Homemade granola has it all over the boxed stuff. Fresh ingredients in your favorite combinations, a yummy chewiness you can't get when it's been sitting on the shelf for months, that wonderful smell in the kitchen as it bakes -- can't beat that!
I was so busy trying to get Julia to sit still while I took this photo that I didn't notice until some minutes later that she was snitching the blueberries from the top. Laura, the older of the two, doesn't care much for granola, Honey-Nut Cheerios or toast being her current breakfasts of choice, but Julia will often ask for granola. The dried-fruit versions make it especially tempting.
(The liquids together will amount to 3/4 cup. If your measuring cup doesn't give you the ounces, just measure about equal amounts of oil and honey to make 3/4 cup.)
6 cups old-fashioned oats
1 1/2 cups sliced almonds
1/2 cup lightly packed light brown sugar
1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
3 oz. cooking oil
3 oz. honey
1 teaspoon vanilla
8 oz. dried Rainier cherries
Preheat oven to 300 deg. F. In a large bowl, mix together the oats, almonds, brown sugar, salt, and cinnamon. Measure the oil and honey into a glass measuring cup, and warm in the microwave for about 1 minute (the liquids will coat the oats and nuts more efficiently when warmed). Add the vanilla to the oil and honey, and pour over the oat mixture. Mix well.
Spread the granola in a 15x10x1-inch baking dish. Bake 20 to 40 minutes, stirring carefully every 10 minutes, until nicely browned. (Baking time will depend on whether you like your granola moist and merely tanned, as I do, or crunchy and well-toasted.) Transfer the dish to a rack, and cool completely. Stir in the dried cherries.
Store the granola in an airtight container or bag at room temperature, for up to 1 week, or in the freezer for up to 3 months.
Makes about 8 1-cup servings. Active work time, about 5 minutes; total preparation time, 25 to 45 minutes.
Variations are as limitless as your imagination. I like it with pecans and no fruit. Instead of the almonds and cherries, try pecan pieces and 1 cup dried blueberries. Maple syrup works well instead of honey, but doesn't impart as much maple flavor as you might think, so if you want a nice maple-walnut granola, add some maple flavoring.