I try to be budget and Eco-friendly with party favors and hostess gifts during the holidays and I, historically, tend to make sweet treats and cookies for my friends and family. This year I am leaning towards the healthy side of things and I have made my own granola and packaged it in festive small portions. I started making my own granola a few months ago as I am never quite satisfied with the any of the different types I buy from the store - too sweet, too bland, too much added fat, too expensive - and I am very particular about my dried fruits and nuts. If you make your own, you can combine all of your favorite items in different ways, add different spices or use seasonal, organic ingredients depending on what you are looking for. I thought that adding cranberries would be very festive and I came across a great recipe at Epicurious that I changed ever so slightly after a few batches of dry runs.
Cranberry-Almond Granola, adapted from Epicurious
non-stick vegetable oil spray
2 cups old-fashioned oats
1/3 cup wheat bran
1/3 cup slivered almonds
1/3 cup pecan halves
1/3 cup sweetened flaked coconut (optional)
1/2 cup frozen cranberry or pomegranate juice cocktail, thawed
1/4 cup packed brown sugar
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon ground allspice
1 cup dried cranberries
Preheat oven to 325 F. Spray large rimmed baking sheet with non-stick spray. Mix oats, bran, pecans, almond slivers and coconut together in a large bowl. Combine juice, sugar, cinnamon and allspice in a small saucepan and bring to a boil. Whisk until sugar dissolves. Pour the hot syrup mixture over the oat mixture and stir to coat. Spread mixture evenly onto the baking sheet and bake until golden brown, about 20-25 minutes. Once done, stir in dried cranberries and let cool.
Package this healthy snack in little bags, boxes or jars with gorgeous ribbons and attach a copy of the recipe. For those with more of a sweet tooth, add mini chocolate chips or M&Ms to the mix! Mmmmmmm.