lara's birdfeeder granola / by Annie Jefferson

In college we used to make fun of my friend Lara because she’s from Colorado and she’s really laid back and wears loose jeans, loves hiking and also granola, which somewhere along the way became the ultimate hippie truism. Turns out, joke’s on us because granola is great. And while we’re sitting around nursing our wounds from our 20’s, Lara’s still out there hiking and eating granola. So, this one’s for Lara.

This is my absolute favorite granola recipe. It produces slightly sweet and slightly salty, crunchy yet mouth-melting knots of grains and seeds, many of which are the building blocks of the delicacy known as birdseed. It’s the unexpected variety of grains and seeds that elevate this granola, not just with their impressive nutritional profiles, but also the great range of both flavor and texture they bring to each cluster.

Granola is a combination of grains, nuts and seeds, dried fruit if you please, sweetener and some kind of liquid binding agent. During the baking process - without which in its raw form it would simply be a muesli - the whole mixture bonds together to create crunchy clusters of varying size and consistency, depending on your method and ingredients (tips on how to get that large chunk below).

You don’t need a recipe or even a special trip to the store to make granola. Just stay close to the ratio below and add whatever you want within the categories. Here are some ideas:

Grains3 cups
oats, buckwheat, quinoa, sorghum, rye, barley, rice, millet

Sweetener1/2 – 3/4 cup
honey, agave, maple syrup, coconut sugar, brown sugar, date sugar, blackstrap molasses

Nuts: 1/2 – 1 cup
walnuts, pecans, macadamia nuts, cashews, pistachio, marcona almonds, hazelnuts, pine nuts

Seeds: 1/2 – 1 cup
sunflower, pumpkin, sesame, flax, poppy, hemp, chia

Liquid1/4 – 1/2 cup
vegetable oil, olive oil, coconut oil, butter, applesauce, egg white

Dried fruit1/2 – 1 cup
cranberries, golden raisins, cherries, apricots, figs, mangoes, apples

Spices, etcto taste
ginger, cardamom, clove, vanilla extract, chile powder, cacao nibs, chai, rosemary

The key to this particular recipe is the special blend that forms the base, made from a combination of buckwheat groats, quinoa, and millet, and flax, sesame, pumpkin and sunflower seeds. Together these nuts and seeds round all the bases when it comes to nutrients and vitamins – the perfect proteins will keep you full for hours. I always keep a reserve of this mixture in a jar – I’ll often soak it overnight and cook it as oatmeal the next morning.

I like my granola with a lot of textured grains and seeds, but I prefer to eat it with fresh fruit rather than directly mixing in dried fruit, so you won’t find any of that here. And I like my granola a 3 out of 10 when it comes to sweetness (with store-bought granola being a 10 on the sugar scale…you may as well buy a candy bar). If you're vegan, the egg white can be omitted (just increase your other liquids by 1-2 tablespoons), however it’s one half of the secret to getting those large chunks to stick together. The other half is resisting at all costs the temptation to touch or stir the firm sheet that’s forming as it bakes in the oven and rests afterwards. Hands off!

If you succeed in hands off, you'll be impressed by the large sheet of granola that forms, how satisfyingly it breaks into bite-size chunks, and the clusters that feel like they dissolve in your mouth. Give it a go, top it with greek yogurt and fresh fruit and your favorite nut milk, and be sure to thank that hippie granola girl Lara in Colorado as you crunch along.

INGREDIENTS
1/3 cup millet
1/3 cup red quinoa
1/3 cup buckwheat
2 cups old fashioned rolled oats
1/4 cup flax seeds
1/4 cup sesame seeds
1/4 cup sunflower seeds
1/2 cup pumpkin seeds
1/2 cup raw walnuts, halved
1/2 cup raw almonds, roughly chopped
1 cup unsweetened coconut shavings
1 1/4 teaspoon fine grain sea salt
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
2/3 cup raw honey
1/4 cup coconut oil
1 tablespoon brown sugar
1 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 egg white

METHOD
Measure and mix all dry ingredients (grains, oats, seeds, nuts, spices) in a large mixing bowl. Heat the coconut oil in a saucepan over low heat. Once melted, stir in the honey and vanilla extract. Pour the wet ingredients into the dry and mix well. Then stir in the egg white until everything is combined.

Pour mixture onto baking sheet. Spread it out to form a compact rectangle. Press down firmly on the mixture with the back of your hand or a spatula.

Bake the granola at 300°F for 45 minutes to 1 hour without stirring. With 20 minutes time remaining, remove tray and press coconut shavings down firmly onto the top. Continue baking for remaining time

You will know when it’s done when your kitchen smells like cookies and the top is golden brown. Remove from oven and let rest without breaking for an additional 20 minutes. It will continue to firm up as it cools, so don’t worry if it feels a little soft when it first comes out.

Once cool, break the granola sheet apart with your hands or use a spatula to assist. Store in an air tight container in a cool, dark place.