Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Pumpkin Maple Pecan Granola

Because it's decorative gourd season, motherf*ckers, I set out last weekend to plan a fall-themed Saturday up there with the best of them. Last year was apple picking and baking Perfect Pumpkin Apple Bread; this year, hiking and Pumpkin Maple Pecan Granola. In retrospect, I totally should've reversed the order of my activities, because the granola would've been a great snack mid-hike!

A few photos from the hike...

Am I the only person who never realized how easy it is to make your own granola, or has Minimalist Baker just triumphed again? This recipe is SO easy! Mix together wet and dry components, combine, bake for 30 minutes. Done. Chock-full of whole, protein-packed ingredients, natural sugars, healthy oils, and fiber-packed pumpkin, this granola is unalloyed pure; a testament to the benefits of whole eating. Choose this toothsome snack for a real energy boost—whether it be to start your day or a mid-afternoon snack—where excessive sugar, unhealthy oils, and processed ingredients won't pull you down.

I chose this recipe because its pumpkin-thrice: real pumpkin puree and pumpkin seeds accompany the pumpkin pie spice. So many "pumpkin" recipes just call for the latter ingredient—that kind of feels like cheating, doesn't it? So in addition to the cozy, mellifluous fragrance of cinnamon, nutmeg, ground ginger, and allspice (the combination of which defines pumpkin spice, FYI); the granola is fragrantly coated in a warm mixture of pure pumpkin, maple syrup, and coconut oil too. Seriously falltastic. I'm going to be honest, the taste of chunky pureed pumpkin isn't overwhelming (you kind of have to search for it, in fact....) but the granola's excellently spiced nature will wholly satisfy that pumpkin craving; a total trump over any pumpkin spice latte for sure.

This granola is truly fantastic. The crunchiness of the golden roasted oats, pepitas, and pecans against the sweet, juicy raisins—coated in an autumn blanket of maple and spice—is simply delicious.  When baking in the oven, it smells like a pumpkin pie, spiced apple cider, and pumpkin bread all rolled into one. Despite earning the healthy stamp for its wholesome ingredients and low(er) sugar content, the nature of granola is still extremely caloric: this one runs about 125 calories per 1/4 cup. To avoid eating it all by the handful in one sitting (albeit insanely tempting), try sprinkling it into less calorie-dense mediums like milk and bananas or low-fat yogurt to stay full without packing too many cals.

Amendments to the original recipe: I lessened the 3 tbsp of sugar to 1 tbsp; next time I will omit it all together as the maple syrup is plenty sweet, added in raisins (dried cherries would be a great alt), and doubled up on the cinnamon, nutmeg and allspice. I think I'll try adding cooked quinoa in the future too: more crunch, more protein, why not?

Another reason as to why you should make this your annual pumpkin cooking project? It lasts. Unlike pies, breads and spiced ciders which feed a crowd in a single sitting (and thereafter are extremely difficult to keep around), this granola can sit airtight for weeks; an intermittent breakfast or snack ready for you to reap this freaky-as*ed (McSweeney again) harvest whenever you please.

Pumpkin Maple Pecan Granola (adapted from Minimalist Baker)
Makes about 5 cups

3 cups rolled oats
1 ¼ cups raw pecans
⅓ cup raw pepitas
½ cup raisins or dried cherries
1 tbsp sugar (optional)
¼ tsp of sea salt
¾ tsp pumpkin pie spice (plus extra dash of cinnamon, nutmeg, and allspice)
¼ cup coconut or canola oil
⅓ cup maple syrup (can substitute agave nectar or honey)
⅓ cup pumpkin puree

1.    Preheat oven to 340 F.
2.    Mix the oats, nuts, seeds, raisins, spices, sugar (if using), and salt together in a large bowl.
3.    In a small saucepan over medium-low heat, warm the oil, maple syrup, and pumpkin puree and whisk. Pour the saucepan contents over the dry ingredients and quickly mix with a wooden spoon.
4.    Spread the mixture evenly onto two baking sheets* (or bake in two batches) and bake for 23-33 minutes, stirring a bit near the halfway point.
5.    Once the granola is golden brown (usually about 25 minutes), remove from oven and let cool completely. It will crisp up as it cools.
6.    Transfer to an airtight container, where it will keep for a couple weeks.

*This ensures the mixture is completely spread out in a single layer. The mixture does fit on one baking sheet, but it will be compact and not properly crisp if too crowded.

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