The one problem I seem to have in my homemade kitchen is the embarrassing lack of snacks. Store-bought chips, pretzels and crackers are the first things to be eliminated when getting into 'real food.' These ultra-processed, highly refined starches have almost zero nutritional value, save the artificial vitamins and minerals that are added in a last ditch effort to make them seem healthy! Natural! Part of a balanced diet! Now, I love Lays potato chips as much as the next guy, but I am not willing to sacrifice my health (nor the health of my children, especially when breastfeeding) for the sake of mindless pleasure. When you first give up processed snacks, you do miss it. You find yourself craving it, actually, salivating for that salty, addictive crunch. But after a while, a funny thing happens- you stop caring. In fact, the idea of it seems kind of gross and if you eat more than a handful (say, at a party when you figure, hey, all things in moderation, right? Only to find yourself licking your finger to get the crumbs at the bottom of the bowl, while other guests give you strange sideways glances. What, just me?) you feel quite sick.
So what to do when 3:00PM strikes and you get a hankerin' for something tasty but not too filling? Pumpkin granola! It may not be salty, but it is certainly crunchy and addictive. It's a little sweeter than your typical breakfast granola, and is healthy without being 'health food.' Eat it by the handful or in a bowl with milk. Patrick deemed it the best granola yet! You may want to double the recipe as it will disappear fast, I promise.
Adapted from Two Peas and Their Pod
5 cups old-fashioned rolled oats
1 cup pecans, roughly chopped
1 teaspoon pumpkin pie spice (see recipe below)
1 teaspoon cinnamon
¼ teaspoon nutmeg
¾ teaspoon salt
¾ cup brown sugar
½ cup pumpkin puree
¼ cup applesauce
¼ cup honey or maple syrup
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
¾ cup dried cranberries (optional)
Preheat the oven to 325 degrees. Have a large rimmed baking sheet ready. I line mine with a silicone baking mat.
In a small saucepan, combine the brown sugar, pumpkin, applesauce, honey, and vanilla extract. Set over low heat just until warmed and easily mixed. Remove from heat.
In a large bowl, combine the oats, pecans, salt and spices. Add the warmed liquid ingredients and mix well. The granola will seem too dry at first, but just keep mixing and the moisture will spread out evenly.
Spread the granola onto the baking sheet and bake for 40 minutes, stirring a few times for even browning.
Remove from oven, stir in the cranberries if adding, and let cool. Break up the granola into your preferred clump sizes and store in a airtight container for up to 1 week.
Pumpkin Pie Spice
Forget the store-bought stuff, this is so easy to make and tastes way better!
2 tablespoons ground cinnamon
1 tablespoon ground ginger
1 teaspoon ground clove
1 teaspoon ground allspice
1 teaspoon ground nutmeg
Mix thoroughly. Store in airtight container. (I use a 4 ounce canning jar, labelled of course!)