It’s extraordinary how far Halloween has come in the UK over the last few years. To be honest, I can’t even remember going out to ‘trick or treat’ when I was very little. So when you see the shelves now adorned with branded Halloween sweets and chocolate, it’s amazing how big the Halloween marketing machine has come in such a short space of time.
However, I do remember being taken out one time when I happened to be in Florida at a tennis camp when Halloween fell. Halloween in the US is celebrated to a totally different level compared to the UK. Everyone decorates their houses to the standards we might decorate our houses at Christmas.
With a lack of an outfit, as clearly I hadn’t planned on knocking on doors whilst I was out in Florida, I can recollect creating a make-shift one out of a sheet! I wasn’t going to win any medals for creativity or effort with my fancy dress outfit. A problem I still have to this day when attending any fancy dress party, which my friends will happily back me up on.
So off we went knocking on doors round the complex, asking the ritual question ‘Trick or Treat?’ I of course, had no idea what our trick might be should they request one, but luckily for us, all the residents seemed more than happy to hand over treats instead. Most treats were chocolate bars or candy, but I do remember the odd house handing out dollar bills! Crazy! I’m sure they had more visitors than most.
We went home with bags of sugar which were devoured in record time, only to result in most of us feeling rather ill. Not exactly conducive to running round a tennis court for hours on end the next day.
Pumpkin is obviously synonymous with Halloween and they are currently packed to the brim in boxes in the local supermarkets and greengrocers. I picked a pumpkin up this weekend and spent most of Saturday changing my mind what I could use it to make. One minute it was a traditional pumpkin pie, the next it was pumpkin streusel cake but I instead plumped for something a little bit different.
When I think back to all those unhealthy treats we consumed as a kid at Halloween, I thought I could turn the bright orange pumpkin into a healthier sort of treat that kids and adults would still enjoy. Ok, I know, in reality the kids will still opt for the chocolate bar, I can but dream!
I’ll often grab a ‘Nakd bar’ before going to the gym to give me a bit of energy, which my husband isn’t a huge fan of them and he’ll instead always opt for a chocolate chip tracker bar. With this knowledge, I thought I could make an oaty nutty bar that fulfils both are requirements from a snack bar.
There are a lot of granola/oat bar recipes around, but with the twist of adding pumpkin spice these turned into something a little bit different. They are packed full of nutritious goodness and the only sweetness comes from the pumpkin, maple syrup and the dark chocolate chips. I think they deliver in satisfying my desire for a healthy but flavoursome snack, with my husband’s need for a bit of sweetness whilst still being suitably filling. They are crumbly, moorish and incredibly addictive. So much so, I didn’t even take any into work to share, deciding that my husband and I would eat the lot at home this week.
The question is of course, will the kids see the trick? Vegetables, oats, nuts with no added sugar in a bar? Or will they just think it’s a treat. Trick or treat?!
Pumpkin spiced, choc chip nutty oat bars
For the pumpkin puree
1 small pumpkin
For the oat bars – dry ingredients
200g rolled oats
20g oat bran
20g ground flaxseeds
20g pumpkin seeds
20g sunflower seeds
30g chopped pecans
30g chopped hazelnuts
100g dark choc chips
For the oat bars – wet ingredients
Pinch sea salt
50ml rapeseed oil
150g pureed pumpkin (this worked out to be about quarter of a small-to-medium pumpkin)
75ml maple syrup
1 tsp cinnamon
½ tsp ground nutmeg
For the pumpkin purée
Preheat the oven to 200°C.
Line two baking trays with parchment paper.
Cut your pumpkin in half and scoop out the seeds. Discard any stringy fibre round the seeds. Keep the seeds but wash them well and dry on some kitchen towel.
Place the pumpkin halves on one tray, cut side down and bake for 40 – 50 minutes or until tender. The time will depend on the size of your pumkin. The skin will be slightly darker and you should be able to poke a fork through it quite easily.
Let the pumpkin cool for about 10 minutes before trying to handle it. Get a large spoon and peel away the skin and put the flesh in a mixer/blender and puree until it is smooth.
You might have puree left over which you can use in cookies or turn into a soup. Or use the remaining roasted pumpkin in salads or as a mash. Delicious!
For the nutty oat bars
Preheat the oven to 175°C and line a brownie tray with baking parchment. Make sure it overhangs on both sides so that the bars are easy to remove once baked.
Stir together all the dry ingredients in a bowl.
In a separate bowl, mix together all your wet ingredients including the pumpkin puree.
Toss the wet ingredients with the dry ingredients and thoroughly mix well so that all the nuts and oats are well coated.
Spread the mixture in your brownie tin and press down to make it compact, flat and even so that it bakes evenly.
Bake the bars for 30 to 40 minutes but keep an eye on them. You want them to be a golden brown.
The bars will still seem soft when they come out the oven, but don’t worry and leave them to cool completely in the tin.
Once they are totally cool, remove the bars using your parchment to lift out of the tray.
You can then use a serrated knife to cut into squares or bars.
If you think they are a bit crumbly, pop them in the fridge to chill properly and this should fully set them.
Store the bars in an airtight container. They can be stored in the fridge if your kitchen gets warm.
Serve whole, or crumbled on yoghurt or hot stewed fruit.