My daughter and I go kind of pumpkin crazy this time of year. It starts when we see the first small pie pumpkins in the grocery store and she convinces me that we just have to have one. She takes it home, decorates it with permanent markers, and then refuses to let me cook her work of art. (Since it’s now covered in toxic ink, I’m not too eager to cook with it anyway.) She then demands that we buy more pumpkins so that we’ll have something to make pies with. So I hide the markers and buy more pumpkins.
My pumpkin-buying mania extends to canned pumpkin. In October and November, I find so many ways to add pumpkin to my meals that I’m convinced that I will want to cook with it all year long, and driven by the fear that it will disappear from the stores after the winter holidays, I buy can after can. Naturally, I never get around to using it all. The pumpkin dishes that seem so appealing in the Fall lose their allure by April, when there are asparagus to play with. As a result, before I can go on my canned pumpkin frenzy and buy more this year, I needed to use up last year’s stock, so I sat down to plan out a new recipe.
While my daughter was envisioning pumpkin pie, for some reason I just kept seeing bars. Specifically, oatmeal bars. Obviously, a compromise was in order, so I designed these bites to appeal to both of our cravings. The gluten-free crust is made up mostly of oatmeal, while the filling is sweet, spicy pumpkin. Each one is like a two-bite pumpkin pie, but I doubt you’ll be able to eat just one.
Now I know that some of you are going to wonder why I didn’t use fresh pumpkin in these bars. One thing that canned pumpkin has going for it is that its moisture content is consistent. When I tell you to use 15 ounces of canned pumpkin, whether you live in Seattle or Asheville you’ll be able to cook the recipe with results that are pretty much like mine. Working with fresh pumpkin is a little trickier; once you’ve gotten it cooked, it may be more or less watery than the pumpkin I use, and your pumpkin pie bites might need more thickener to get them to set. So while I encourage you to use fresh ingredients whenever possible, I made the recipe using canned pumpkin so that it will work for most people. If you’re using fresh pumpkin, just make sure you drain it well after it’s cooked so that its consistency is close to canned.
One more thing: I made these using sorghum flour so that they’d be gluten-free. (I don’t need to eat gluten-free, but a lot of my readers do, so I like to make it easier for them to make my recipes.) The fat-free, sorghum crust is a little dry right at first, but I found that it softened overnight, so if you can, make these bites the day before, or use a softer type of flour, such as whole wheat pastry flour.
Pumpkin Pie Bites
The topping, which contributes about 10 calories per bar, is optional, though I think the crystallized ginger adds a lot of zing to these tasty bites. They improve with age, so consider making them a day ahead of serving.
1 1/2 cups quick or rolled oats* (divided)
1 cup sorghum (or other whole grain) flour
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 cup brown sugar firmly packed
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 cup apple sauce or apple butter
2 tablespoons water
15 ounces pumpkin (canned or cooked and water pressed out)
12 ounces extra-firm silken tofu (lite preferred)
1/2 cup turbinado sugar (or regular sugar)
2 tablespoons cornstarch
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg (freshly grated)
1/2 teaspoon ginger
1/2 teaspoon allspice
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon rum extract (optional)
2 tablespoons agave nectar (or other liquid sweetener)
1 teaspoon salt
Preheat oven to 375 F. Line the bottom of a 9×13-inch nonstick baking pan with parchment paper.
Crust: Place 1/2 cup of the oats in a blender and crush them to a fine powder. Pour the oat flour into a medium mixing bowl and add the remaining oatmeal and the other dry crust ingredients. Add the apple sauce and water and stir until well-moistened. If necessary, add additional water a teaspoon at a time until all flour is moist. Pour it into the prepared pan and press it into the pan until the bottom is evenly covered.
Filling: Place all the filling ingredients into a blender or food processor. Process until all ingredients are thoroughly combined. Pour filling on top of crust and smooth with a spatula.
Topping and Baking: Mix the topping ingredients together and sprinkle on top of the filling. Bake for 40-45 minutes, until pumpkin is set in the middle. Remove from oven and run a non-metal knife or spatula around the edges. Cool for at least 15 minutes before cutting into 48 squares.
Preparation time: 20 minute(s) | Cooking time: 45 minute(s)
Number of servings (yield): 48
Nutrition (per serving): 68 calories, 8 calories from fat, less than 1g total fat, 0mg cholesterol, 62mg sodium, 56mg potassium, 13.5g carbohydrates, 1.3g fiber, 5.8g sugar, 2g protein, 1.2 points.
*Gluten-free results depend on using certified gluten-free oats and other ingredients.
Bonus cat photo for those of you who read this far:
This is what happens when you photograph your food in a house with a fearless and incorrigible kitten in it. While I was trying to get one final shot of the bites, our newest family member took a fancy to them. He actually managed to grab a small piece. Though he seemed to like it, I’m not recommending you share these treats with your pets!