For far this year it has been a lousy winter.  Yes, I'm one of those people that actually like snow and it's been way too warm for that.  But we've also had more than our fair share of grey days and precipitation, and since it hasn't been that cold, that means rain, and lots of it. It’s been good weather to bundle up with a cup of coffee or spiced cider, spiked with bourbon or rum, of course and to read or watch a movie or two. It has also gotten me in the mood to whip up a big batch of granola. I always associate granola with fall and winter. I’m not sure why as granola makes a great breakfast year round, but for some reason I have always associated it with colder weather.

One of the great things about granola is it is so easily customizable to what is on hand or what I have a taste for. Sometimes I load it up with tons of nuts, other times it takes a decidedly tropical twist with coconut and various dried tropical fruits. Sometimes it is heavily spiced or really sweet, other times I go for a more subtle flavor profile, it all depends on my mood.

The granola I offer today falls into that last category, lightly spiced and just slightly sweet, studded with pieces of sweet-tart dried apricots, sliced almonds, and as a nod to Fall, pumpkin seeds.

Apricot, Almond & Pumpkin Seed Granola

5 cups Oats
1 1/2 cups Sliced Almonds
1 cup Pumpkin Seeds (I used purchased pumpkin seeds without the shell)
1/2 cup Wheat Germ
1/2 cup Vegetable Oil
1/2 cup Brown Sugar
1/4 cup Honey
2 tsp. Ground Cinnamon
2 tsp. Almond Extract
1/2 pound Dried Apricots, diced

Preheat the oven to 300. Combine oats, almonds, pumpkin seeds and wheat germ in a large bowl. In a small sauce pot combine oil, sugar and honey. Heat to dissolve sugar. When sugar is dissolved, remove pot from heat, allow to cool for 10 minutes then add the cinnamon and almond extract. Slowly pour over oat mixture, stirring to combine. Stir until well mixed then pour onto a cookie sheet. Bake for 35-45 minutes, stirring every 10 minutes for the first 30 minutes, then every 5 minutes until done. Granola is done when it is all a light golden brown and slightly crunchy. It will continue to get more crunchy as it cools.  Allow to cool completely then fold in the dried apricots. Store in an airtight container for up to 2 weeks. Serve in a bowl of milk, like cereal or topped with yogurt and a drizzle of honey.