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We are in the thick of pumpkin season, my favorite time of year in the kitchen. So many versatile recipes – from sweet to savory – and this one, I do believe, is now at the top of my list.

In addition to being associated with autumn and holidays, pumpkin is highly nutritious. Loaded with vitamin A (1 cup = 200% of RDA), it’s a vision booster. It helps lower blood pressure, improve sleep and is great for the heart. Low in calories (49 per cup) but high in fiber (3 grams.) So don’t feel guilty about this decadent delight. You’re doing your body good!

Smoky Pumpkin Pecan Bars (gluten free, vegan)

10 Medjool dates (soaked in water for 30 minutes)
1 cup raw pecans
1 T maple syrup
1 1/2 cups gluten-free oat flour (to make your own, grind 1.5 cups oats in food processor until fine)
1 1/2 cups gluten-free rolled oats
1/2 cup smoked brown sugar (regular brown or coconut also work, but not nearly as fun;-)
1 tsp baking powder
1 heaping tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp sea salt
1/4 tsp nutmeg
1/4 tsp ginger
2 eggs (or flax eggs for vegan)
1 1/4 cup pumpkin (I use this one, no fear of BPA from a can)
1/4 cup coconut oil (or sub more pumpkin for oil free)
2 T almond milk (or any non-dairy type)

Drain the dates and add them to a food processor with the pecans and maple syrup. Blend until smooth.
Preheat oven to 350.
In one bowl, mix the dry ingredients together.
In another bowl, add the pumpkin, eggs, milk and oil. Mix well.
Add the dry ingredients to the wet and mix just until combined. Don’t over mix. I use a spatula.
Line an 8×8 glass dish with parchment paper leaving enough coming out the sides.
Gently press 1/2 the mixture into the bottom of the baking dish.
Spread the pecan/date mixture on the mixture. Add a little extra liquid if it seems dry.
Lastly, add the remaining crumb mixture to the top.
Bake for 25 minutes.
Let the bars completely cool before removing them from the baking dish.
I cut mine into bars with a pizza cutter. And…topped with coconut whipped cream.
Keep these bars stored in the fridge. They should (might!) last a couple weeks.

Wha? Smoked brown sugar, you say?! It’s a creative addition to the olive oil collection by The Smoked Olive. They have three favors – regular, whiskey and chili. I use it in sauces and baked goods…and would love to hear how you might add it to your repertoire!

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