Pumpkin Spice Granola

After a scary bout of snow that did more damage than I thought possible for the measly 3 inches that accumulated, we’re back to fall weather flanked by sunshine and brightly colored trees. I breathed a sigh of relief when I walked out of my class this morning and wasn’t met with a blast of cold air that would convince any unsuspecting person that it was surely the dead of winter.

To celebrate this return to autumn, I have to tell you about this slightly sinful but absolutely incredible granola I tried out recently. I’ve actually never made granola until now, and for one reason and one reason only: the RD-to-be in me gets hung up on the nutrition facts. You hear the word granola and you think health – it conjures up images of yogurt and fresh fruit, whole grains – the perfect post workout snack, right? Unfortunately, granola almost always delivers a mean dose of sugar, fat, or both, and the calories can be pretty high. I’ve just never found a recipe that keeps those 2 in check – the sugar in particular. You see, even honey and maple syrup, no matter how natural, are sugar in the end.

This one passes the fat test (about 7 ½ grams total, less than 1g saturated), replacing most of the oil with applesauce and coming out no less fantastic. The calories aren’t even unheard of, with each ¾ cup serving being only 315 calories. Unfortunately, there are 29 grams of sugar, which is more than enough to push it into the dessert category for me. To put 29 grams into context, that equals about 2 1/3 tablespoons, or just over 100 calories just from sugar alone. It isn’t abysmal, but it’s still not going to find its way to my breakfast plate.

If you get past the nutritional hang up, however, this granola is quite something. I tried it warm from the oven and the flavors weren’t nearly as strong as when I let it cool. It also developed a better crunch as it cooled down, so in the end I had a bowl of crunchy granola that tasted exactly like pumpkin pie (with some raisins and walnuts thrown in for good measure)! I’d like to try decreasing the sugar at some point to see if I can get it into my breakfast cycle, but it really is tasty as it is. Turn it into dessert by sprinkling it over vanilla ice cream, mixing it into chocolate mousse, or just eating it by itself!

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Pumpkin Spice Granola, courtesy of Annie’s Eats
Yield: 6 cups, 8 servings

The Ingredients
3 ½ cups rolled oats
2 ½ cups puffed rice cereal
2 teaspoons pumpkin pie spice1
¼ teaspoon salt
¾ cup brown sugar
½ cup pumpkin puree
¼ cup natural applesauce
¼ cup pure maple syrup
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
up to 1 ½ cups chopped nuts
up to 1 cup dried fruit

The Method
Preheat the oven to 325°F and line a large baking sheet or two with parchment paper; set aside.

Mix together the oats and rice cereal in a large bowl; set aside. In a separate, smaller bowl, whisk together the spices, salt, sugar, pumpkin puree, applesauce, maple syrup and vanilla until very smooth. Pour the wet ingredients into the oat mixture and stir until the ingredients are evenly distributed.

Transfer the granola mixture to the baking sheets and spread out in an even layer. Place in the oven and bake for 30 minutes. Flip the granola using a large, wide spatula, then sprinkle with nuts (if using) and return to the oven for another 15 minutes or so, until crisp and golden. At this point, it’s ok if the granola isn’t as crunchy as you’d like it to be – it will harden as it cools. If the outside layer gets done first, remove it and spread out the remaining inner section and cook 10-15 minutes more.

Cool the granola on the pan placed on a wire rack, then break it up and toss with dried fruit, if using. Store in an airtight container.

1I didn’t have pumpkin pie spice or allspice, so instead I did 1 ¼t cinnamon, 1/2t ground ginger, and 1/4t nutmeg. You might even want to increase the cinnamon to 1 ½ - 1 ¾ t.

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