It amazes me how quickly my mind turns holiday once November arrives. It’s a switch that flips without fail, the same time each year. I look forward to it most because I can begin the list. The list! Not a daily to-do, or things to pick up from the market — a list of gifts for family.

Sure I enjoy receiving gifts, but it really is the giving that gets me going.

The constant in all that giving is the promise of something homemade. And edible. Homemade foods, especially with an eye on nutrition, allow us to eat and feel well. These foods also taste better.

Over the years it’s been dark chocolate bark, roasted and spiced nuts, Marranitos, hand-ground spice blends, butternut squash spätzle, infused salts and sugars, biscotti, coconut macaroons — and granola.

I’m not embarrassed or sorry to say that granola has had several cameos. At least a half dozen over the years. There are just so many ways to interpret. Varying grains. New sweeteners. Nuts and seeds. Unusual spices. The possibilities are endless, and always delicious.

But don’t feel compelled to follow as is. Think of this as a template. Aim for similar proportions and make it yours. Maybe you prefer pumpkin butter to coconut, or cardamom instead of cinnamon. Substitute pecans or hazelnuts for walnuts. Change the sweetener to suit your needs. Use currants or citrus peel instead of mango. Throw in almonds and substitute dried fruit with dark chocolate chunks!

It’s got character. It’s got ingredients that make you feel good. It’s got gift written all over it.

Nutty Coconut Blackstrap Granola [makes about 5 cups]

Printable recipe

Granola can be made several weeks in advance of the holidays if stored correctly. Keep it in a completely airtight container to ensure crispness. Just before gifting, spoon into pretty jars or cellophane bags and tie up with ribbon.

Dry Mix:

3 c old-fashioned oats (not instant)

1/2 c millet

1 c raw walnuts, roughly chopped

1/4 c raw pepitas (pumpkin seeds)

1/4 c raw sunflower seeds

1/4 c whole flax seeds

2 T sesame seeds

1 t cinnamon

+ + +

Dressing:

3 T coconut butter (try pumpkin butter, apple butter or applesauce)

4 T blackstrap molasses

1 t pure vanilla extract

1/4 c honey or brown rice syrup

+ + +

Embellishments:

mango (pictured), dates (added but not pictured), black or golden raisins, currants, cranberries, blueberries, dark chocolate chunks, or any other dried fruit/nuts

Combine the dressing ingredients in a small pan, and stir over medium heat until homogeneous. Preheat the oven to 300º F.

Meanwhile, combine the dry ingredients in a large bowl. Pour the dressing mixture over and toss to evenly combine. Spread the mixture onto a large ungreased jelly roll pan and smooth into an even layer. If you like, sprinkle up to 1/2 t kosher salt over top. Bake on the middle rack 30-40 minutes, stirring occasionally, until golden.

Remove granola from oven and cool on the sheet. It may seem soft at first, but will harden as it cools.

Once completely cool, transfer granola to a tightly-sealing jar. Add any of the optional mix-ins now; toss to combine. Store at room temperature (or in the refrigerator for longer keeping) for freshness and crunch, up to 1 month.

Adapted from Full Measure of Happiness

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