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Millet, or Why You Should Be Eating Birdseed

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Every week, Shauna Ahern of Gluten-Free Girl and the Chef -- and Gluten-Free Girl Everyday -- will be sharing smart tips and smarter recipes that will please even the most devout gluten-eaters among us. Come one, come all -- we're going flourless. 

Today: You may think you have never eaten or seen millet -- but you have. Here's why you should start working it into your meals. 

Look closely at that photo. Does it look familiar? It should, because millet fills most birdseed mixes. That's right: if you're gluten-free (or even if you're not), I'm encouraging you to eat birdseed. 

But really, it's not so bad. Millet is one of the most delicious whole grains you have the opportunity to eat. Because most people haven't eaten it -- and associate it with food for the birds -- millet is one of the least expensive whole grains available at the market. And it has been grown for nearly 10,000 years, in ancient China and other Asian countries.

That's the funny thing about the gluten-free grains now starting to appear in American homes: they seem unfamiliar, strange, a little daunting. But those same gluten-free grains, like sorghum, teff, amaranth, and quinoa, have been the staple crops of people around the world for thousands of years.

If you think millet sounds boring, think of what you can do with it: make it into a creamy, sweet porridge with butter and muscovado sugar. Add cheese and chives for a savory take. Make fritters from cooked millet, and top with mushrooms and Parmesan. Try millet waffles with smoked salmon, creme fraiche, and capers. (Actually, that one is in our new cookbook.) 

More: A cheesy millet porridge the whole family will enjoy.

Millet has this wonderful chameleon quality: it takes on the flavors of everything around it. You can pair it with onions, eggs, and cheese for a deeply savory dish or surround it with cinnamon, sugar, and soy milk for a sweet end to the evening. You decide.

Millet flour is one of my favorite whole grain flours for gluten-free baking. It's one of the three flours in our all-purpose flour mix. It lends protein, a slightly nutty taste, and a good crumb to quick breads and savory breads alike. It's pretty essential in our kitchen. 

So the next time someone asks me if I eat birdseed if I'm gluten-free, I'll proudly say yes! Indeed, I do eat millet. And I love it.

Top photo by Shauna Ahern, bottom photo by James Ransom 

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Tags: Bake, Gluten-Free