Optional Add Ins: 1/2 cup of chocolate chips* (pre bake - see note). OR a few handfuls of chopped dried fruit such as chopped Turkish apricot, sour cherries, cranberries or raisins (post bake).
Line a sheet pan with parchment paper and set oven to 275F (135C). Place a baking rack in the center of the oven.
In a mixing bowl, add the rolled oats, pecans, coconut, sunflower seeds, salt, cinnamon, and chocolate chips (optional). Set aside.
In a spouted measuring cup, combine the melted coconut oil, maple syrup and vanilla bean paste. Stir. You will see separation. If the coconut oil solidifies, gently rewarm it in the microwave to keep it in a liquid state.
Pour wet ingredients into the dry. Using a wooden spoon or your hands, mix throughly, ensuring that each, individual dry ingredient gets some wet on it. Press the granola into the pan, in one even layer.
Place the pan in preheated oven and bake at 275F (135C) for 1 hour. Rotate the pan, turn the oven up to 300F (148C), and bake for an additional 20-25 minutes OR until golden. Do not stir the granola, or clustering will be greatly reduced.
Remove from the oven. The granola will be golden and soft to the touch. It will firm up as it cools. Allow the granola to cool completely in the pan before transferring to a storage container. Doing this will ensure crunchy clusters. If desired, toss in your favorite dried fruit such as chopped Turkish apricot, sour cherries, cranberries or raisins.
Store in a covered container, at room temperature, for up to three weeks. Granola can also be frozen for up to one month.
*For a flavor bomb, stir in 1/2 C of mini chocolate chips while adding the dry ingredients. This recipe was rephotographed March 2017.Adapted from Alton Brown's Granola Recipe on the Food Network.