Saturday, October 12, 2013

Maple Pumpkin Pie with Pecan Streusel

I was standing guard at the bench; three, maybe four pumpkins were lined up in a row. I had my eye out on them. After digging through piles of deformed, warted, green pumpkins, my Dad and I had narrowed it down to a handful of perfectly orange, round gems. You see, ever since I was a little girl, he and I would make the trip out to the country and hit as many pumpkin patches as were around. Fast forward twenty-six years later, and you can still find us trekking out of the city and into the land of hayrides, caramel apples, cider donuts and scarecrows. Of course, I'm no longer a hyperactive little pig-tailed blondie running around in the corn maze, and he is no longer holding my hand through the haunted houses, but I'd like to think that it's pretty cool we still do this. 
Alas, I revert to a little kid in these moments (after all, I still am my father's child). As I stand on the outskirts of the patch hovering closely to the pumpkins we liked, I hear a little boy scream "Daddy, I want that one!" He pointed to my pumpkin. Oh no he didn't, I thought to myself. His dad nodded to him. "Yeah, that's a great one! Why don't you go get a better look at it?"

The kid ran over and tried yanking the pumpkin off of the bench, totally unscathed by the fact that I stood over them. "We are kind of holding on to these," I say to his Dad, who frankly could care less and is marching right over as if he were on a pumpkin recon mission.  "Well, are they purchased?" he scoffs. "No," I reply, getting annoyed, "but we're going to." I put my hands on my two favorites as to mark my territory. He walks over and picks up one of the pumpkins on the bench. If looks could kill, that man would be toast. Because while I am now a patient, level headed adult, in this moment, I was still that little girl in her overalls and pigtails. I was an eight-year-old watching a grown man steal my pumpkin. And I wasn't having it. "These are actually ours to buy," I say, a little more sure of myself. "You can have what's left." I motion to the rest of the pumpkins we were inspecting, grab ours, and run over to the safety of my own dad. "All set?" he asks. 

Yeah. We're all good here.  

Maple Pumpkin Pie with Pecan Streusel

Pumpkin Filling

2 cups canned pumpkin
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1/3 cup firmly packed dark brown sugar
1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon fine salt
1 1/4 cups heavy cream
1 cup pure maple syrup

3 large eggs, beaten

Pecan Streusel
3/4 cup pecans, toasted and chopped
1/4 cup firmly packed dark brown sugar
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
2 tablespoons unsalted butter, diced, cold
9" Pie crust

1. Preheat the oven to 425 degrees F. To make the filling, mix the pumpkin, flour, brown sugar, nutmeg, cinnamon, and salt together with an electric mixer on medium speed until smooth, scraping the sides of the bowl well. Add the heavy cream and maple syrup, scraping the bowl several times while mixing. Mix in the beaten eggs.

2. Pour the filling mixture into the pie shell, and bake for 15 minutes. Then lower the oven temperature to 350 degrees F and bake until the filling is almost firm, about 30 minutes. Remove the pie from the oven and sprinkle the pecan streusel over the top, covering the pie completely. Return the pie to the oven and bake until the filling is just a bit wobbly in the middle and the pecan streusel is golden, 10 to 15 minutes. The total baking time should be 55 to 60 minutes. Cool the pie on a wire rack and serve with vanilla ice cream.

Recipe adapted from Food Network.

Sunday, October 6, 2013

Homemade Vegan Granola Bars

Something about the summer makes it hard to imagine preheating the oven and making your tiny apartment feel like the depths of hell. Or maybe not for you, if you can afford using your central air. But for me, a frugal fanny, summer baking is not exactly my jam. So when the drizzly Boston weather kept my Dad and I from spending a leisurely Sunday out exploring some New England farms, I knew just what I wanted to do. Yes, my long lost love of sweet cuisine was revisited, finally, after months of hiatus.
What is ironic about my itch for baking was that these bars didn't require baking at all. In fact, this was one of the easiest things I've ever made. And while they are definitely satisfying for the sweetest of teeth, these little guys have no added sugar and are gluten free and vegan. (No, I'm not vegan or gluten free, and I never will be, but it's always fun to explore). What's also great about these is that you can definitely sub in ingredients you have hanging around. I'll post the recipe we used, but also some alternatives for you.

Homemade Vegan Granola Bars
1 cup dried apricots, packed

1 cup roasted unsalted almonds
1.5 cups toasted oats
1/4 cup shredded coconut (toasted coconut optional)
1/4 cup sunflower seeds
1/4 cup maple syrup*

1/4 cup creamy salted peanut butter**
Sea Salt

1. Put apricots into a food processor and chop until they form a ball, about 1 minute
2. Place oats into 350 degree preheated oven and toast until golden brown.
3. Place oats, apricots, sunflower seeds and coconut in a large mixing bowl.
4. In a small sauce pan over low heat, combine peanut butter and maple syrup and mix until well combined and warmed. Pour over oat mixture and mix thoroughly.
5. Transfer to a 9x9 parchment lined pan and sprinkle coarse sea salt over the mixture. Press firmly down until flattened. Place in refrigerator or freezer until chilled, and then cut into 10-12 bars. 

*May sub agave or honey, but it's no longer vegan
**May sub almond butter or other nut butter