Today was a cold, busy Monday. I feel like my Monday’s are always packed with everything I need to do from emails over the weekend or routine tasks I have to complete each week. Between those, the day can easily get away from me.
With a busy, busy week at work last week and a fun but packed weekend, today didn’t even feel like a dreaded Monday, rather, just another day in my continuous week. I feel like I have been going going going for weeks now. I just realized the leaves on the trees starting to change colors on Friday. I’m not sure if they started turning earlier than that, or if I just didn’t have the chance to look around until then.
Sometimes I keep my schedule so busy and so packed that I have to remember to include some time for relaxation and downtime, otherwise the stress catches up to me and I crash. Now that we are immersed in the fall weather and the trees and temperatures have caught up to the season, I find myself swimming in thoughts of everything I want to accomplish before the season ends, and even further ahead to the holidays that follow. The unexpected cold snap this weekend, combined with all of the activities in our busy schedule made me stop and realize that I can’t do everything. I will run myself into the ground trying to get everything done and fit in everything, but I shouldn’t. I should slow down and enjoy the season. We all should. Fall is a beautiful time of year and we should focus on it while we can, before it gets too cold to enjoy being outside.
We should enjoy the crisp air, the tights and jackets that we wear because of the dropping temperatures, the multi-colored leaves falling from the trees and the crunch they make underfoot, the pumpkins lining doorsteps and street corners, the smells of apple cider and bonfires and the tastes of warm, comforting foods. If you have been reading, you know that I love granola and I love pumpkin. Put the two together and you have my ideal fall snack. The great thing about granola is that, while it is easy to make, it takes a while to bake and cool. It forces you to wait around for it to cook and then cool; it forces you to slow down, relax and enjoy the season, as the warm scents of cinnamon and spices fill your home.
Pumpkin spice granola is full of the flavors of fall. It doesn’t taste like full on pumpkin, but certainly has the spices that remind you of it. The toasted pecans and pepitas add some nuttiness and texture to the chunks. Pure maple syrup deepens and enhances the fall flavor of this snack and removes the need for any refined sugars. This granola is healthy enough for breakfast, delicious enough for snacks throughout the day, and is the perfect slow recipe for a simple fall treat. It is easy to adjust the sweetness, based on your preference and can be made into small bits to eat with milk or large chunks to nibble on their own.
I decided to leave out dried fruit this time but this pumpkin spice granola would also be great with craisins or dried cherries. Let’s slow down, smell the cinnamon, and enjoy this fall snack and this fall season.
Pumpkin Spice Granola
3 cups rolled oats (not quick cooking)
1 cup raw pecans
½ cup raw pumpkin seeds (pepitas) (optional)
2 tablespoons toasted wheat germ*
2 tablespoons flaxseed meal (ground flax seeds)*
¾ cup plus 2 tablespoons pure maple syrup
4 tablespoons olive oil**
½ teaspoon vanilla
2 teaspoon cinnamon
½ teaspoon nutmeg
¼ teaspoon allspice
¼ teaspoon ground cloves
½ teaspoon salt
1 egg white (optional)
Preheat the oven to 325 degrees F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper and set aside.
In a large bowl, combine the oats, pecans, pepitas, wheat germ and flaxseed meal.
In a heat-safe bowl, warm up ¾ cup maple syrup in the microwave for a few seconds. It should be liquidy. In a medium bowl, whisk together the warm maple syrup, olive oil, vanilla, cinnamon, nutmeg, allspice, cloves and salt.
Pour the liquid and spice mixture over the dry ingredients and stir for a few minutes to fully combine. Make sure all of the dry ingredients are coated. This usually takes more stirring than I think it will. If you notice that you still have dry patches, you can add the other 2 tablespoons of maple syrup or a bit more oil. At this point, you can also stir in an egg white if you want your granola in bigger chunks, rather than little pieces.
Pour the granola mixture onto your prepared baking sheet and spread it out across the pan. Press the granola into an even layer. Bake for 30-40 minutes, tossing the edges and the middle around about halfway through to ensure even baking. Once the granola is evenly golden and toasted, remove from the oven and let it cool on the pan before breaking it up. When it is cool, break the granola into clusters and store in an airtight container.
*You can replace the flaxseed meal with more wheat germ, and vice versa.
**You can replace the olive oil fully or partially with melted butter or coconut oil.