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Wake up to granola's golden goodness

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When made with top-notch ingredients, granola served with milk or yogurt can be a tasty, nutritious start for your day. Commercial brands, whether boxed or sold in bulk, tend to be loaded with sugar – up to 30 percent sugar, the same as cookies – and scrimp on the more costly, flavorful ingredients, such as nuts and seeds. By making your own granola, you can control the quality and include more of your favorite things. You can also adjust the sweetness to your taste using honey or brown sugar.

Is it easy to make? Yes – and it's perfect for fall. Does it take a little time? Yes. (For good food, there is rarely a shortcut.) To make this honey-granola recipe, it takes about 20 minutes to collect and prepare ingredients and about 30 minutes to bake. Then you add dried fruit or raisins and mix everything together. That's a little over an hour.But after it's made, granola stays fresh for six to eight months if kept in the refrigerator.

I should mention muesli, the first cousin of granola. Some people love it, but most, including myself, favor granola over muesli. Granola is baked. Muesli is a raw mixture of similar ingredients. In granola, heat activates the flavor-producing browning reaction. Oatmeal, nuts, and seeds improve tremendously in the oven. Because muesli isn't roasted, it tastes bland.

Regarding ingredients: Make sure the nuts and seeds you buy are the freshest possible. If they're stale, they will ruin your granola. Stores that sell them in bulk are good choices, but so are nuts and seeds sold in vacuum-sealed bags. Your raisins or dried fruits should also be the freshest possible.

Granola is traditionally for breakfast, but it's an excellent portable snack in place of trail mix, too. It also can be used to top fruit cobblers and yogurt.

Roasted honey-granola cereal

In this recipe, you can substitute as you wish, but keep the ratio of oats to nuts/seeds about the same. Use any dried fruit you choose, or a mixture. You may vary the sugar to your taste, too. (This recipe doesn't have as much sugar as commercial brands.)

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