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I am a big advocate of cooking from scratch. Food made this way always tastes better than its commercially prepared counterpart and is usually cheaper.

Another important advantage is ingredient control. Children are notorious picky eaters, but there are plenty of adults who wouldn’t eat a raisin if their life depended on it. Being able to prepare a dish to your exact specifications prevents a lot of dinner table trauma. Granola is a case in point

Granola or granula — call it what you want. Thought to be a hippie food, granola has origins as old as the hills.

In 1863, James C. Jackson, a contemporary of Sylvester Graham and Harvey Kellogg, decided to bake whole grain flour in sheets until dry and then break it into small pieces. He called his product granula. Harvey Kellogg developed a similar product, but because of a lawsuit brought by Jackson, Kellogg changed the name to granola.

There are many varieties of granola on the shelves. They range in price from about $4.50 to about $7.50 per pound. As a comparison, rolled oats cost less than a dollar per pound.

At the low end of the granola price range, you’ll find corn syrup and a bunch of ingredients you can’t pronounce. At the high end of the scale, there is some excellent granola, but it still might not be exactly what your family wants.

If you can stir things in a bowl, you have the skill set to make granola. Just ask any former hippie. In less than 10 minutes, you can mix up a batch and have it in the oven.

The basis for most granola is oats. You start there and add a binder, some sweetener and whatever else pleases your fancy.

Below is a basic recipe. Personalize it as you wish.

Granola

2 cups old-fashioned oats

1/2 cup wheat germ

2 tablespoons dark brown sugar

1/4 teaspoon salt

1 cup extra ingredients* (mix and match)

1/4 cup maple syrup

3 tablespoons vegetable oil (not olive oil)

1 tablespoon water

1/2 to 1 teaspoon flavoring**

Dried fruit (raisins, dried cranberries, chopped apricots, banana chips, etc.)

Preheat the oven to 275 degrees.

Mix oats, wheat germ, brown sugar, salt and the cup of extra ingredients — except dried fruit — in a bowl.

Place syrup, oil, water and flavoring in a microwave-safe bowl. Heat for 30 seconds.

Add the heated mixture to the oat mixture, and stir well to combine.

Firmly pat the mixture onto a 13-by-18-inch jelly roll pan.

Bake for 45 minutes, and then remove from the oven to cool.

Using a spatula, remove the granola from the pan, breaking apart the granola into bite-size pieces.

Mix in the dried fruit.

*Suggested extra ingredients: Sunflower seeds, hulled pumpkin seeds, coconut, slivered almonds, chopped hazelnuts, chopped walnuts, pistachios, chopped pecans, flax seed and sesame seed.

**Suggested flavorings: cinnamon, orange zest, vanilla, almond extract and ginger.

— Julie Falsetti, a York native, comes from a long line of good cooks. Her column, From Scratch, runs twice monthly in The York Dispatch food section.

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