Chocolate Almond Pumpkin Squares

chocolate_almond_pumpkin_squares.jpgOctober is the month when all the pumpkins show their scary faces as decorations for Halloween. While the weather gets colder and leaves begin changing color, coffee shops start selling their seasonal pumpkin spice lattes to warm us up. The wonderful uses of pumpkin flavoring even stretch into November with pumpkin pie as a Thanksgiving dessert staple. I enjoy the pumpkin pie, but sometimes I crave a different dessert from this dark orange squash.

Pumpkin squares satisfy my need for something seasonal and good to eat as a sweet snack or healthy dessert. Pumpkins are fabulous for your eyesight! They contain a ton of antioxidants including Vitamin A, as well as lutein, zeaxanthin and carotenes. They are also a great source of minerals like calcium, magnesium and potassium.

Besides the pumpkin, I include some whole grain oats and almonds. The oats contain vitamin E, zinc and niacin that promote overall eye health. Almonds are shown in this recipe in various forms: almond flour, almond butter and almond slices. They contribute to eye health because they are rich in omega-3 fatty acids and vitamin E!

I also use a baking thickener called xanthan gum to thicken the squares since I used a gluten-free flour. This works similar to the way cornstarch thickens a recipe. The brand I used is called Bob’s Red Mill, and I bought it at Whole foods. Other health food stores like Trader Joe’s and Kroger’s gluten-free section may carry this as well. It can also be purchased online from Target.com, Walmart.com, Amazon.com, or Jet.com.

And since I am a woman with a constant craving for chocolate, I added a little of that on top. Honestly, it makes this dish look even more mouth-watering to your guests!

 

Ingredients (makes about 12 squares):

  • 1 cup pumpkin puree
  • 1 egg
  • ¼ cup honey
  • 2 tbsp almond butter
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1 ½ cups almond flour
  • ½ cup whole grain oats
  • ½ tsp xanthan gum
  • 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • ½ tsp pumpkin spice
  • ⅛  tsp nutmeg
  • ¼ tsp salt

Topping:

  • ½ cup mini chocolate chips (semi-sweet or dark)
  • ¼ tsp cinnamon
  • 2 tbsp almond slices

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees and grease a 7×11 rectangular oven-safe glass baking dish or a similar-sized pan (You want the batter to be about an inch thick in your pan).
  2. Put oats in a blender and pulse twice. Combine dry ingredients- almond flour, oats, xanthan gum, baking soda, cinnamon, pumpkin spice, nutmeg, and salt- in a large bowl and stir until mixed.
  3. Combine wet ingredients- pumpkin puree, egg, honey, almond butter and vanilla extract- in a separate, medium bowl and blend together with a mixer.
  4. Then add the wet ingredients to the dry ingredients and blend well with a mixer.
  5. Pour mixture into the baking dish and smooth it out evenly. Bake for about 20 minutes, or until a toothpick can be inserted in the middle and it comes out clean.
  6. Once out of the oven, put the chocolate chips in a microwaveable bowl, heat for 1 minute and stir. Spoon it into the middle of a plastic sandwich bag and cut one of the bottom corners of the bag to make a small hole. Squeeze the bag to make vertical and horizontal lines of chocolate across the dish. (You can lightly drag a dull knife over the horizontal lines of chocolate to make a more unique design.)
  7. Put 2 tbsp of almond slices into a blender and pulse a few times. Then stir in ¼ tsp cinnamon and sprinkle this mixture across the top of the dish.
  8. Cut into square bars and serve. To increase firmness, place in refrigerator for 1 to 2 hours. You can always microwave a pumpkin square for 30 seconds to re-melt the chocolate.