Pumpkin Pecan Granola

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We spent last weekend near Aspen with my parents and a group of family friends celebrating a 60th birthday.  The leaves were glowing yellow and the Saturday market in Aspen was full of gourds and pumpkins.  There was an early morning chill to the air.  We went on a mountain bike ride on Sunday and as we rode through the trees there were leaves flying around as if we were in a rainstorm.  It was magical.  On Saturday, we all ran the Golden Leaf Half Marathon, which lived up to its name.  The race is run on trails from Snowmass to Aspen.  The route weaves in and out of aspen stands - the forest almost seems like it is on fire when the sun shines through the leaves.  For a tiny mountain race, it drew some serious star power - Lance Armstrong and Scott Jurek both ran! 

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The weekend reminded me that even though summer is winding down, good things await.  I have felt a bit sad about the days getting shorter, saying farewell to stone fruit, and the impending cold weather.  The weekend reminded me that I should instead be looking forward to apples, squash, and pumpkins... to cooler temperatures and our first dusting of snow... and to carving pumpkins and watching football... 

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Ali recently inspired me to pick up The Sprouted Kitchen cookbook, which compliments the arrival of fall.  Life has been a bit hectic lately, and without any weekends at home my kitchen adventures have been limited to week nights.  I'm dreaming of a weekend where I can try the Grilled Eggplant and Herbed Quinoa, or morning at home with Baked Pumpkin Doughnuts.  For now, this Pumpkin Pecan Granola is a satisfying replacement.

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When it comes to granola, I am all about improvising.  I'll read recipes and occasionally toss in new ingredients, but I tend to stick to what I have in the cupboard.  It always involves sliced almonds, honey, almond extract, and unsweetened shredded coconut and I improvise with regard to quantities.  For this Pumpkin Pecan Granola, I not only followed a recipe, but mixed things up with the addition of puréed pumpkin.  The huge upside to using pumpkin (aside from the flavor, which I love) is that it helps keep the granola healthy.  Typical granola recipes are full up added fat, usually in the form of butter or oil.  While it helps make the granola crunchy and forms clumps, it also makes it extremely unhealthy.   

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Like all granola, this comes together in a matter of minutes with delicious results.  Your home will smell like spices and pumpkin and the sesame seeds and pecans add a nice flavor and crunch to the end result.  I've been enjoying this with Greek yogurt and I'll also eat it with milk and a drizzle of honey.  I bet it would be great for dessert served over a cinnamon ice cream.  

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Pumpkin Pecan Granola

Adapted from The Sprouted Kitchen

Yield = 3 cups

Note - If you don't have pumpkin pie spice, just blend together freshly-grated cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg, allspice, and cloves.  

Ingredients

2.5 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

Sea salt

3/4 tsp pumpkin pie spice

1/3 cup grade B maple syrup

1/3 cup pumpkin purée

2 cups old-fashioned rolled oats

1/2 cup raw pecan pieces

3 tablespoons sesame seeds

Preparation

1.  Preheat oven to 325 degrees.

2.  In a large mixing bowl, combine the olive oil, salt, pumpkin pie spice, maple syrup, and pumpkin purée.  Whisk until smooth.  Add in the oats, pecans, and sesame seeds and stir until well-coated.

3.  Line a rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper.  Spread the mixture evenly across the baking sheet keeping as many clumps of granola together as possible.  Bake until dry and golden in color, approximately 35 minutes.  Be sure to star the granola every 10 minutes, paying particular attention to not let the granola in the corners burn.  Let the granola cool completely before storing it in an airtight container.

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