Easier than pie: A tasty, simple Thanksgiving dessert
It’s time for apples! It’s time for pumpkin! It’s time to spice up autumn with cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves and ginger!
Nights are long and chilly. Days are short. Summer birds have left our region. The leaves are mostly off the trees.
It’s time for Thanksgiving! It’s time for … pie.
Or something different, and simpler: a crisp!
A fruit crisp is a simple dessert of two layers. The bottom layer is fruit and the topping is made with oats, nuts, flour, sugar and butter. It forms a crunchy, crispy topping. It is usually served warm, often with ice cream, and is great for the holiday. Crisps are cozy winter comfort food.
Apples and pumpkin are both in season now. Orchards in the Champlain Valley are brimming with apple varieties galore. You can visit and buy apples — or better yet, pick your own!
We have all heard that an apple a day keeps the doctor away. That’s because this nutritious fruit contains numerous phytochemicals, antioxidants like vitamins C and K, and flavonoids that boost your immune system. They also contain fiber to aid digestion. Depending on size and variety, an apple has about 80 calories.
While apples were brought to our continent by European colonists, pumpkins were a dietary staple of native peoples. The Europeans learned from native Americans how to use this large orange squash, which helped sustain them during their first winter in the western hemisphere.
Pumpkin is a nutrient-dense food, high in antioxidants, fiber, vitamins A and E, and minerals like potassium, iron and zinc. And with only 49 calories per cup, it’s great for dieters. For cooking and baking, you can buy pumpkin puree in a can or make your own. For homemade puree, cut your pumpkins in half, remove the seeds, then roast the fruit skin side up until soft. Cool slightly and remove the skin while the pumpkin is still warm. Then cut it in pieces, and drain off some of the liquid. Process in a food processor or blend with an immersion blender.
A 3-pound pumpkin will yield about 2 cups of puree — the same as a 15-ounce can. Homemade puree will be a bit more watery than commercially canned puree.
1 cup rolled oats
1/4 cup flour (to make oat flour, or grind oats in food processor).
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/3 cup chopped walnuts
3 Tablespoons butter (you could also use coconut oil)
2 Tablespoons maple syrup (you could also use honey or agave syrup)
5 or 6 apples (6 cups sliced)
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1 – 2 Tablespoons maple syrup (optional sweetener)
Make the topping. In a mixing bowl, combine oats, flour (unbleached, whole wheat or oat flour), cinnamon, and nuts.
In a small skillet, melt the butter; add the maple syrup. Stir into oat mixture and set aside.
Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.
Prepare 9” x 9″ baking dish – spray with cooking spray or grease with butter.
Quarter apples. Peel. Remove core and slice thin. Place in bottom of the baking dish and sprinkle with cinnamon and maple syrup, if using.
Spread topping over apples.
Bake at 375 degrees F. 35 – 40 minutes, until topping is brown and apples are cooked.
Serves 6 – 8.
Pumpkin Pecan Crisp
1/2 cup brown sugar
2 cups pumpkin puree (one 15 oz. can) – make sure not to use pumpkin pie filling but pureed pumpkin. If making your own, a 3-pound pumpkin should make 2 cups pureed pumpkin.
3 teaspoons pumpkin pie spice (or 1 and 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon, 1/2 teaspoon ground ginger, 1/2 teaspoon ground cloves and 1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg)
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1/2 cup whole milk (you can also use almond milk or another nut or soy milk). For a richer filling, use half-and-half or cream.
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1/4 cup brown sugar
1 teaspoon pumpkin pie spice or 1 teaspoon cinnamon
2/3 cup rolled oats
2/3 cup chopped pecans
1/4 cup salted butter (or add 1/4 teaspoon salt if using unsalted)
Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.
Grease 9” x 9″ baking dish (or a cast-iron skillet) with cooking spray.
For the filling, in a large bowl, beat eggs with electric mixer until light. Beat in sugar, pumpkin puree, pumpkin pie spice, salt, vanilla and milk. Pour into prepared baking dish.
Place in oven and bake 15 – 20 minutes.
Make the topping.
In bowl, combine flour, brown sugar and pumpkin pie spice.
Stir in oats and chopped pecans.
Melt butter, and stir in. It should form moist clumps.
Remove the pumpkin from the oven.
Raise oven temperature to 400 degrees F.
With your hands, scatter the topping over the pumpkin.
Return to oven, and bake 20 more minutes, or until the top is brown and crisp.
Remove from oven. Let cool at least ten minutes before slicing.
Serve with dollops of whipped cream or vanilla ice cream.
Serves 6 – 8.
Author of the award-winning cookbook “Garden Gourmet: Fresh & Fabulous Meals from your Garden, CSA or Farmers’ Market,” Yvona Fast lives in Lake Clear and has two passions: cooking and writing. She can be found at www.yvonafast.com and reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Facebook at Words Are My World.