Dried Cherry and Coconut Granola

July 13, 2017


In the late 1970’s, my mother became obsessed with health food. It might have had just a little to do with surviving that whole, “You have lung cancer and are most assuredly going to die” business she’d been through the year before.

Maybe. We didn’t really talk about it.

For whatever reason, my mother began trolling the health food store in a neighboring town, stocking up on items I’d never seen or heard of before. Shelves in our house that had once contained Frosted Flakes and Ritz crackers were now stuffed with dried wheat berries, brown rice, garbanzo beans and [dreadfully] carob and banana chips. I’d open the refrigerator and see sacks of grassy-looking sprouts, avocados, seeded bread, vats of plain yogurt and jars of nut butters that you had to stir and stir to make palatable.

It was a dark time, in more ways than one.

For breakfast, Mama got addicted to bowls of granola–the kind that came in the bulk bins at the health food store. It was studded with every kind of dried fruit, seed and nut and, in my opinion, looked suspiciously like squirrel chow.

For two years straight, she greeted every morning with a bowl of her granola. I stuck to my cinnamon toast and my buttered English muffin. I wasn’t touching anything I couldn’t clearly identify or pronounce. My gradeschool ass was staying grounded in the familiar, thank you very much.

Once the 1980’s dawned, boxes of granola began appearing in our regular grocery store. Mama no longer had to make the 40-minute pilgrimage to “Hippie Heaven,” as Daddy called it, for her preferred breakfast. I was relieved. Somehow, granola that came in a regular-looking cereal box seemed less threatening. I kind of hoped she’d abandon the health food store altogether. It wasn’t that I didn’t want Mama to be healthy–I did–but I also preferred peanut butter that I didn’t have to beat into submission.

As luck would have it, she did ditch the health food store, but the granola (boxed) remained, at least for a while. Then one winter morning, as I was clearing my dishes from the table, I heard my mother gasp and mutter in disbelief.

“Whaaaa?” I heard. Then a rustle, rustle, of a box. “Jesus.” Rustle, shake. “You have to be kidding me.”

I turned the corner and found my mother standing in the pantry, scrutinizing the cereal box.

“This cereal,” she choked out. “This granola.”

I gave her a quizzical shrug.

“THIS DAMN CEREAL,” she said. “This healthy damn cereal that’s supposed to be good for you.” She glared at the picture of the Quaker Oatmeal Man on the front. “This cereal. Is fattening. As Hell.” And she promptly walked over to the garbage can, opened the lid, and tossed the nearly-full box right in.

Poor Mama.

Duped by false promises and faulty advertising and the blind belief that things you find in the health food aisle are good for you. It’s a product in the health food aisle! It should be healthy! Heck, it’s a product that you used to only be able to get at a health food store, 40 minutes away.

My mother was positively bitter. Betrayed by a man in a Pilgrim hat! Hoodwinked by the cereal industry!

“Healthy breakfast, my fat fanny,” my mother hissed, pawing through the pantry and scrutinizing every label she came into contact with, hucking items left and right. She’d learned her lesson and wasn’t about to be blindsided again.

That afternoon, I came home to a pantry stocked with plain old Corn Flakes and Rice Krispies. To peanut butter that didn’t require muscle. The affair was over.


While I look back on that incident fondly and with a smile, I can completely understand Mama’s fury. She’d had no idea that something billed as “health food” was loaded with sugar and trans fat. When she was dutifully dishing her granola out of the bin at the store, toting it home to store in a Tupperware, she was oblivious. Even when granola became available in a box, why would she distrust it enough to read the small information available on the package?

Mama learned the hard way that food can be sneaky.

Even now, in a time when we should know better, most of us rarely take the time to heed calories and serving sizes on boxes and packages. How many times have we scarfed down a snack, only to look at the packaging afterwards and find that that bag/bar/bottle contained two servings, not one? I know I have. And I consider myself careful.

I can’t really pinpoint where the blame lies, and it’s really not my business to preach on any level, but I will tell you that I don’t ever eat granola from the grocery store, for several reasons:

a) Even now, it’s still fattening as hell and many versions still are made with trans fat

b) Commercial granola is way to sweet for my taste

c) Store-bought granola seems criminally expensive

d) I can do far, far better making it at home and it’s ridiculously easy


I’m not going to lie to you and say that homemade granola is low-calorie. It’s not. The serving size is still pretty dang small (1/4-1/3 cup). You’re never going to eat a serving of granola and think, “Boy, I’m full.” You’re not. Which frankly, is why I don’t eat it that often because I’m a girl who likes to feel somewhat satisfied after a meal.


