It all started with a typical weekend shopping trip to Costco where I discovered a delicious and highly ADDICTING snack called Granola Clusters. You can find them in the Bakery section where they are sitting innocently on a table just waiting for unsuspecting passersby to put them in their cart. Little do these people know what will become of them once they decide to let these little morsels into their lives! Suddenly they become like Gollum in Lord of the Rings with their “PRECIOUS” granola snack!
I admit, I succumbed to the lure of the clusters and became ensnared in its’ powerful allure! I became obsessed with the idea of replicating them in my own kitchen so I wouldn’t risk running out! (After all, Costco is a good 30 minute drive from my house! What if I ran out and I couldn’t get to Costco right away? I couldn’t take that chance!) So I spent a good deal of the afternoon and evening on Monday trying to create my own version of this evil concoction.
The fact that I couldn’t find any recipes online that were even remotely like this stuff should have been a warning….THIS STUFF SHOULD NOT BE REPLICATED! It’s MUCH too addicting and in the wrong hands (say a former addict perhaps??!!) it could be dangerous. But I ignored all the red flags and carelessly pressed on in my desperate pursuit to make my own “homemade” crack….errrr….CLUSTERS!
Eventually I found a recipe that claimed to result in “granola clusters”….but maybe I was too far gone in my addiction at this point, because the recipe did NOT turn out how I had hoped! I wasn’t looking for subtle clustering of the granola….I needed BIG, CHUNKY, CHEWY, SATISFYING clusters! Thankfully, I still had enough “presence of mind” to make some changes to the recipe that resulted in what *I* think is actually BETTER than the original! Boy oh boy…did I luck out on this one! ;-)
Of course it still should have a warning label…because it’s still as addicting as SIN….but at least it’s HOMEMADE! ;-) (And yes, I AM eating it like candy as I type this post! Don’t judge me!) ;-)
Adapted from The Traveler’s Lunchbox
- 1 lb quick oats (I used gluten-free)
- 3 cups coarsely chopped raw nuts and/or seeds (I used 2 cups whole, roasted almonds and 1 cup sunflower seeds)
- 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
- 2 cups dried fruit (I used 1 cup raisins, 1 cup cranberries)
- 1 cup, packed brown sugar
- 1/2 cup honey
- 1 cup (2 sticks) butter
- 1/2 cup maple syrup
- 1/3 cup water
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. In a food processor, coffee grinder or blender, grind half the oats to a fine powder (this apparently is KEY when making clusters! Helps make the granola hold together better).
In a large bowl, combine the whole oats, ground oats, nuts, spices, and dried fruit.
In a saucepan over medium heat, combine the brown sugar, honey, butter, maple syrup and water and heat until the mixture starts to bubble. Stir in the salt and vanilla.
Pour this over the oats and nuts, stirring well to coat.
It should be moist – stir in another tablespoon or two of water if it isn’t. Let stand for about ten minutes.
Spread the mixture out on a large baking sheet and FIRMLY PRESS IT DOWN until it is packed nicely into the pan.
Bake for 25-30 minutes, or until the top is golden brown. Remove from the oven, let cool, then gently break up the mixture into medium-sized clumps. Now put BACK in the oven for another 15 to 20 minutes.
When the granola comes out of the oven it should be nice and golden brown, extra crunchy on the outside and just slightly soft and chewy on the inside. Let cool completely then break it up into clusters and store in a covered container at room temperature.
If you like snacking on granola….you simply have to try these. Oh, and don’t worry…..I can stop anytime I want to! ;-)