Toddler Meal: Alex Guarnaschelli's Homemade Granola

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Food Network's Alex Guarnaschelli

Food Network's Alexandra Guarnaschelli,

super chef and toddler mom.

Even pro chefs like The Food Network's Alexandra Guarnaschelli, host of The Cooking Loft and judge of Chopped!, have to deal with picky-eating toddlers from time to time. (Read what she says about getting kids to overcome "Chicken Finger Syndrome" and saving money on groceries in Food & Party Buzz.) She, like you, wants her kiddo, 2-year-old Ava, to eat healthily -- which does not include all those sugary cereals that hypnotize toddlers in the grocery store.

"As a child, I always coveted those cereals, only to be whisked cruelly to the health food aisle by my mother," Guarnaschelli says. "We ate Muesli and peanut butter where the oil would separate to the top and had to be stirred for 3 solid minutes before spreading. I always vowed (silently) that I would be a 'cool' adult and let my child have whatever cereal they please. Now, it doesn't look like I will ever grant that wish!"

Guarnaschelli found that Homemade Granola is one thing her toddler will definitely eat.

"I love the idea that you can make your own, like a signature blend of coffee," she says. "After a lot of experimenting with different ingredients, I finally achieved a combination that works for me."

It might work for you, too. Just be aware that this recipe contains nuts and dried fruit, so your toddler needs to have some teeth to eat it. And you might want to check with your doctor first about potential choking hazards.

Guarnaschelli uses the "unsulphured" or untreated dried fruits, which aren't as vibrant in color. She likes to combine a nut with the skin on it (for example, a hazelnut) with another that has been skinned (for example, whole almonds).

Alex Guarnaschelli's Homemade Granola

Prep time: 5 mins.

Cook time: 30 mins.

You'll need:

3 cups rolled oats

½ cup shredded and unsweetened coconut

½ cup hazelnuts (with the skin, if available)

½ cup whole blanched almonds

½ cup shelled sunflower seeds

½ teaspoon ground cinnamon

1 teaspoon Kosher salt

2 tablespoons unsalted butter

½ cup honey (or experiment with half honey and half maple syrup, if desired)

½ cup dried cherries

½ cup dried apricots

Make it:

1. Preheat the oven to 300 F.

2. In a large bowl, combine the coconut, hazelnuts, almonds, sunflower seeds, cinnamon and salt. Mix thoroughly.

3. In a small pan, gently melt the butter and add the honey. Pour the mixture over the dry ingredients and mix thoroughly. Spread out evenly on a baking sheet.

4. Place the tray in the center of the oven and bake 20 minutes. Remove the tray from the oven and touch the pieces. Taste a piece to make sure it is sweet enough for you. If not, drizzle some additional honey over the tray. Bake for an additional 10 minutes.

5. Remove from the oven. Stir in the dried fruits and grate the lemon zest over it for freshness. Allow to cool and know that it will get crispier as it gets cooler.

Check back next Thursday for another great recipe. Got a favorite toddler friendly meal or snack of your own to share with other idea-strapped mamas? Let me know about it and I may feature it here.

And in case you missed it, find Guarnaschelli's frugal and fun recipe ideas for cooking with rice in Food & Party Buzz.

Past Toddler Meals:

Happy Face Baked Pancakes

Yogurt Fruit Salad

Vegetarian Chili

Fruit Salsa With Cinnamon Crisps

Taco Cups

Sweet-and-Sour Chicken

Italian Goulash

Parmesan Risotto

Chicken Sausages

Easy Quesadillas

Barbecue Cups

Healthy Ketchup

Cinnamon Raisin Roll-Ups

Hot Dogs with Mashed Potatoes

toddler meal