Pumpkin in granola bars!

>> Thursday, November 18, 2010

I roasted a pumpkin for the first time ever last weekend.  It was easy, but time consuming, and frankly not much cheaper than buying canned pumpkin*.  Honestly, unless I find a stellar deal on pumpkins in the future, I'll probably stick to using canned pumpkin.

After roasting my pumpkin, I pureed the cooked pumpkin and used it to make pumpkin muffins and these yummy granola bars from Meal Makeover Moms.  I tweaked the recipe to suit my tastes, but it remains true to the original recipe.  One nice thing about this granola bar - the fat is fully replaced with pumpkin!  I am not opposed to fat in the granola bars I give to my kids (as long as it isn't partially hydrogenated), but I love the fact that they're getting an extra dose of super-nutritious pumpkin when they have one of these bars. 

These bars are good - full of pumpkin, but they don't have an over-the-top pumpkin taste, which means that even a non-pumpkin fan like myself will find these enjoyable.  Enjoy!

Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Granola Bars
adapted from Meal Makeover Moms

3 1/4 cups rolled oats
3/4 tsp pumpkin pie spice
2 TBSP flax meal
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp nutmeg
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 cup brown sugar
3/4 cup pumpkin puree *
1/4 cup honey (a little less is fine too)
1 tsp vanilla extract
1/2 cup mini semi-sweet chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 350 F.  Spray a 7"x11" baking  pan (I used a Pyrex pan) with cooking spray and set aside.

In a large bowl, whisk oats, spices, flax meal, and salt together.  Set aside.  In a medium bowl, whisk the brown sugar through vanilla extract together until smooth.  Pour over oats mixture and stir until combined.  Stir in chocolate chips.

Evenly press oat mixture into prepared pan.  Bake for 30 minutes until golden brown.  Remove from oven and let cool for 5 minutes.

Cut into bars with a sharp knife.

Makes about 15 small bars.

Want some more pumpkin recipes?  Meal Makeover Moms has lots of great tips and recipes for using pumpkin puree!

*Many thanks to Elana for reminding me that pure pureed pumpkin and pumpkin pie filling sit on the grocery store shelf next to each other and look almost exactly alike!  When buying canned pureed pumpkin make sure that the ONLY ingredient is pumpkin!


Kitchen tips

>> Sunday, November 7, 2010

Did you miss me?  I'm back, and today I'm going to share just a few random kitchen tips that I use quite often in my cooking.  I'll admit, these are not rocket science, but sometimes even the obvious is not so obvious until someone points it out.  Maybe one of these tips will resonate with you!

  • While I adore any cream laden recipe, my husband does not tolerate cream very well, and let's face it, cream is high in fat and calories!  My solution?  I substitute lowfat evaporated milk for cream in cream-based sauces.  This substitution won't work for every dish, but it makes a remarkably good sauce in dishes where cream is used but is not the main sauce component.  Evaporated milk works better than plain milk because it has a more luxurious mouth feel - even without all of the fat - than regular milk.  
  • Here's an obvious tip - use twice the cinnamon called for in a recipe for a more pronounced cinnamon kick.  I like an intense cinnamon flavor, and often recipes just don't quite have enough cinnamon umph for me.  So, I just double the cinnamon.  In general, it doesn't change the overall flavor profile, just gives a little more cinnamon-y goodness.
  • Trying to increase the amount of whole grains in your diet while still indulging in baked goods with a light texture and flavor?  Revamp your baked goods recipes by substituting white whole wheat flour for half of the all-purpose flour.  White whole wheat flour has all of the nutrition of regular whole wheat flour (read more about the differences and similarities between the two flours) but with a much milder wheat flavor.  Because whole wheat flours have much less gluten than all-purpose flour, the texture of whole wheat baked goods is different.  By substituting only half of the refined flour, the texture of the baked good will be mostly preserved.
  • Have a recipe that calls for buttermilk but you don't have any?  Try this old buttermilk substitute - add 1 tablespoon of white vinegar to a cup of milk.  Stir and let sit for 5 minutes or so.  Works like a charm every time!  You can also use lemon juice, but because the acidity of lemon juice could change from lemon to lemon, the results may not be as consistent.
  • I love using completely all natural, plain jane peanut butter.  I don't like the layer of oil the separates on the top, though, because it splatters and is messy when I stir it in.  I could pour it off, but then I'm pouring off the good-for-you fats and am left with a dry peanut butter.  A friend clued me in on an easy solution recently - simply flip the jar upside down and store in your pantry until ready to open and mix.  When you open the jar, the oils will all be in the bottom, making it just a little easier to mix the oil in without splattering it everywhere.  
  • Another natural peanut butter (or any nut butter) tip - after you mix the separated oil in completely, store in the fridge.  The oil will solidify and won't separate (or at least will take a very long time to separate).  As a bonus, your peanut butter will also stay fresher longer!
  • Last, what do you do if your child goes to a school that has banned peanuts?  Don't fret over lost peanut butter and jelly sandwiches!  Just quietly make the switch to almond butter.  It's an awesome peanut butter substitute.  Jarred almond butter is more expensive than peanut butter, so look for store ground almond butter to keep the cost down.  And if nut butters of all sorts are banned, check out sunflower seed butter or soy butter. 
What's your favorite kitchen tip?  


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