So every year, my standard "gift-from-the-kitchen" is a jar of homemade granola. I'm NOT a baker and am usually strapped for time AND cash around the Holidays (aren't we all?); but I CAN make granola (and people seem to like it - or shamelessly BEG for it in some cases, haha); I also love to scour local antique and thrift stores during the year to find old Mason jars.
It's then a simple matter to fill the jars with super-yummy, easy-to-make granola for friends' and family's Christmas gifts.
This year, Olivia wanted to make cute little mini-loaves of gingerbread to go with. She happens to be an excellent baker, so why not?
Well, what neither of us anticipated, was that the cutsey little decorative foil gift pans would completely collapse half-way through baking, leaving her with a sheet pan (which she had had the foresight to put UNDER the self-destructing pans of doom) full of shapeless, dried-out gingerbread blobs. Definitely not gift-worthy and (in her super-perfectionist baker's mind) doomed for the trash bin.
However! All was not lost.
And since she had also just finished making granola for me, (and she knows I'm painfully and fanatically frugal) she wondered if we could salvage the gingerbread by adding a bit to the granola. Awesome idea! A bit? I say add ALL of it!
She was a bit skeptical, but when I reminded her that cookies and milk was a favorite indulgence, she decided to give it a go!
The end result? A completely amazing granola, PERFECT for the holidays, and a slightly more healthy take on "Gingerbread Cookies for Breakfast" (because we would ALL eat that over Christmas vacation, if we could get away with it!
Well, most of you would. I am not usually a fan of gingerbread, so trust me, when I say I LOVE this granola, it really is AMAZING stuff!!)
Since it was so delicious, WE ended up eating about half the batch, (taste-testing, you know!) and then we just had to make more for gift-giving, so I had the chance to tweak my regular granola recipe just a wee bit, making the flavors even MORE complimentary to the crisp, gingerbread bits mixed in.
So. Just in time for Christmas, here you go.
(I usually make a triple recipe at a time, which fills three or four sheet pans and perfectly uses up a batch of failed gingerbread.)
- Bake gingerbread for 1 cup of gingerbread bits (SEE BELOW)
- 4 cups rolled oats (NOT the quick or fast-cooking oats - we used Bobs Red Mill Gluten Free Thick Cut Rolled Oats)
- 1/4 cup wheat germ (OR use 2 Tb. fine-ground oat bran or ground flax meal if you want this recipe gluten-free)
- 1/4 cup sliced almonds
- 1/4 cup chopped hazelnuts, pecans or walnuts, coarsely chopped
- 1/4 cup pumpkin seeds, the green color adds a festive "Christmas" touch
- 1/2 cup sweetened (or not, your choice) flake coconut
- 1/4 cup corn syrup, rice syrup, or maple syrup (you can even use the fake "Mrs. Butterworth's" style stuff if you want, it's still good!)
- 3 Tbsp. molasses (OR you can use ALL molasses if you REALLY like the taste. Which I don't!)
- 1/4 tsp. powdered ginger
- 1/4 tsp. powdered cinnamon
- 1/4 cup water
- 1/4 cup oil (we used melted unrefined coconut oil, the final result does NOT have a strong coconut flavor)
- 1/2 tsp. vanilla
- 1/2 tsp. salt
- 1/2 cup dried cranberries; the bits of red color made the granola very Christmas-festive
- 1/2 cup chopped, dried apricots, dried apple or whatever dried fruit you like
Measure all dry ingredients, except dried fruit and gingerbread bits, into large mixing bowl.
Stir (I use my hands) until well mixed.
In food processor or blender, mix maple syrup, molasses, water, oil, ginger, cinnamon, vanilla and salt until well blended. Pour liquid over dry ingredients and mix well with your hands, squeezing granola occasionally to make "clumps" and work moisture into the oats.
Carefully stir in the gingerbread bits.
When thoroughly mixed, spread in a thin layer on large cookie sheet or two. Squeeze some of the granola firmly into chunks or clumps if you like a more "clumpy" texture.
Bake in 250° oven for an hour, to an hour and a half, turning every 30 minutes, until granola is toasty golden colored and gingerbread bits are crunchy and dried out. (You will drool the entire baking time!)
Put dried fruit in large mixing bowl.
Dump about 3 - 4 cups of the hot-from-the-oven granola over fruit mixture, stir and let sit until cool, to let flavors absorb.
Leave the rest of the granola on cookie sheets until completely cool, mix with fruit mixture and then store in covered canister.
-- Gingerbread Bits:
Find your favorite gingerbread recipe (the loaf/cake/muffin type, NOT cookies, which turn out too hard and difficult to chew! You want light, crispy bits, not people breaking their teeth!).
Bake into loaves/cake/muffins, whatever shape is directed.
(I usually make Isa's Gingerbread Muffin recipe but if you're gluten-free, I LOVE Susan Voisin's gluten free recipe too!)
When gingerbread is done and cooled, slice into 1/4 inch slices and then into cubes (like you're making small croutons). You can make this a day or so ahead and let the cubes sit and dry a bit if you want.
Pack into jars, decorative bags or other containers, as gifts.