This right here is what I like to call my "snacking granola." We're talking about big chunky clusters of lightly-sweet granola studded with pistachios and dried cherries. A handful of this makes all other afternoon snacks look puny by comparison — and a whole bag of it makes the ultimate gift for everyone from the friends in your book group to the babysitter.
Granola is truly one of my favorite homemade gifts to make, give, or receive. For one thing, you can make a lot of it at once and the ingredients are relatively inexpensive — this makes it a great gift for all the people in your life who just need a little "Hello! I like you!" present this time of year, and granola is way more fun than a Starbucks card. It also travels well, ships well, and stays crunchy for days on end.
And who doesn't love granola?! It's something a little unexpected and different from the candies and cookies that will no doubt be tempting us very soon — a fun treat we can justify having for breakfast or as a midday snack. Granola can also be adapted to a lot of tastes and preferences, plus it can be made gluten-free (just double-check the oats) and even nut-free (just nix the pistachios and load up on seeds).
Since this granola was destined for gifts, I wanted to make it slightly more lux than usual. At its heart, this is still The Kitchn's recipe for Great Granola Every Time, but I added a touch more honey for extra sweetness (and extra crunch!) and took down my "really good" olive oil to add savory depth. Pistachios and cherries feel so festive to me, and I added a bonus handful of each to this recipe. Stirring only a few times during baking and then letting the granola cool completely undisturbed also ensures lots of those big, wonderful clusters.
If you're shipping this granola long distance, I recommend packaging it in canning jars. Not only will the jars protect the granola from getting crushed in the mail, but they also keeps it fresher. If you're planning to gift it within a few days of making it, go for cute cellophane bags tied with ribbon. Here are the sources for the materials I used here:
3 cups old-fashioned rolled oats (gluten-free, if needed)
1 1/2 cups shelled pistachios (see Recipe Note)
1/2 cup pepitas
1/2 cup sunflower seeds
1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 cup good-quality olive oil
3/4 cup honey
1/4 cup brown sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 1/2 cups dried tart cherries
Preheat the oven to 300°F with a rack in the lower-middle position. Line a baking sheet with a Silpat or parchment paper.
Combine the oats, pistachios, pepitas, sunflower seeds, salt, and cinnamon in a large mixing bowl. In a separate bowl or measuring cup, whisk together the oil, honey, brown sugar, and vanilla. Pour the oil-honey mixture over the dry ingredients and stir gently until all the ingredients are evenly coated.
Transfer the granola to the lined baking sheet. Spread it out so it covers the baking sheet evenly. Bake until the granola is deeply golden and smells delicious, 45 to 50 minutes. Stir the granola every 15 minutes — do not stir more frequently; the granola will still be loose and "wet"-looking even toward the end of baking. When you think the granola is almost done, stir in the cherries and bake for an additional 5 minutes. Once you remove the granola from the oven, do not stir again; it will crisp and solidify into clusters as it cools.
Once the granola has cooled completely, break it into clusters. Lift the edges of the Silpat or parchment to help dislodge large pieces of granola and use your fingers to break it apart.
If gifting, pack the granola into individual treat bags or jars. Granola is best if eaten within a week, but is still delicious for a good while after.
If your pistachios have already been roasted, add them at the very end with the cherries so they don't scorch during baking.