A great way to start the day (along with a cup of strong coffee)…

I’m a granola addict.  I went through two large jars of  this granola, by myself, in less than a week.  Didn’t have any help.  Fortunately, have since restocked and am ready to make another batch (added bonus, baking the granola makes the house smell super fragrant).

Do you have a grocery store nearby with a bulk section — great for gathering ingredients for making granola (among other things).  Just a little of this or, maybe, that; or now that I reconsider, maybe not such a good thing, as I typically come home with much more than I initially planned.  Not to mention that I’m constantly running out of glass containers to store everything, which necessitates yet another trip to The Container Store for extra jars.

Nonetheless, you can find all sorts of interesting ingredients in the bulk aisle to transform your ordinary granola into something a bit more interesting.  Today’s batch of granola has several traditional ingredients and a few unusual ones to mix things up a bit.

Have you ever tried adding millet or chia seeds or barley (kamut, spelt, or rye) flakes to your granola?

Millet — Although often used as the main ingredient in bird seed, millet is not just “for the birds.”  It adds a really nice crunch to granola when baked in the oven.
Chia Seeds — Yes, chia, the same seeds used in chia pets; highly touted for their nutritional superiority (high in alpha-linolenic [omega-3] fatty acid and all that jazz).
Barley Flakes — Or other flakes such as kamut, spelt, rye; similar in texture to rolled oats, but with more crunch.

Get creative….

Great for nibbling on its own or mixed in with thick, Greek-style yogurt, fresh fruit, and a drizzle of honey.

I wasn’t kidding when I said ‘lots of jars’…

Some interesting [nutritional] facts about honey can be found here. Look for raw honey at your local farmers’ market.  Local raw honey often costs more, but like so many other things, you get what you pay for.  Some interesting (and sad) tidbits about supermarket honey…

The nutrients and enzymes in raw honey remain intact, as opposed to much of the honey found in supermarkets. Studies show that in nearly all honey found in supermarkets/drug stores, the pollen has been filtered out of products labeled “honey”.  Ultra filtering is a high-tech procedure where honey is heated, sometimes watered down and then forced at high pressure through extremely small filters to remove pollen, which is the only foolproof sign identifying the source of the honey (a technique refined by the Chinese who have illegally dumped tons of their honey on the US market — often contaminated with pesticides and antibiotics, and cut with corn syrup). The Food and Drug Administration says that any product that’s been ultra-filtered and no longer contains pollen isn’t honey. However, the FDA isn’t checking honey to see if it contains pollen.

Millet Tahini Granola

3 1/2 cups old-fashioned oats
1 cup barley flakes
1/2 cup coarsely chopped nuts (pecans, almonds)
1/2 cup pumpkin seeds
1/2 cup unsweetened dried coconut flakes
1/2 cup millet
1 tablespoon chia or flax seeds
1 heaping tablespoon ground cinnamon
Pinch of salt
1/3 cup vegetable oil
1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons good quality (preferably local, raw) honey
1/2 cup seed/nut butter (such as tahini or peanut butter; tahini will be more subtle whereas peanut butter more pronounced)
Dried fruit (optional)

Preheat oven to 325 degrees.  Line two baking sheets with parchment paper.

In a large bowl, mix the oats, nuts, pumpkin seeds, coconut flakes, millet, barley flakes, chia (or flax) seeds, cinnamon, and salt.  Combine the oil, honey, and tahini (or peanut) butter in a small pot and mix well.  Heat over low-medium heat, about 1 minute, stirring until just warmed through.  Drizzle the mixture over the granola and mix well.

Distribute the granola onto two baking sheets.  Bake in the oven (upper and middle racks) for about 40 minutes, mixing the granola and rotating the trays every 10 to 15 minutes until the granola turns golden brown.  Remove from the oven, mix in the dried fruit (if using), and spread out evenly, and allow to cool.

Note: The key to forming large granola clusters is to allow the granola to cool completely before removing from the baking sheets.  While still warm, gently press down on the granola (with the back of a baking sheet) to help it clump together.  The seed/nut butter also acts as a “glue” to help form large clusters.

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