Whole Foods Spiced Pumpkin Treats

 

These are just delicious. Just plain delicious. These bars are the perfect fall/winter sweet treat, breakfast, dessert or snack. They are made using good, wholesome ingredients – sans all the nasty additives, preservatives and refined sugars and fats.

 

The main ingredients making up the base of these bars are oats and dates and toasted coconut flour (or finely ground desiccated coconut). Oats are incredible for keeping you satisfied and keeping you energized as well as providing important vitamins and minerals to help fuel your body on a cellular level. Oatmeal contains high levels of fiber which is important in keeping the digestive system functioning at its optimal. However, besides the fantastic fiber content of oats, oats is also high in minerals like selenium, manganese, magnesium, phosphorus and zinc. Who knew?! This underrated grain/cereal is also such a great go-to ingredient because it’s so versatile! You can use it in sweet and savory dishes, in baked goods, ground into a fine flour instead of using regular flour and in smoothies and desserts too. Now let’s talk a little bit about dates. Oh dates. Dates are one of my true loves in life. Sweet caramel bites from nature. They are high in energy as well as high in nutrients making them the perfect replacement for when you’re having a sweet craving moment. Or, if you’re like me and thoroughly believe that a handful of dates a day keeps the doctor away, then you might also not go a single day without eating dates in three years! All jokes aside, though. And since then, I have never felt better - so they are clearly doing something right.

 

The mid-layer of this bar is actually made using roasted/baked pumpkin and agar agar my new favorite ingredient to work with after having discovered it while making a delectable sliceable cashew cheese (recipe to come). I would really urge you to use freshly baked pumpkin in place of tinned pumpkin due to the increased flavor and nutritional. Pumpkin is a great source of vitamin A, C and E as well as being a great source of a host of minerals like copper, manganese and folate to name a few. Besides the nutritional content of pumpkin, it is simply one of my favorite ingredients to cook and bake with and simply to EAT. Somehow pumpkin has this way of bringing a sense of warmth and cozy-ness to any dish. It’s truly heart-warming.

 

The top layer, being the raw cacao ganache-like layer is delicious as is. I swear I could sit and simply peel the top layer off the bars and just eat it all. In one go. But I won’t, because unlike my terrible habit of always eating the bread crust away from the bread and leaving a crust-less bundle of dough in the bread-bin (yes, I am that person who eats the crust away from the loaf, to my mother’s dismay! Is anyone else out there feeling the bread crust feels!? In my humble opinion it simply is the best part of the loaf by far) I ought to leave the yummy chocolate layer for others to enjoy too.

 

The inspiration for this recipe came along when we had baked a whole batch of pumpkin and eaten some with our veggie and rice bowls for lunch. We had a lot left over and I felt like making a sweet treat. So, the creative juices got flowing and I started to play around with ideas and then this beauty came along. I wanted to create a creamy, decadent middle layer without the use of nuts and other heavy ingredients that are usually used when creating bars or desserts. I recalled using agar agar as a way of making a cashew cheese I had made the other day harden while in the fridge and thought it would be the perfect substitute for making my middle layer without relying on nuts or the like.

 

Agar agar is the perfect vegan gelatin substitute, made from a seaweed. It is also known as kanten. It has no taste, color or odor so it is very versatile in terms of its’ culinary uses! You can usually find it at any health food store.

 

Ingredients

 

For the Base

·      2 cups of rolled oats

·      1.5 cups of dates (I used semi dried dates and soaked them in warm water for 5 minutes beforehand – but I am sure you can easily substitute with medjool dates)

·      ¼ cup coconut flour, lightly toasted in a pan

·      2 teaspoons cinnamon

·      ¾ teaspoon himalayan salt

 

For the Pumpkin Layer

·      1.5 cups squashed freshly baked pumpkin

·      ¾ cup unsweetened soy milk

·      ¼ cup sweetener of choice: maple syrup, brown rice syrup, honey etc

·      4 drops of liquid stevia (optional if you’re like me and want it a bit sweeter)

·      ¼ cup filtered water

·      1 tablespoon + 1 teaspoon of agar agar powder

·      1 teaspoon cinnamon

·      pinch of salt

 

Raw Cacao Ganache Layer

·      ½ cup coconut oil, melted

·      8 tablespoons raw cacao

·      2 tablespoons sweetener of choice: maple syrup, brown rice syrup, honey etc

·      5 drops of liquid stevia

 

Method

1.     Start by measuring out your base ingredients. Toast the oats in a large pan on the stove for 5 or so minutes. Place the oats in the food processor once they’ve cooled slightly. This step is optional. You can also keep the oats raw, I like using the toasted oats as they are slightly more flavorsome and add a great texture.

2.     Bring the pan back to the stove and toast your coconut flour – watch it as it cooks because it can burn very easily.

3.     Place the coconut flour into the food processor along with the dates, the salt and the cinnamon.

4.     Pulse until it holds together well and the oats are adequately broken up.

5.     Line a baking dish with parchment paper and press the oat base into the baking dish to form your base. Place in the freezer while you continue with the other ingredients.

6.     Rinse the food processor and then place the pumpkin, soy milk, sweetener, salt, stevia and cinnamon into the processor and blend until smooth.

7.     In a small pot bring the ¼ cup of water and the agar agar together, mixing thoroughly before heating. Now put the heat on medium-high and place the pumpkin mixture into the pot with the agar agar. Bring to the boil and allow to boil for about 2-3 minutes until it’s thickened slightly.

8.     Get the baking dish with the oat-y base from the freezer and pour the pumpkin mixture over it. Thin it out and spread it evenly over the base. Return to the freezer for 15 minutes.

9.     In the meantime, continue with the cacao layer. Place the coconut oil in a pan until melted and heated through. Then add the raw cacao and sweeteners into the pan and mix well until a glossy, smooth, chocolate sauce has been created. Taste it to check if it’s sweet enough – remembering that it is going on top of more sweet things, so it should still be a bit bitter to offset the other rich and sweet ingredients. Let it cool slightly before adding to the pumpkin layer.

10.  Feel the pumpkin layer with your finger, if it has set, take it out to continue. If it needs some more time (mine did need some more time), place back in the freezer until it hardens slightly. It won’t go completely hard but it will become hard enough to be able to prod without wobbling. If it’s ready to continue, then pour the chocolate sauce over the top, even it out and then place in the fridge to set.

11.  Leave in the fridge for at least an hour to set. You can tell when it’s set when the chocolate layer is solid. Once it is set and ready, you can take it out and cut it into size and shape you desire!

12.  They are perfect kept in the fridge, alternatively you can keep a couple in the freezer if it’s Summer and you’d like something a little more ice-y and creamy.

13.  ENJOY!