“Suck it up you whimpering cry baby!” Sometimes, tough love is the only way to go.
Standing in the produce section of my friendly 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. Summer was over and I needed to let go. 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.
With that said, there will be no more complaining about the loss of summer in the pages of the Ceramic Canvas. We’re going to embrace Fall and all it has to offer – I’m so inspired that I shot a few seasonally inspired photos for this post. Plus, with its crisp days and robust rust and burgundy color leaves it’s actually a very beautiful season.
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 – a 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. And what says autumn better then pumpkin pie. So that was the plan. 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 a granola.
For color and to keep the Thanksgiving dinner concept going, I threw in some dried cranberries. After all, cranberry sauce is the 3rd best part of Thanksgiving dinner (turkey and pumpkin pie being 1st and 2nd).
I really like these Pumpkin Pie Granola Bars – I’m actually snacking on one as I write. They’re chewy and the pumpkin pie flavor really delivers. The cranberries deliver 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).
PUMPKIN PIE GRANOLA BARS
Tweaked beyond recognition from Back to Basics by Ina Garten
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 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, stirring occasionally, 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 in 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.
Makes about 6 to 9 bars.