes or until the oats have mostly absorbed the honey/wet ingredients. Dump the granola out onto the parchment paper, spreading it out into an even layer. It's okay to have some clumps (they're easy to snack on). Let the granola cool for at least half an hour before serving or storing it. I put my granola in zip top bags (not especially pretty, but less danger or dropping or breaking), but well-sealing plastic or glass containers also work well.