Healthy Granola with a Pre-Hispanic Grain

Screen Shot 2015-10-28 at 9.02.21 AMBy Brooke Gazer

When we opened Agua Azul la Villa fifteen years ago we would purchase granola to serve with breakfast. Over time it seemed that there were more oats and a lot less of the “good stuff” in each package. I asked myself “How hard can it be to make granola”? It turned out not to be very difficult at all. To me, what makes a granola great is to have a diversity of flavors and textures and to be rich in protein and other nutrients. After some experimenting this is what we serve.

This is not like baking a cake; measurements do not need to be exact, feel free to improvise a bit. I make a big batch and freeze most of it to keep it fresh; you may want to cut the recipe in half since this one makes about 24 cups or about 5 pounds. Do not forget to turn it frequently or it may burn or you could end up with a very large granola bar!

The combination of both honey and molasses gives it a more complex essence. You are unlikely to find a tin of molasses in Huatulco, so here is what you do… buy a block of “Panela” (these dark brown sugar loafs are sold at any fruit market) and dissolve it in boiling water. Store the remainder in the fridge. Last year we were fortunate to have a Doctor of Nutrition as a guest and he assured me that a 1/3 cup serving of this granola packs more protein than 2 eggs… so indulge yourself.

What the heck is Amaranth

Amaranth (Amaranto in Spanish) is a pre-Hispanic grain that dates back about 8,000 years. It was used by the Aztecs and the Mayans, both as a staple food and in celebrating religious ceremonies. In an attempt by the church to destroy all native traditions which they considered pagan, the Spaniards outlawed the cultivation of this grain. Crops were burned by the conquistadors and Amaranth had practically disappeared from Mexico by the later part of the 1600’s.

Like quinoa, amaranth is not technically a grain but a seed. A single plant may produce up to 60,000 little seeds and some of these teeny seeds were carried away by the wind before they could be destroyed. A simple act of nature permitted this resilient plant to survive as a weed in some remote areas of Mexico. Miraculously the genetic base was preserved to be revived centuries later.

In the early 1970’s amaranth was discovered to be extremely rich in several nutrients, causing a resurgence of commercial interest in the plant. By the end of that decade a few thousand acres were dedicated to its cultivation. Originally sales were limited to health food stores but today it can be found in a wide range of supermarkets. In Huatulco, both Super Che and Soriana stock it under its Spanish name.

This small pale colored morsel has a mild nutty flavor and is packed with nutrients. It is considered a “super grain” because it offers more iron, calcium, protein, manganese, fiber, and other phytonutrients than wheat or rice. It is one of the most protein rich plant-based foods and rivals some animalbased protein such as cheese. This granola recipe contains other gluten ingredients, but it is worth noting that Amaranth does not contain gluten so it could be ground into flour and used with a combination of grains in gluten free recipes.

Agua Azul Granola

  • 8-10 C Oatmeal
  • 3C Puffed wheat
  • 2 C Salted halved peanuts
  • 3 C Peanuts with their skin
  • 1 ½ C Amaranth
  • 1½ C Sunflower seeds
  • 1½ C Sesame seeds
  • 1½ C Chopped nuts (pecans, almonds, cashews or hazelnuts)

Mix all dry ingredients in a very BIG bowl.

  • 1 ½ C Canola oil
  • ¾ C Honey
  • ¾ C Molasses
  • 1 -2 Tsp Salt
  • 1-2 Tbs. Cinnamon

Preparation

  • Pour liquids over dry ingredients and mix well.
  • Sprinkle salt and cinnamon as you are mixing.
  • Spread over 2 large cookie sheets
  • Bake at 350° F for about 40 – 50 minutes
  • Turn the mixture every 10 -15 minutes
  • About 10 -15 minutes before it is done, add 1 C Shredded coconut
  • Cook another 10 -15 minutes
  • Take out of oven stir and let cool
  • add 1 C Raisins and or chopped dried fruit.

Can be stored in the freezer for 1 – 2 months in tightly wrapped bags. *Be careful not to overcook the coconut; it will continue to brown a bit after it comes out of the oven.

Brooke Gazer operates Agua Azul la Villa, an ocean-view B&B. * www.bbaguaazul.com

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