Pumpkin Ginger Spice Granola

I love granola. It’s great stuff.

What I don’t love is the fact that many tend to think of it as a “healthy” food, without taking into account what is often a very high fat content. In addition to the nuts, you’ll likely find copious amounts of oils and syrups, weighing in many granolas at twice the amount of fat as protein. And this isn’t just the case with large, well-known store-bought brands: even many of the granolas I see being made locally and sold at farmer’s markets have oil & honey as the second & third ingredients.

And yet, despite the fact that everywhere, every granola package whose ingredient list I perused seemed to follow this same formula… something inside me whispered, it doesn’t have to be this way. So finally, after what was probably years of rolling this secret conviction around in the back of my brain, I decided to tackle it head-on. The solution, it turns out, is quite easy. In short: simply replace the bulk of the oils and syrups with pureed fruit.

Or in this case, roasted pumpkin and brown sugar.

It’s brilliant, right?

My first step in the tackling involved (what else?) consulting the internet. Step 2 involved literally smacking myself in the forehead for not consulting the internet sooner… because there I quickly found a recipe that called for using apples and dates (pureed with just a small amounts of oil and honey) to hold the granola together. Fresh and dried fruit! Why hadn’t I thought of that?

I seem to have lost track of that particular recipe, but the idea stuck with me, and I’ve been playing around with it ever since: experimenting with different fruits and sweeteners; using different combinations of nuts and spices; adding quinoa flakes to bump up the protein factor and help achieve those big crunchy clusters I covet; and lowering the oil content even further. I haven’t missed it one bit.

There are a lot of different variations to be had here, but as my pumpkin obsession hits its peak in the weeks between Halloween and Thanksgiving, this pumpkin ginger spice variety is my current favorite.

Pureed roasted pumpkin (or in this case, a sweeter winter squash) is a great consistency for holding together the dried cereals and nuts, but it doesn’t have the sweetness of, say, pureed apples and dates, or bananas. Consequently, this particular granola has two standout points: it’s not super sweet, and it tends to form really large clusters — which I personally find to be the most appealing part about it. Because really, what good is granola that doesn’t have clusters? What good is it??

(Speaking of good, check it out — I found a really big cluster to show you!)

Mmm. Crunchy.

So the next time you find yourself with some leftover baked squash or extra canned pumpkin, whip this up. It’s so easy. Puree the pumpkin with a ripe banana (I know it sounds strange, but trust me on this one — it adds some sweetness and a faint suggestion of banana-nut), some brown sugar and spices, and then pour that into a bowl of oats, nuts, and diced candied ginger. Depending how wet your pumpkin is, you may need to add a little more or less of the wet mixture — generally you’ll want the consistency to be sufficiently wet that there’s no dry stuff left, and that things clump up nicely, but not actually sticky or it’ll take forever to dry out. Kinda like this:

Then you bake it low & slow, so it has a chance to dry out and toast up. You know it’s done when the entire house (or in my case, apartment) — even those very distant corners — smells like something out of a holiday catalog or your grandma’s kitchen.

Pumpkin Ginger Spice Granola

Dry:

  • 2 cups rolled oats
  • 1/2 cup quinoa flakes
  • 1/3 cup lightly crushed walnuts
  • 1/3 cup pepitas
  • 1/3 cup sliced almonds
  • 1/4 cup finely chopped candied ginger pieces
Wet:
  • 1/2 cup roasted pumpkin
  • 1 ripe banana
  • 1 tablespoon apple butter (optional)
  • 1 tablespoon coconut oil, melted
  • 1/2 cup packed brown sugar
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon, allspice & ginger powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon nutmeg & cloves
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
Preheat oven to 275. Combine dry ingredients in a large bowl.
Puree wet ingredients in food processor until smooth, and taste: it should be a little sweeter and spicier than you think, as it’s going to get spread out amongst all those oats. Add in more of whatever you think it needs (a splash of maple syrup?), then add most of your wet ingredients to dry and mix to combine. If it’s still a little dry or if you want larger clumps, add in the rest of your wet mixture. (I ended up using most of mine, and then throwing a little more pumpkin, an egg, and a splash of milk into the remaining amount to make an impromptu pumpkin pie filling.)
Bake for 45 minutes, going in once or twice to flip the granola in sheets and/or break up any particularly massive clusters. Bake another 10-20 minutes until the granola is sufficiently dried out and toasty.
I dare you to make this last more than a week.
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