pumpkin pecan granola bars


Around this time of year, I usually tend to have a bit of pumpkin purée left over, taking up space in the fridge, demanded to be used up in a morning oatmeal or mini baking excursion. While I am super friendly with pumpkin breads and desserts, I was a little anxious to mix it up. What else could pumpkin become? Set on a sweet rather than savory destination, I racked my brain for recipe ideas I've yet to try.

While I was super-mega-close to making these (next time, Kate, next time!), I suddenly remembered that this stuff existed (and that we sadly were only able to snag one box before it sold out forever, at least for another season) and realized that pumpkin granola in some form was definitely the answer.

I decided to go for a granola bar form rather than a standard cereal. So besides that leftover 1/2 cup of pumpkin purée you have sitting around, you will need:

3 1/4 cups of old fashioned oats
1 teaspoon of pumpkin pie spice
1 teaspoon of cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon of sea salt
3/4 cup of packed brown sugar
1/2 cup of pumpkin purée
1/4 cup of apple sauce
1/4 cup of honey (could be swapped for brown rice syrup for a totally vegan version)
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 cup of chopped pecans
1/2 cup of raw, unsalted pumpkin seeds
1/2 cup of chocolate chops (mini works best for this recipe)

Begin by preheating your oven to 350 degrees. Spray a 9x9 pan with cooking spray and set aside for later. Whisk your oats, spices and salt together in a large bowl. In a medium bowl, combine your sugar, pumpkin, apple sauce, honey and vanilla. Whisk until smooth. Carefully pour your pumpkin-sugar mixture over your oats and fold until evenly combined.

Fold in your pecans, pumpkin seeds and chocolate chips. You don't have to include any of these, of course, or you could always swap out for other add-ins you have on hand. Raisins or dried cranberries would be great, as well as coconut, walnuts, sunflower seeds. The possibilities are endless.

Once everything is evenly mixed, transfer your granola to the prepared pan and press down until as even as possible. Bake for about 35 minutes, or under the top starts to get a little golden. (This is a tough call, considering that the pumpkin already lends the oats a somewhat golden hue. The trick is to not let the bars completely set. If you wait that long, when they are completely cool you will find yourself with something closer to granola bar rocks. Since I'd like for you to keep your what I assume to be lovely teeth without chips, test the bars by pressing firmly in the center. If they are still soft but seem set into one piece, they're done. This should happen somewhere between 35-40 minutes.)

Transfer to a wire cooling rack and allow to cool in the pan for about 10 minutes. Cutting them too soon, even if they are cooked correctly, will result in a crumbly mess. After 10 minutes, cut into squares or bars for a perfect on-the-go breakfast or snack.