Last week I was stuffing little paper sacks with homemade granola, Halloween pencils and erasers, and fairy princess glow wands for the little trick-or-treaters in our neighborhood. We only had a few little ones this year, but they were all quite enchanting. So there I was at the starting line of the holiday season trying to perfect a gluten-free, dairy-free “treat” for my special trick-or-treater, my daughter Heather. I wanted something healthy but delicious, something that could be the star of the dessert table (Think ahead to Thanksgiving.) or a healthy midday snack, something—above all—that involved chocolate and pumpkin. Because… it was Halloween, ya know.
What I landed on was a combination of two recipes: one for granola bars and the other for dairy-free baked pumpkin pudding that I have always loved to make in the fall. Putting the two together—with just a bit of tweaking—produced a wickedly rich, substantial dessert that just screamed autumn. What’s more, it gave me a chance to roast my first pumpkins of the year. If you recall the pumpkin post from last year, you know I’m a firm believer in cooking those pumpkins that decorate the porch—who puts food on the front porch and then just throws it away?
So, before you get the fright of your life looking at the long ingredient list below, let me say that this recipe is flexible. For the granola bar bottom, you need the two cups of oats, one and one half cups of nuts, coconut, or seeds in just about any combination you wish, and about one brimming cup of chopped dried fruit. Add in a little coconut flour and your choice of spices with liquid ingredients (Yes, there is pumpkin puree in the bar, too.) and you are good to go. The pudding top is even simpler: All the ingredients go into your mixer bowl ( or even blender, maybe) and from there on top of the uncooked granola bar. So not so bad, right? Be brave.
- Two cups rolled oats
- One-half cup chopped walnuts
- One-half cup chopped almonds
- One-half cup shredded, unsweetened coconut
- One-quarter cup raw sunflower seeds
- Two tablespoons pure maple syrup
- Two-thirds cup chopped Medjool dates
- Two-thirds cup chopped dried organic apricots (Conventional will not work--too bitter and rubbery.)
- Two tablespoons ground flaxseed
- Two tablespoons chia seeds
- One teaspoon each cinnamon, ginger and fresh-grated nutmeg
- One-half teaspoon allspice
- One-half cup coconut flour
- One-quarter teaspoon baking powder
- One-half teaspoon coarse sea salt
- One cup pumpkin puree (You can use canned pureed pumpkin, if you don’t have fresh. I recommend Farmer’s Market Organic Pumpkin.)
- One egg, slightly beaten
- One-quarter cup pure maple syrup
- One teaspoon vanilla
- One and one-half cups pumpkin puree (Again, you can use canned organic pumpkin. For the entire recipe you will need nearly two cans.)
- Three-quarters cup sugar (I used evaporated cane juice that had been stored with a vanilla pod for several weeks, but any healthy dry sweetener, such as Wholesome Brands would do, including organic light or dark brown sugar. Adding a liquid sweetener will affect the consistency of the pudding; I would avoid that.)
- One teaspoon cinnamon
- One-half teaspoon fresh-grated nutmeg
- One teaspoon ginger
- One-half teaspoon fine sea salt
- One teaspoon vanilla
- Three large eggs
- One, 13.5 ounce can unsweetened coconut milk
- One-half cup mini dark chocolate chips
- Combine the first six ingredients (the oats, nuts, coconut, seeds and two tablespoons of maple syrup). Place the oat mixture on a rimmed cookie sheet, lined with parchment paper. Toast for 20 minutes, stirring halfway through. Remove from the oven to cool, but maintain the oven temperature. Toasting the oats and nuts first ensures a better, non-soggy granola bar crust.
- Combine the dates, apricots, flaxseed, chia seeds, spices, coconut flour, baking powder and coarse sea salt. Add in the slightly cooled oat mixture and toss well.
- Whisk together the pumpkin puree, the beaten egg, the quarter cup maple syrup and the vanilla. Add the liquid to the dry ingredients and combine very well.
- Using the parchment paper from the rimmed cookie sheet (or a new sheet if you wish), line the bottom and sides of a 13 x 9 inch glass casserole dish. Note that the parchment paper will cooperate better if you give the casserole dish a few squirts of cooking spray to help it adhere to the bottom and sides. Evenly press the granola bar crust into the casserole dish. The thickness of the granola bar will be slightly more than one inch.
- In a large mixing bowl, combine all pudding ingredients and beat on low speed until well blended. Increase the speed slightly and blend a minute more to help “fluff up” the filling.
- Pour the pudding mixture on top of the granola bar crust.
- Bake for one hour to one hour and 10 minutes. You can test the pudding by inserting a knife, which should come out fairly clean. When the pudding bar is done, the sides will have pulled away from the parchment paper and the pudding top will have browned slightly at the edges.
- Cool the pudding bars by setting the casserole dish on baking racks for at last two hours. Once the pudding bars are completely cooled, you can decorate with chocolate and serve.
- For a Jackson Pollock-like decoration, melt one-half cup of mini dark chocolate chips in double boiler. When melted smooth, spoon into a little plastic bag and snip one corner with your kitchen shears. Squirt your abstract chocolate design on top of the baked bar or simply leave your pudding bars plain (But why?!).
Note that these bars are NOT freezable. They will store in your frig about four or five days without much deterioration of flavor, but are their very best on the day you bake them. Since they serve a crowd, they make a great Thanksgiving Day dessert for gluten-free diners or a sweet “Thanks for Being Such a Great Neighbor Treat” for your friends.
The idea for the granola bar crust came from a favorite Delicious Living Magazine recipe for Chewy Fruit Granola Bars. Their method of toasting some of the ingredients before baking is pretty much genius-level cooking. This step helped my hefty bars keep a nice texture, even after a few days in the frig. You can also find 14 other pumpkin recipes—including a fabulous Gluten-Free Pumpkin Almond Bread—at Delicious Living’s website. So no excuses for wasting perfectly good pumpkin this year!
Speaking of green ideas, Delicious Living Magazine has just published a free guide to help us all think more critically and gratefully about the food we eat. Feeding the Good Food Future is a downloadable PDF that will introduce you to innovative people like Ron Finley, aka the Guerilla Gardener, whose goal is to put more fresh produce and other good food into the hands of people whose access is very limited. You’ll read about where we are with food transparency and traceability—as consumers we should know what’s in our food, right? It’s also becoming just as important to know who grew our food. (Need I point to the farmer’s market as a perfect shopping experience for transparency and traceability?) There’s the latest information on GMO and Organic labeling. And, there’s a great article on Food Waste (my personal pet peeve) and how we can avoid it. In all, 24 pages packed with useful, research-based information, photos and video links. It’s a must have for any green gal or guy. So I hope you’ll take a look and download a copy for yourself.
And, let me know… What great dishes are you making with your pumpkins this year? How are you curbing food waste?