After 14 years in their current house, my parents decided to update their kitchen. Although already remodeled by the previous owners, its light cabinets and dark green granite countertops clashed with the woodsy cabin-esque feel of the rest of the house, so two weeks ago, just four days before I came home to visit, the demolition crew arrived and completely tore everything apart down to the baseboards and studs.
While the specialty guys for water, gas, and electricity only come one or two days each week, the main construction guy shows up at 7 am every day. He quietly measures, saws, and hammers away, then takes off around 3 pm to rest before the next morning.
As I passed through the barren kitchen one day last week on my way to the fridge (which now sits in the middle of the garage, along with the other new boxed-up appliances and light fixtures), I stopped to say hi. We chatted for a bit before he asked about my line of work. After revealing that I’m a food blogger as my full-time job, he started asking, “What’s on the menu?” every day.
This past Thursday, as he unplugged the vacuum and swept the dust from the floors, I started pulling out mixing bowls and measuring spoons to “bake” something in my parents’ convection toaster oven that they relocated to the laundry room (the only space in the house with unused countertops!). Just like before, he politely inquired what I was making, and I replied…
Pomegranate Pumpkin Granola Bars! Full of fall flavors, these soft and chewy vegan snacks are made from only 6 wholesome, clean-eating ingredients. They’re lots healthier (and cheaper!) than the store-bought kind, and they taste even better too!
As soon as September hit and I opened up my first can of purée for pumpkin season, I started dreaming of hundreds of things to try: muffins, cupcakes, crêpes, pie… But as a snack monster without an oven or stove, I began with these gluten-free granola bars instead.
This recipe is super simple; you wouldn’t believe how easy it is to make your own granola bars! Just mix together the wet ingredients in a bowl, stir in the oats and pomegranate arils, pop the mixture into a pan, and bake. That’s it!
It’s really important to use pumpkin purée, not pumpkin pie filling. Pie filling contains lots of added sugar, which completely defeats the purpose of using it in a healthy snack! (And if you have lots left over, try making this—it’s been our favorite pumpkin treat this year!)
Use old-fashioned oats for these granola bars (gluten-free if necessary!). Instant or “quick cooking” oats work really well in cookies, but for granola bars, we want the thicker texture and heartier chew of old-fashioned. Make sure you measure them correctly with the spoon-and-level method. If you scoop them straight from the canister, you’ll end up with 1.5 times as much, which would really dry out the granola bars and leave them crumbly. Not good!
I found these pomegranate arils (“seeds”) at Trader Joe’s in a ready-to-go package in the refrigerated produce section. You could easily buy a whole pomegranate or two and scrape out the seeds yourself, but because I always end up staining my shirt, pants, and apron when I do that, I’m happy to pay a little extra to avoid the hassle!
Note: Can’t find pomegranates? Try substituting ¼ cup of mini chocolate chips instead!
As soon as I finished photographing, my mom and I dug straight into these Pomegranate Pumpkin Granola Bars. We broke off a little piece, then another, and another… Until half the pan had disappeared! But because they’re low-calorie and full of fiber, we didn’t feel too guilty…
Until we realized we should probably save a taste for my dad too!