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[Photograph: Lucy Baker]

I used to have a roommate whose mother sent her packages of the most delicious homemade granola. There were many mornings when, finding myself alone in the kitchen, I dipped into her stash. What was a tablespoon here or a fourth a cup there? I knew I was committing a roommate foul by stealing her food, but I just couldn't help myself. Her mom's granola was irresistibly delicious: crunchy and full of clusters, and studded with toasted nuts and juicy nuggets of dried fruit.

Since then, I've become pretty good at making granola myself. This recipe is my all-time favorite. In its most basic form, it combines oats, shredded coconut, pumpkin seeds, and almonds with brown sugar, maple syrup, and dried cranberries and peaches. But you should think of it as a template rather than a rigid recipe. This time, I also tossed in a handful of dried strawberries. You could swap the almonds for pecans or walnuts, or use honey instead of maple syrup.

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Making granola is easy. Even so, here are a few tips and pointers. To keep your granola from burning, always bake it in the bottom third of the oven. Stir often, especially at the edges of the pan. When it comes to oven temperature, air on the side of caution. If your recipe says 325° but you feel like your nuts are toasting too fast, turn it down to 300° or even a little below. Lastly, always stir the fruit in at the end, after your granola is out of the oven and has cooled to room temperature.

The green pumpkin seeds and bright red cranberries in this granola make it an ideal Christmas gift. Each batch yields about six cups, which is enough for three small bags or jars. It will keep well for up to two weeks, stored in an airtight container at room temperature.

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