Sometimes, you just need to bake something. There doesn’t need to be an occasion (like, it’s raining), or a reason, (and there’s a lovely fire in the fireplace and Vivaldi on the stereo), or anyone else there (with sleeping cats and a Labrador Retriever hogging the spot in front of the fire).
Today I wanted to bake. No, today I needed to bake!
I made a quick mental inventory of what was in the pantry—notice I said ‘mental’, I didn’t physically check to see what was there—and started softening some butter. Had I actually checked, I would have noticed that I was out of flour, an ingredient used in abundance in this gluten-full household!
Back to the butter, which was begging to be creamed into some sugar for some sort of delicious something—anything—and I settled on a ‘pumpkin something’. For a couple of seconds I thought about some pumpkin-molasses cookies with crunchy-sparkly, sugar tops that I’d seen on Pinterest, but they were the same couple of seconds that reminded me that I’d accidentally lopped a large piece of my thumb off yesterday, and that cookies might be a little too labor intensive for someone unaccustomed to working with only one hand. Did I mention that “I am not left-handed!” ?
And while I’m on the subject of pumpkin, I’ve noticed some people writing about how they’re NOT doing pumpkin recipes—”pumpkin is sooo overdone these days”—and so forth.
Hey… it’s October! Get over it! Does anyone ever say that about turkey recipes in November? Do they malign peppermint and cranberry recipes in December? Of course they don’t!
Besides, I like pumpkin, so I’m going to write about it, and trends-be-darned anyway!
Now, back to the butter, for real! A pumpkin bread or cake was next on my list (something that didn’t require much manual dexterity, and that I could just pour into a pan), and I plopped that butter into the mixer and then promptly remembered that I’d used the last of the flour yesterday to dredge some eggplant for eggplant parmesan. Ooops!
I checked the pantry. Then I checked it again, just in case. Then I turned off my pre-heated oven and started to sulk.
It was just a little sulk, because it’s hard to stay all pout-y when there’s a toasty fire and Vivaldi on a rainy autumn day.
I still wanted to bake something though, and after a few more minutes contemplating the merits of all of the other grains in the house, and how they might possibly get along with pumpkin and cinnamon, I had a moment of inspiration—or rather, a flash from the past!
I remembered some oatmeal bars that I used to make for my kids when they were little—sweet enough to qualify as dessert, but low enough in sugar to be disguised as breakfast or a healthy snack—and with a little re-imagining (umm, imagine some more sugar and butter) and some pumpkin, I thought it might work!
It worked, beautifully. Not only are they wonderfully moist, spicy, and pumpkin-y (they taste like fall!) they’re easy, fairly fast, and gluten-free to boot! If you leave the icing off, they could pass for breakfast. (As a mom, I have to say that, but I wouldn’t actually do it…leave the icing off, I mean.)
Happy October to you, and happy baking! This is a recipe that I developed, so please make these and let me know what you think.
Spicy Pumpkin Oat Bars
½ cup butter
1 cup packed brown sugar
1 ¾ cups cooked pumpkin (1 15 oz can)
1 tsp vanilla extract
½ tsp salt
1 tsp cinnamon
¼ tsp ground ginger
1/8 tsp each ground nutmeg and cloves
4 cups oats (regular or quick-cooking)
(optional) ½ cup chopped walnuts
Preheat your oven to 350 degrees
Butter a 9” x 13” pan
Cream the butter and sugar together in a large bowl.
Blend in the egg, vanilla, pumpkin, salt and spices.
Thoroughly mix in the oats and nuts.
Spread the batter into the buttered pan, and bake for 35-40 minutes. The edges should just begin to turn golden.
You can make the following icing after the bars come out of the oven.
2/3 cup powdered sugar
½ tsp vanilla extract
1/8 tsp cinnamon
(optional) a couple drops of maple flavoring
2 T cream or milk
Mix all the ingredients together an a small bowl, adding a bit more cream or milk as necessary to make an easily spreadable paste
Cool slightly, then spread the icing on while still warm. Let cool, then slice into bars or squares.