Maple Olive Oil Pecan Granola. (Dixie D. Vereen/For The Washington Post)

On Sunday afternoons, I make granola. I stir together pantry essentials, oats and nuts and fruit, and after baking, when the cereal is entirely cool, I fill a large glass jar and tighten the bright orange lid. It’s one of many jars about which I am absurdly nostalgic.

This jar came from my grandmother’s house sometime in the late 1970s, when she filled it with cookies to sustain me on a drive back to college. There are other special jars tucked away on shelves in the basement, the kitchen and even my office: A small, heart-shaped jar that once contained mustard, now baking powder. A tiny jar that used to hold saffron (it’s empty, but in the cupboard anyway). A tall jar filled with buttons. Another with seashells. A dozen pale blue, early 20th-century canning jars that held flowers for weddings, bat mitzvahs and showers.

Many of us collect jars that appeal in function or form, and they do stack up. So declutter your jar collection and bring joy to another. Those jars are your delivery vehicle, and granola is the gift. This big batch of granola will take barely more than an hour to make, bake, cool and package.

Granola is a friendly food. In my house, it’s breakfast most mornings, a go-to topping for yogurt, a textural addition to muffins and the easiest crispy surface for a fruity baked dessert.

The recipe is flexible. If you don’t have pecans, add more almonds. If you’re not a dried-fruit person, omit it. If you like coconut, add it. When I developed the recipe, nearly 20 years ago, I wanted to replace the sugar and butter that were the base of most homemade granola recipes at the time. Since then, many recipes have embraced olive oil, but grapeseed, safflower, canola and coconut oils may also be used.

If your preference is for granola in clusters, add a little more oil and a little more maple syrup (up to 1/4 cup each), and do not stir the cereal as it bakes. It will clump up nicely and have even more crunch.

Here we are, fully into the holiday season. There are bell ringers and interminably long elevator rides with earworm-guaranteeing music, too many sweets in the house, catalogues stuffing the mailbox, dusk at 4:30 and the pressure to deliver. Gifting for co-workers in holiday sweaters, teachers and caretakers, the butcher, the baker and the candlestick maker. It can be overwhelming. Are you holding on to a few pretty jars? Fill them with granola, and DIY your way to all those festive occasions. From my pantry to yours, happy holidays.

Barrow is the author of “Mrs. Wheelbarrow’s Practical Pantry: Recipes and Techniques for Year-Round Preserving” (W.W. Norton, 2014). She blogs at She will join Wednesday’s Free Range chat at

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Maple Olive Oil Pecan Granola. (Dixie D. Vereen/For The Washington Post)
Maple Olive Oil Pecan Granola

12 servings (makes 12 cups)

This is a forgiving granola recipe that readily customizes to fit your taste, budget or pantry. Maintain the ratio of oats to nuts and seeds (and dried fruits, if you’re a dried-fruit person), and have at it. Olive oil can be replaced with coconut oil, grapeseed or safflower oil, or melted butter. Swap out the syrup for honey, brown sugar or palm sugar or even citrus-zest-scented sugar. The raisins and dried cherries can be omitted altogether, but consider swapping in coconut or, dates, or dried mango, pineapple, banana or apple.

It’s easy enough to make this recipe every Sunday night for a week of breakfasts, yogurt toppings and fruit crumbles — ready when you are.

MAKE AHEAD: The granola will stay fresh for about a week. Or you can freeze it for up to a month; defrost on a baking sheet and toast in the oven, if needed, to re-crisp.

From Cathy Barrow, the author of “Mrs. Wheelbarrow’s Practical Pantry: Recipes and Techniques for Year-Round Preserving” (W.W. Norton, 2014).


6 cups rolled oats (do not use quick-cooking or instant)

1 cup slivered almonds

1/2 cup hulled, raw pumpkin seeds (pepitas)

1/2 cup raw, unsalted sunflower seeds

2 cups pecan halves, broken by hand into bite-size pieces

1/2 cup maple syrup

1/2 cup olive oil

1 tablespoon ground cinnamon

1 tablespoon vanilla extract

2 teaspoons kosher salt

11/2 cups golden raisins (optional)

11/2 cups dried cherries, chopped (optional)


Position oven racks in the upper and lower thirds of the oven; preheat to 325 degrees. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper.

Stir together the oats, almonds, pumpkin and sunflower seeds and pecans in a large mixing bowl. Add the maple syrup, oil, cinnamon, vanilla extract and salt; toss well to coat. Spread evenly between the two baking sheets; bake (upper and lower racks) for 15 minutes, rotating the sheets top to bottom and front to back halfway through.

Remove from the oven and immediately divide the golden raisins and dried cherries between the two baking sheets, if using, stirring them in well so the hot granola plumps the fruit.

Cool thoroughly before storing in an airtight container.

Nutrition | Per half cup: 250 calories, 6 g protein, 21 g carbohydrates, 17 g fat, 2 g saturated fat, 0 mg cholesterol, 95 mg sodium, 4 g dietary fiber, 6 g sugar

Recipe tested by Cathy Barrow; e-mail questions to food@washpost.