Maureen Kawaoka's aunt showed up at a mini-family reunion last summer bearing something more welcome than old photos or tales of days gone by.

"My aunt from Washington state shared bags of her granola that my brother and I renamed 'Da Bomb,' " says Kawaoka, of El Cerrito. "I was never a big granola fan but am certainly a convert now and love to snack on it. My aunt kindly and generously shared the recipe with me, and I've already made five batches in three months, most of which I've given away -- and made new converts."

Kawaoka passed along the recipe because I asked for homemade granolas to eat with Greek yogurt. But I'm also thinking about making several batches to pass out to friends this Christmas. Like many granola recipes, her aunt's olive oil granola allows you to make the recipe your own. You can use a combination of unsalted raw nuts and toss in your favorite dried fruits. Cinnamon, cardamom and maple syrup add even more flavor.

When it comes to granola, "it's all about the ingredients," Jennifer Schaefer says. She advises using real maple syrup and a good locally produced honey for the best results.

I scored a couple of jars on a recent run to McIvor's Hardware in Fremont. Yep, that's right. I found local honey at the hardware store. McIvor's is an institution in the Mission San Jose neighborhood, the kind of store that not only sells you the part you need, but shows you how to make the repair. The folks at McIvor's talk the neighborhood kids, including mine, through school and Eagle Scout projects and support the neighborhood beekeeper by selling her honey.

If you don't have a McIvor's in your life, check local farmers markets for honey. This time of year, you're also likely to find honey, jams and other homey kitchen goods at boutiques.

Schaefer's recipe offers flexibility, along with the good honey and maple syrup. In addition to the raw nuts and coconut, she says you can add flaxseeds, wheat germ, bran, hemp seeds or sesame seeds. Add your favorite dried fruits to the cooled mixture.

Request line

  • Carolyn Bowen of Los Gatos enjoyed a recent article on hot cocoa. She wonders, though, about the key to duplicating the hot chocolate "served at many cafes in Europe. Nice and thick. Any suggestions?" If you've got other dessert recipes that play off the cozy wonderfulness of hot chocolate -- cake? cupcakes? -- please share those as well.

    Send recipes and requests to Kim Boatman at HomePlates@bayareanewsgroup.com. Find recent Home Plates recipes online at www.mercurynews.com/home-plates.