“Suck it up you whimpering crybaby!” Sometimes, tough love is the only way to go.
Standing in the produce section of my good corporate chain mega-supermarket, I was contemplating buying a bag of oranges – mind you, despite the ‘Farm Fresh’ label on the bag, these babies were flown in from South America. That’s when it hit me. That’s also when I gave myself the ‘tough love’ talking to. It was a very uncomfortable conversation… and I have to assume, an even more uncomfortable conversation for my fellow shoppers who were forced to witness it.
Back to my epiphany. So I decided not to buy the fresh picked South American oranges. I put down the oranges, slowly backed away, walked out of the supermarket and headed straight for my local farmer’s market. Once there I threw myself into the bounty of seasonal produce.
So bring on the root vegetables and hearty squashes that thrive and thumb their noses at Mother Nature’s cold spell.
First up, the ubiquitous pumpkin.
When I bought these little pumpkins (about 4lbs each) at the market, I wasn’t sure what I was going to do with them. I got home and quickly decided against my first idea – soup. I was inspired to do something a little different. At some point, granola bars entered my little brain.
I was inspired to make a granola that I was entirely inspired by the season. Pumpkin Pie Granola Bars – a snack that used all of the spices and flavors of a classic pumpkin pie. Now, I just needed to figure out how to make this happen.
Pumpkin is water logged. So I would need to dice and dehydrate it. This would solve a few issues. First, since fresh pumpkin has a mild flavor, this process would intensify the flavor. And dehydration would get rid of the crunch of the fruit (or is it a vegetable) and make it dry and chewy, which is what you want in granola.
For color, I threw in some dried cranberries. After all, cranberry sauce is the 3rd best part of dinner (turkey and pumpkin pie being 1st and 2nd).
I like these Pumpkin Pie Granola Bars – I’m snacking on one as I write. They’re chewy, and the pumpkin pie flavor delivers. The cranberries achieve the balance. Just as you settle into the pumpkin pie flavor, you get a pop of bright and tart cranberry on your palette.
In closing, let me say that while I love this granola bar, it pales in comparison to my friend’s, Alejandro, Green Tea Granola (maybe he’ll let me share the recipe one day).
- 6 cups diced pumpkin, roughly ½” cubes (from a 4 lb pumpkin)
- 2 cups old-fashioned oatmeal
- 1 cup sliced almonds
- ½ cup wheat germ
- 3 TBL unsalted butter
- 2/3 cup honey
- 2 TBL brown sugar
- 1 TSP pure vanilla extract
- ¼ TSP kosher salt
- 1/8 TSP nutmeg
- ½ TSP grounded cinnamon
- 1/8 TSP allspice
- 1/8 TSP grounded cloves
- ¼ TSP ground ginger
- ½ cup cranberries
- Line a baking sheet with diced pumpkin. Cook pumpkin in a 150˚ oven until it has dehydrated and reduced to half its original size, about 3 hours.
- Preheat the oven to 350˚. Butter or line an 8 x 12-inch baking pan with parchment paper. (Alternatively, you can use a 6 x 6-inch baking pan for thicker granola bars)
- Toss the oatmeal and almonds together on a sheet pan. Bake for 10 minutes, occasionally stirring, until lightly golden brown. Transfer the mixture to a large mixing bowl and stir in the wheat germ.
- Reduce the oven temperature to 300˚.
- Place butter, honey, brown sugar, vanilla extract, salt, nutmeg, cinnamon, allspice, ground cloves and grounded ginger in a small saucepan and bring to a gentle boil over medium heat. Stir and let boil for one minute. Pour mixture into the bowl with toasted oats. Add dehydrated pumpkin and cranberries and stir well.
- Pour mixture into the prepared 8 x 12-inch pan. Wet your fingers and lightly press the mixture evenly into the pan. Bake for 20 minutes. Cool for at least 2 to 3 hours before cutting into bars.
- It Makes about 6 to 9 bars.