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Dec. 5, 2021

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Pumpkin granola is just grand

Get on orange squash bandwagon with this tasty treat

By , Columbian staff writer
Published:
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This pumpkin granola contains a whole can of pumpkin puree with spices, maple syrup, brown sugar and dried fruit.
This pumpkin granola contains a whole can of pumpkin puree with spices, maple syrup, brown sugar and dried fruit. (Monika Spykerman/The Columbian) Photo Gallery

I recently claimed that I wasn’t ready to go down the pumpkin rabbit hole, but a week has passed and now I find that pumpkinland is exactly where I want to be.

I tipped over the edge into pumpkinmania a week ago when I made a batch of pumpkin oatmeal. It was October in a bowl: a whole can of pumpkin puree, oatmeal, milk, butter, maple syrup and spices. So get out your cinnamon, nutmeg and cloves and set your engines to orange, because we’re headed straight to the pumpkin patch.

But first, I’d like to acknowledge the folks who think pumpkin is absurdly overrated, those not-uncommon souls who genuinely detest its squashy, earthy flavor. You have a point. Plain pumpkin is bland as a blank sheet of paper and it’s only the addition of other ingredients and strong spices that make it palatable, whether it be cream, sugar and cinnamon or salt, cumin and curry. There are many other things that come ripe in the fall that have more interesting flavors, like cranberries, apples, figs, persimmons or autumn vegetables like Brussels sprouts, beets and radishes.

I assure you that I have heard your complaint and ignored it. You and I will never meet anyway, since I will be skipping down the grocery aisles, filling my cart with pumpkin bagels, pumpkin cream cheese, pumpkin ravioli, pumpkin bisque, pumpkin pancake mix, pumpkin Alfredo sauce, pumpkin samosas and best of all, pumpkin ice cream. More for me!

The pumpkin oatmeal I made got me thinking about other ways to enjoy oats, such as granola, which I love to make from scratch because it’s delightfully loosey-goosey and can be made with slightly different ingredients every time, depending on what I’ve got on hand and what I’m in the mood for. I also love how baking granola fills the house with tantalizing aromas of toasted oats, ginger and cinnamon.

Ingredients

7 cups rolled oats

1 15-ounce can pumpkin puree

1 stick butter, melted, or ½ cup vegetable oil

½ cup packed brown sugar

½ cup maple syrup

¼ cup molasses

2 tablespoons vanilla

1-2 teaspoons salt

1-2 teaspoons pumpkin pie spice

1 teaspoon cardamom (optional)

1 cup sliced almonds

½ cup of any (or many) of the following: dried cranberries, raisins, crystallized ginger, dried apricots, dried figs, dates, dried cherries, dried pears, pumpkin seeds, sunflower seeds, walnuts, pecans, pistachios, cashews, flaked coconut, chocolate chips, butterscotch chips

This week, I wanted to see if I could approximate the pumpkin granola that my husband and I consumed by the bagful during the freewheeling early years of our marriage. We ate it for breakfast, lunch, dinner, snacks and snacks in between snacks. Well, maybe this granola doesn’t taste that good, but I can guarantee that it does contain real pumpkin puree.

Mix 7 cups of rolled oats with 1 can pumpkin puree, 1 stick melted butter or ½ cup vegetable oil, ½ cup packed brown sugar, ½ cup maple syrup, ¼ cup molasses and 2 tablespoons vanilla. Mix in 1-2 teaspoons salt. (Salt will bring out the flavor of the ingredients and make a tastier snacking granola, if that’s how you like it. Don’t worry if the uncooked granola seems too salty because it will absorb into the oats during baking.) Add any combination of spices you like: pumpkin pie spice, cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg, allspice or cardamom, at least a teaspoon of one or more spices. If you’re using raw nuts, add them now; already-roasted nuts should be added later so they won’t burn. Use your biggest spoon to mix everything together until it’s well blended. At this point, I usually give the mix a little nibble to see if it’s sweet enough; if not, I might add ¼ cup honey.

Don’t worry about the dried fruits and roasted nuts yet. You don’t want to add those at the beginning because they can burn during the toasting process and leave you with blackened, chewy bits of unidentifiable somethings in your granola. If you add chocolate chips before baking, those will melt and merge with the granola and not necessarily in a good way, so you should save those for later, too.

Set the oven to 300 degrees and spread the mixture into one incredibly large roasting pan or two medium pans; you want enough room to spread the granola out so it toasts evenly and gets crispy. Put it in the oven for 20 minutes. When the buzzer dings, take it out of the oven and stir it around before spreading it back into place. Bake it for another 20 minutes, remove from the oven and let it cool to room temperature. It might not be crispy-crunchy as soon as it comes out of the oven but it will crisp up as it cools. If it doesn’t get crispy, put it back in the oven for another 20 minutes and keep going until you achieve total crispness (but not total burntness). I must warn you that the pumpkin puree in the mix affects the amount of time it takes to get crunchy and I had to keep putting it back in the oven so many times I lost count, but I got there in the end and you will, too.

Once the granola is cool and crispy, put everything in a huge bowl and add your mix-ins. Store in any container big enough to hold it, like a suitcase or your car trunk. It doesn’t necessarily need to be air-tight but it does need to stay dry and cool. You can also put your homemade granola into Mason jars and give them as gifts or line them up in your pantry and slowly work your way through, one jar at a time. No one is judging you. At least not for this.

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