I heard on the news the other day that in the past 33 days here in Maine, we’ve had rain on 26 of them. It’s been a wet, cold summer so far, which is not my favorite kind of summer. But I’m trying to stay positive, and one good thing about having a cool summer is that I can continue to bake granola a couple of times a week.

I love to eat granola on yogurt, with fresh fruit, and as a topping on desserts. A couple of months ago I decided I’d try making my own. I’d tried before and had always been disappointed (and left with piles of granola that no one wanted to eat). This time I was determined to come up with a recipe that everyone enjoyed. These were a few things I learned:

1. Do not overcook. This is easy to do and was clearly the biggest problem I had all along. Cook at a low temperature for a longer period of time, and remove before oats and nuts get “singed”.

2. Add the extras after cooking. I used to throw in dried fruits before baking. Doh! They’re already dry and not only don’t need extra cooking, they become pellets if they get it. Add them when the granola is cooked and cooled.

3. Add the nuts halfway through the cook time. Almonds are my favorite, but if you want to add other nuts and seeds, they may not need the full cook time to become toasted. Add these items later on when you stir the granola.

Here’s my new favorite recipe for Tropical Twist Granola:

4 cups oats
1 cup shredded coconut
1/2 to 1 cup wheat germ
1/4 to 1/2 cup maple syrup (you can also use honey)
2 Tablespoons olive oil
1/2 tsp of citrus oils (I enjoy 1/4 tsp each of lemon and lime, but orange is also good) Please note, I’m not talking about essential oils here, but citrus oils. I buy mine at King Arthur Flour.

Mix all ingredients in a large mixing bowl until moistened (easiest to use your hands). Spread onto cookie sheets in thin layers (use pans with raised edges). Bake in oven at 250° for 20 minutes, then stir and add any nuts/seeds you want to toast. Bake for another 20 minutes. Stir a final time and bake for another 5-10 minutes, but no longer! (Much better to undercook a little than to overcook, in my experience.) Remove from oven, allow to cool, and add dried fruits, other nuts and seeds, etc. Dried papaya, mango, and pineapple would be great in this Tropical Twist Granola. Or you can store the basic granola in a sealed container without fruits and seeds, and then add fresh or dried fruits to each serving.

For Spicy Cranapple Granola: Try substituting vanilla for the citrus oil before baking (I’d add about a tablespoon of vanilla in this basic recipe), then adding dried cranberries and apples, 2 tsp cinnamon and 1/2 tsp nutmeg to the finished recipe. How about Chocolate Cherry Granola? Add 1 tsp almond extract, then dried cherries and mini chocolate chips. Making your own granola is fun, and ideal since you can control the amounts of oil and sweeteners you add. It’s also much more economical than store-bought.

Have you ever made granola before? What flavor combinations do you like? Please share in the comments below!