I have slowly been going through our house, room by room, in an effort to tidy things up and discard items that we no longer need. Everything has just felt a bit cluttered lately, which translates to more things for the seemingly infinite supply of dog hairs to land upon. I've gotten through the upstairs closets, including the one containing games, photos, and those certain "interesting" gifts, as well as my personal closet, where I finally mustered up the common sense to discard those pieces that have just been collecting dust for 10 years. This week, it was time to conquer the kitchen.
Most of the appliances, tools, and gadgets inside my kitchen drawers and cabinets are ones that I use, if only on occasion. No, I haven't actually tried my pasta maker yet, but I have certainly admired it many times and envisioned myself making pasta. I'm just waiting for that perfect recipe to come along...... As far as downsizing the kitchen, most of the attention needed to be focused on the pantry.
When we first bought the house, I thought it was great that our pantry had such nice, deep shelves. Now I realize that there is just more room for items to get lost, never to be heard from again, as fresher, newer items are placed in front of it. I knew that it was time to clean the pantry when I was placing a new bottle of olive oil on the top shelf, praying that it wouldn't be the 16 ounces that causes the shelf to collapse. So, not wanting to waste anything, I decided to consolidate and use up as much as I could before buying bright and shiny replacements.
Because it is so versatile, granola is the perfect recipe to make if you are wanting to use up small amounts of many different ingredients. With this recipe, I was able to go through 4 types of nuts, 3 types of dried fruits, and some brown sugar that was in danger of turning to cement. Feel free to mix up the amounts and varieties, depending on what you have in supply. No matter what combination that you select, this granola bakes up crisp, toasty, and crunchy, and it is great with milk, yogurt, or on its own as a snack. This is definitely a case where the whole is greater than the sum of its parts! Here are a few extra tips for making this crunchy, nutty, good-for-you granola:
- This granola can be stored in an air-tight container for up to two weeks. You can recrisp the granola by heating at 275F degrees for 10-15 minutes.
- The maple syrup in this recipe can be replaced by honey.
- For the dried fruits, I like to use a combination of cranberries, golden raisins, cherries, and chopped apricots. Chopped figs, apple slices, pineapple, and blueberries would also work nicely.
- I really like granola that clumps or forms clusters. In order to achieve this, as soon as the granola is removed from the oven, press it down all over with the back of a flat spatula and let it cool this way. It should break up in clusters when completely cooled as a result.
Mixed Fruit and Nut Granola
6 tablespoons butter
2 tablespoons canola or safflower oil
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/4 cup pure maple syrup
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon salt
3 3/4 cups rolled oats
1 cup unsweetened coconut
1/2 cup cashews
1/2 cup pecan pieces
1/2 cup shelled pistachios
1/2 cup slivered almonds
1 cup fresh orange juice
2 cups mixed dried fruit
Preheat the oven to 275F degrees. Line a large rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper. In a medium saucepan, combine the butter, oil, brown sugar, maple syrup, cinnamon, vanilla, and salt, and bring to a simmer, stirring until the brown sugar dissolves, about 2 minutes. Let cool slightly.
In a very large bowl, toss together the oats, coconut, cashews, pecans, pistachios, and almonds. Add the warm brown sugar mixture and stir to coat thoroughly. Spread the granola onto the baking sheet and bake for 1 hour 15 minutes, stirring occasionally, until golden.
While the granola bakes, pour the orange juice over the fruit in a medium bowl and let stand until plumped, about 1 hour.
Drain the dried fruit, pressing to extract the liquid, and discard the liquid. Stir the fruit into the granola and bake for 5 minutes. Let cool completely. The granola will crisp as it cools.