All my life, my dad made his own granola about every couple of months. He and my mom make an annual trip out to Lancaster county (remember those trips to Amish country?) to buy his ingredients in bulk on the cheap. He makes a massive batch in a huge roasting pan. I mean huge; the recipe he sent me calls for 18 cups of oats. He eats it every day and stores it in these giant glass jars that I think my mom acquired from the cafeteria ladies way back in the day when she was a school nurse.

The point being, I’ve always had an appreciation for homemade granola (particularly the dried fruit, which I would always pick out of the jar for my bowl of cereal, despite my mom’s scolding!) but I never attempted to make it myself. And someday (soon) I’ll have to scale my dad’s recipe down so I can make it. Without access to cheap bulk ingredients and the giant jars to store all that cereal, I need a smaller recipe.

When I saw this recipe in Everyday Food, I knew I had to make it. Maple syrup + nuts + granola = love. And it’s fantastic. Nutty, with a hint of maple-y goodness (which is boosted by the fact that I like it served on plain yogurt drizzled with maple syrup), hearty and delicious. But of course I had to improve upon it. The original recipe doesn’t call for dried fruit! Or cashews, even, which are my second favorite part of my dad’s granola behind the dried fruit. And my dad sneaks some good-for-you things into his granola like flax seed meal and wheat germ, so of course I needed that in my granola as well.

So I mix up the dry ingredients with some oil, maple syrup, vanilla, and a pinch of salt, then lay it out in a rimmed baking sheet to get nicely toasted and yummy in the oven.

Halfway through the cooking time, you give the cereal a stir (Martha says just to turn the baking sheet, but I think stirring is a better way to prevent burning), and when it comes out, it’s all toasty and brown and smells amazing. I tend to pull it out a minute or two early, because the cereal at the edges or in places where it’s in a thin layer starts getting too brown.

Next, I throw the granola into a bowl with the dried fruit. Now, you can skip this step if you don’t care for dried fruit, but I sure wouldn’t. I used dried cherries, cranberries and raisins because that’s what I have on hand, but I imagine other fruits would be good too.

Once it’s all mixed up, I guess you could just eat it like that, in a bowl with some milk. But I don’t roll that way.

And once you’ve had it on plain yogurt with a drizzle of maple syrup, neither will you.

Seriously, this will take the edge off of waking up for work. It might even make you glad to wake up. Maybe.

All I know is, it’s awfully hard to go back to a bowl of Cheerios after this.

Maple Nut Granola

From Everyday Food, January 2010

1. Preheat oven to 325. In a large bowl toss together 3 1/2 cups old fashioned rolled oats, 1/4 cup chopped pecans, 1/4 cup chopped almonds (and 1/4 cup cashews, 1/4 cup raw sunflower seeds, 1/4 cup flax seed meal, 1/4 cup wheat bran or wheat germ if you want to be like me), 1/4 teaspoon coarse salt, 5 teaspoons vegetable oil, 5 tablespoons pure maple syrup (not the fake stuff!) and 1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract. (I add a splash more vegetable oil and maple syrup when I add all my extras.)

2. Spread oat mixture on a rimmed baking sheet. Bake until golden brown, 25 to 30 minutes, rotating sheet halfway through. Let cool completely. (I add about 1/4 cup each of dried cranberries, raisins, and cherries. I cut the cherries into smaller pieces because they’re pretty big nuggets of fruity goodness.)

3. Store in an airtight container at room temperature. It will keep for two weeks – if it lasts that long!