Oil-Free Granola

Now that our stomachs have expanded thanks to Thanksgiving dinner, here’s a lighter and yet still filling snack to help you get back on track. This Oil-Free Granola uses applesauce, or if you have any on hand, pumpkin, to bind the oats and nuts together. 

Because this recipe does not call for oil, it lacks that perfect toasty crunch found in most granolas. Instead, I got a rather granola-bar-like consistency. I added banana chips to add that desired crunch, which brought the recipe together. My suggestion to get more crunch, besides adding dried fruit, is to cook the granola in a thinner layer than I did. Divide the granola in two baking trays to achieve this. Filled with cinnamon and nutmeg, this granola is an ideal autumn addition. However, the recipe is versatile, making a snack that is appropriate for any time of day or year.

Oil- Free Granola

Adapted from The Chic Life

4 cups dry oatmeal, not instant

1/2 cup almonds, chopped or slivered

1/2 cup walnuts, chopped

1 cup pepitas

2 tsp cinnamon

1/4 tsp nutmeg

1 cup applesauce, or pumpkin

1/2-3/4 cup maple syrup

2 tsp vanilla

pinch of salt

1 cup dried fruit

Preheat oven to 300F. Line two large baking trays with parchment paper. 

In large bowl, stir oatmeal, nuts, pepitas, and spices together. 

In separate bowl, mix applesauce, maple syrup, vanilla and salt together. Add this mixture to the dry mixture and stir well. Pour granola onto baking sheets in a thin, even layer. 

Bake for 50-60 minutes, stirring every 15 minutes. Once cool, stir in banana chips. 


Healthier Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Cookies

I distinctly remember carving pumpkins as a child: the smell of the wet newspaper protecting the kitchen table, the rawness of your skin after hours digging around the orange goop, the sweet yet mild odor, the anticipation of putting a candle in the finished product, and the saltiness of baked pumpkin seeds.

Pumpkin, like banana and applesauce, is moist and acts as a healthier binding agent in baked goods than butter or oil. These Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Cookies use only a quarter cup of butter mixed with a quarter cup of pumpkin, making this recipe a great way to use up the rest of an opened can of pumpkin. Of course, with the sugar and the chocolate, these are still “treats.” But hey, everything in moderation, right? The oatmeal insures a true cookie dough texture, and the spices help bring out the autumn flavors.

Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Cookies

Adapted from Baking Bites

Makes 2 dozen cookies

1 cup all-purpose flour

1 tsp baking powder

1/2 tsp baking soda

1/2 tsp salt

1 tsp pumpkin pie spice

1/4 cup butter, room temperature

1/2 cup sugar

1/2 cup brown sugar

1 large egg

1/4 cup pumpkin purée

1 tsp vanilla extract

2 cups old-fashioned oatmeal

1 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 350F. Line baking sheets with parchment paper. In medium bowl, mix flour, powder, soda, salt, and pumpkin pie spice. In a large bowl, mix butter and sugars until fluffy. Then add in egg, pumpkin, and vanilla. Slowly add in flour mix to wet mix until just combined. Fold in chocolate chips. Drop tablespoonfuls of dough onto sheets. Bake for 11-13 minutes until edges turn golden. Allow to cool on sheet and then transfer to wire rack.

Pumpkin Cupcakes with Cream Cheese Frosting

It is the first day of October, which means I can truly accept that it is autumn, ushering in spicy flavors, Halloween candy sugar-highs, and hearty soups. The grocery store is filled with Candy Corn (and Candy Corn Oreos), gourds, bags of Milky Ways to fill the entire milky way, and cans of the orange purée commonly known as pumpkin.

I snagged a few cans of pumpkin–fearful that another pumpkin shortage would occur this year–and I set out to make Pumpkin Cupcakes with Cream Cheese Frosting. Because of the pumpkin, the cake is moist. The nutmeg, cinnamon, and cloves are, as usual, the perfect accompaniment to the pumpkin. Be advised that the smells wafting from your oven will attract many. The sweet, and slightly tangy, cream cheese frosting makes this dessert complete.

Pumpkin Cupcakes with Cream Cheese Frosting

Adapted from Ming Makes Cupcakes

Makes 2 dozen

2 cups all-purpose flour

2 tsp soda

2 tsp cinnamon

1 tsp salt

2 pinches nutmeg

2 pinches cloves

2 cups sugar

2 eggs

1 cup oil

2 cups pumpkin

For frosting:

8 oz. cream cheese, room temperature

1/2 cup butter, room temperature

1 lb. confectioner’s sugar

1 tsp vanilla

Walnuts, optional

In medium-sized bowl, mix flour, baking soda, spices, and salt. 

In a separate bowl, mix sugar and eggs. Add oil and mix well. Add flour mixture to wet mixture, then add pumpkin. Mix until well blended. 

Pour into lined cupcake tin and bake for 30 minutes.

While baking, prepare frosting by mixing the ingredients by hand. Whip until fluffy. Top cooled cupcakes with frosting and garnish with a walnut.

A Delayed Appreciation for Apples

When I was little, I hated apples for no good reason. I believe I even had a slight case of dyslexia when it came to the word “apple” because I always wanted to say “red” instead. Applesauce was okay, but eating a whole apple seemed strange. I loved apple pie, but only when it was served with a disproportionately large scoop of vanilla bean ice cream. My mother baked apples, cored with sugar and cinnamon. These were delicious because the mushy fruit no longer resembled an apple when it came out of the oven, scenting the entire house of autumn. Even though I gradually outgrew my disinterest in apples, I didn’t start eating whole apples until I got to college. Regardless of my delayed appreciation for apples (and yes, I realize that this delay makes me a bit crazy), I still associate  apples with fall, and fall with apples.

It’s hard to believe it’s fall in the Northern Hemisphere while I get to experience a second spring, with 80 degree weather in Australia. I’m not complaining, but the lack of foliage is strange. If I were home, I’d likely be cooking up some Apple Cinnamon Streusel Muffins (Erica’s Sweet Tooth) or some Apple Cinnamon Cookies with Maple Cinnamon Glaze (How To Simplify).

Or perhaps I’d just bake some apples with my mom, and serve them with a big scoop of vanilla bean ice cream…

Now, about pumpkins, another autumnal culinary symbol. Pumpkin, in the United States, means fall. Pumpkin, in Australia, is a staple in foods. It’s not reserved for autumn, or Halloween carvings, or even pies. Instead, pumpkin is a topping for pizza, a filling for sandwiches, and the base for many soups. I like pumpkin, don’t get me wrong, but maybe not on my pizza. I’d rather go for some Pumpkin Gingersnap Cookies (Two Peas and Their Pod) or Pumpkin Cheesecake Bites (Eat, Live, Run). Too bad I don’t have an oven. Thankfully, I could still make some oven-less Pumpkin Gnocchi (Shape).