Sometimes I do crave granola, because it’s delicious and crave-able. I particularly crave it in the summertime, when I can sprinkle a few tablespoons over a pretty bowl of seasonal fruit, a swirl of yogurt and call it dessert (or breakfast). I can mix it into berries that are so naturally sweet that I know I can make my granola with a lot less sugar than the grocery store variety and it will still be plenty delicious. I can make it with less fat, the right kind of fat, the exact kind of nuts and ingredients I prefer. I can add any kind of weirdo exotic spice or ingredient I want.

I am the boss of my own granola when I make it from scratch, and I like that.

This kind is my current favorite, but you can tinker with whatever fruits, nuts, spices, quantities of sweetener that pleases you. I even reduce the sugar than is called for in this recipe sometimes, depending on how I plan to serve it. I like my granola just barely sweet and aggressively spiced, but that’s me. I love, love, love the addition of unsweetened coconut chips in this recipe and wouldn’t omit them but if you hate coconut, I get it. Unsweetened coconut chips can be hard to find–I get mine at Whole Foods but sometimes they’re out and I have to go through Amazon. I think they’re worth the trouble. I like tart dried cherries but if you are a cranberry or raisin person, go for it.

You get the idea.

Don’t mess too much with the fat content of the recipe; it calls for really the bare minimum I think you can use and get an end product that’s tasty. Use less and you’ll be sorry. Super low-fat granolas are disappointing and not worth eating. But if you use a little perspective, 1/2 a cup of a good fat for a recipe that yields 11 cups of granola is not bad at all. And yes, you can use coconut oil, which is all the rage right now. I tend not to use it because it’s a little more saturated than grapeseed or olive oil, but I think it’s fine.

You can even go a little renegade and add some hunks of dark chocolate for a real treat. Hey, life’s made for living. My Mama definitely taught me that.



Overnight Dried Cherry and Coconut Granola

makes about 11 cups


4 cups old-fashioned rolled oats

1 1/2 cups slivered almonds

1 cup shelled unsalted pistachios (or walnuts or hazelnuts), roughly chopped

1 cup unsweetened coconut chips or unsweetened shredded coconut

1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1 teaspoon table salt

1/2 teaspoon ground cardamom

3/4 cup pure maple syrup

1/2 cup olive oil or grapeseed oil

1/4 cup packed dark brown sugar

3/4 cup dried cherries, preferably unsweetened

optional for the sweet-toothed: 1/2 cup roughly chopped dark chocolate


The night before:

Position a rack in the center of the oven and heat to 350.

Line a large heavy-duty rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper or a Silpat liner.

Combine oats, almonds, pistachios, coconut, cinnamon, salt, and cardamom in a large bowl. Add the maple syrup, oil, and brown sugar and stir well.

Spread mixture out onto prepared baking sheet and bake until just starting to turn golden, about 15 minutes.

Turn off the oven, stir the granola mixture on baking sheet, then close the door. Let granola sit in oven overnight or for at least 6 hours.

In the morning:

Transfer the granola to a large bowl, breaking up any large chunks. Stir in the dried cherries and serve.

{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

elizabeth July 13, 2017 at 8:06 am

I interned at a regional bread company specializing in whole-grain breads in college (and they also distributed those European and Euro-style bread brick things) and a.) I spent a LOT of time that summer hanging out in various health food stores in southeast PA and central Jersey, and b.) I had to always stop myself from buying their damn granola because it was tasty, but it was, you know, granola.

Granola is to the 70s and 80s what energy bars are to the 00s and now–yes, they have their uses, but usually they’re intended to be energy/calorie-rich sources for when you’re out and about and need something substantial after hiking or biking or climbing all day. I don’t eat them often, but even now if I have a CLIF bar after a workout or similar, I only have half of one and save the rest for later.


Dana Talusani July 14, 2017 at 9:26 am


I agree–granola was designed for those hard-core exercisers, not couch potatoes like the most of us! Mama certainly needed the calories after losing quite a bit of weight, although I don’t think she’d concur with me on that one. I never eat those PowerBar things, since I rarely do more than my daily 3-mile walk!


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