Cranberry Vanilla Granola

This granola is perfect for gift giving this holiday season because it is so pretty and crunchy-wonderful.


Did I mention that it has slivered almonds and toasted coconut?  Yum!

I had never made my own homemade granola before, but had always wanted to.  Come to find out, it was really easy!  The entire process reminded me  bit of making marshmallow rice krispy treats.  So if you’ve made those before, you will feel completely at home with this simple recipe.

The basic recipe goes like this:  combine the wet ingredients with the dry ingredients and bake until crunchy- simple as that!


Wet ingredients


Wet ingredients mixed into the dry ingredients.


Ready to bake on the pan!

Feel free to experiment and switch out flavor combinations.  This basic recipe is designed to be very customizable.

On Friday, I will share my homemade yogurt recipe with you, which will make the PERFECT base for the granola.


Cranberry Vanilla Granola

  • Servings: ~16 cups
  • Difficulty: easy
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The perfect holiday topper to your morning yogurt!


10 cups old fashioned oats, uncooked. Not the quick oats.
¾ cup sesame seeds
½ cup sunflower seeds
2 cups slivered almonds
½ teaspoon salt
1 ½ Tablespoons cinnamon
¾ cup canola oil
1 cup maple syrup
1 ½ Tablespoons vanilla extract, homemade if you have it
1 ½ teaspoons almond extract
1 bag toasted coconut, like Bare
1 cup dried cranberries


Combine the first 5 ingredients in a very large bowl and mix well. In a smaller bowl, whisk together the oil, maple syrup and the extracts. Pour the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients, stirring very well to combine. I used my hands to really get in there and make sure all the oats were coated well. Spread out the mixture onto two large cookie sheets lined with parchment paper and bake for an hour and a half, rotating the trays and stirring every 30 minutes. When the time is up, shut off the oven and leave the granola for several hours to cool. It will get crunchier as it cools. When cool, stir in the coconut and the cranberries.

This recipe is adapted from the Homemade Pantry by Alana Chernila.

Favorite Things Party Decorations!

My mom, Sherry, is a very talented person!  All of her friends will tell you that she is a master of presentation and is a very thoughtful hostess.  She and her friend Marsha are the ones who came up with the idea of having our annual Oprah’s Favorite Things party.  It started with a lament that as the creators of the Christmas magic for our families, we often are even the ones buying and stuffing our own stockings.  So, we decided to have our own mini-Christmas and give gifts to each other!

This year marked our 11th  year of celebrating together, which is pretty darn miraculous.  I can’t think of many traditions that I have faithfully maintained for that long!  Each of us makes the party a priority every year and it is the first date we reserve on our collective calendars months and months in advance.  Marsha and Sherry plan intermittently all year for the details.

Marsha is incredibly gifted with graphic design, so she is the creator of our invitations.  And really, the invitations are a large part of building the anticipation (since we typically know the date well in advance of the invitations being mailed)!  Marsha also plans the games that we play.  We all get into the spirit of it.  Well, most of us, anyway- we drag Clare along into the fun, even though she says she doesn’t like that part!  Ha!  One day, I’ll have to tell you the game we played with the plungers and the toilet paper rolls…

Sherry plans the appetizers, dinner, desert, table decorations and hosts the event at her house most every year when we are not doing an overnight event.  I wish you could all experience being a guest at one of her parties.  She really thinks about the little things that make it such a fun experience.

Since I can’t invite you all, here are a few photos of the  decorations from this year’s party!


My mom has a green thumb (that I did NOT inherit).  These are on the walk that leads up to the front door.


Gratuitous close up shot.  Forgive me, I am having way too much fun with  my new camera.


Come on in!


First stop- the kitchen, of course!  Mom has these gorgeous clusters of decorations throughout her house.


Here’s a practical and beautiful arrangement on a tray.  That silver carafe was one of Oprah’s Favorite Things several years ago.  I think I need one this year for Christmas.  We will see if my husband is reading the blog.  Ha!


This corner is what is referred to as, “that place where the phone was.”  Mind you, my parents haven’t had a house phone for years and years.  But we all still know where we are talking about when we say it.


My mom’s new mirror in her living room- it doesn’t have anything to do with the party, but I love it so I had to take a picture of it!


Beauty even in the bathroom!


Here’s the dining room!  Isn’t that table beautiful?!


My place setting- so pretty!  The clock underneath is a cardstock print under a glass plate!  I thought that was a great trick!


Each of us had a little gift next to our plate, and inside was a cut glass clock to remind us of our evening together.


Our theme was, “Time with Friends,” so the centerpiece was perfect.


Here are the clocks from another angle.  I love how they sparkle and set off the greenery!

Here’s a quick shot of everyone’s gifts!

It makes me so excited for next year’s party!

The secret is out!

So, I’ve been quiet on the blog lately because I was making a bunch of homemade goodies as my Favorite Things gifts for our annual party.  But now that the party is over and the gifts have been given, I can talk more about the items I made!

First, I have to say how special all of these beautiful women are to me.  I love our time every year.  Everyone has made our gathering a priority and we eagerly look forward to it.  Nobody has missed a year, despite the ups and downs of life.


I’m using my phone as a remote control for the camera for the first time, maybe that explains the slightly crazy look on my face. Everyone was so patient! Top row is Nicole and Sherry, middle row is Jamie, Traci, Clare, and Marsha. I’m the one on the bottom!

I will write a detailed post about the party and the gifts that others gave in a later update.  Today, I want to share the goodies I made for everyone.


From left to right, I made cranberry vanilla granola, taco seasoning, homemade fig walnut jam, and vanilla extract!

Some of  you may remember my vanilla post from a while ago.  I just couldn’t resist posting about it because I had so much fun with the pictures!  But what I didn’t share is I made enough for my gifts!  The vanilla has turned such a lovely brown from the first photo.  When I give it a swirl in the bottle, I can see flecks of vanilla bean floating around- YUM!


This picture makes me so happy! I think because I love my home and I love these women, and this picture represents both!

I made little info tags for everyone on their gifts, so that they would know what it was, how to store it, etc.   I’m disappointed that this picture turned out so dark, but oh well.  That was before Jamie told me where the flash button was on my own camera…  ha!



Here it is all put together! I wrapped the jars and bottles together with my favorite sack cloth towels instead of tissue paper. I was praying the whole way up that the vanilla wouldn’t leak everywhere. Luckily, it all stayed intact!

I’m looking forward to sharing more party details with you soon!  But next up, be on the look out for details on the taco seasoning and the granola!

Fig Jam, or, My First Water Bath*

I have a fig tree in my back yard.  Most of you may think something along the lines of, “how cool is that!” or, “gee, I sure wish I had a fig tree in my backyard.”  People, no.  I hate that thing.  It’s massive and overgrown.  Did you know that 350 pound gorillas live in fig trees in the wild??  Imagine the kind of tree it would take to support that weight.  And now imagine my small suburban side yard where it grows.  Yeah.  And honestly, I’m not even a fan of fresh figs.  I regularly invite my friend Monica to come fill up a plastic sack with fresh figs in the summer.  And the squirrels love our backyard, much to Charlie’s general annoyance.

But this year, I decided I might as well do something productive with my figs.  I like fig jam, and since I’ve got free figs just hanging there, I picked a few late season ones for myself and stashed them in the freezer until the right time.  In the back of my mind, I had a vague idea forming to do some kind of homemade something for my Favorite Things gift this year.  For those of you who haven’t heard of the Oprah party, you really must read about it.

The recipe itself is very simple, requiring 3 cups of chopped figs, 2 cups of honey, and two tablespoons of lemon juice.  That’s it!  Boil in a medium pan and reduce heat, cooking for one hour.  Because I left the skins on, I used my immersion blender for a bit, then added a cup of chopped walnuts.  That part was the easy part.  The intimidating part was then canning the jam using the water bath method.  In the end, it wasn’t that bad!  I followed the process outlined on the Fresh Preserving website.


Here’s a picture of my set up.  The large silver pot is the one I used for the water bath.  It had a wire rack on the bottom and lots of water for processing.


I put the lids and bands in the pan on the rear of the stove to simmer.  Technically, that step isn’t required any more, but it made me feel better to do it.


I cooked the jam in the smaller pot for about an hour.


Here it is after using the stick blender and adding the walnuts.

The pressure was on at this point, because it’s important to work fast so the jam doesn’t cool too much.  I had my fancy jar funnel and I ladled in the jam.  After that, it is important to wipe down the rims of any excess because it can cause the jar to seal improperly.  Then, plunk them into the processing water.  Crank it up to a rolling boil and set the timer for ten minutes.  Set them on a towel and don’t touch them!  It’s easy to say, but hard to do!  I had set my first jar down and not ten seconds later, there was a pop of the lid sealing.  So cool!


And here’s the finished product!  It tastes, “like a Fig Newton,” according to Timmy.

I couldn’t resist – I toasted some bread and ate the remaining jam that wouldn’t fit in the jars.  And I have to say, I’m looking forward to the next fig growing season a little bit more now.

 * So, I was going to insert some really cute throwback 80’s lingo in here about jam, but apparently I’m old and it doesn’t mean what it used to…  See this hilarious article by the 818.