Things were going well until I tried to get fancy with a chocolate drizzle… #fail.

At holiday feasts, I’m often faced with a dilemma: will it be the pumpkin pie, the apple pie or the ever-present chocolate option? Realistically, I’ll have all three. But what about seconds? No one should have to make this painful decision. Enter chocapplumpkin pie: a riot of holiday flavours commingling with synergistic awesomeness. A dessert for the nontraditional, the adventurous and the indecisive.

Any bumbling would-be chef can crank out tasty desserts with the help of copious amounts of butter, white flour and sugar—that unholy trinity. The real art and challenge is in cooking healthy food that masquerades as decadent, even sinful. Is it strange that I get a thrill out of surreptitiously feeding my family and friends obscenely healthy food? Pull it off and they are none the wiser. That is, unless you spill the beans: “Bet you didn’t know that was low glycemic index, high fiber and packed with antioxidants!” ***Awkward silence falls around the table.***

Chocapplumpkin pie filling (2 pies)
  • Apple filling:
    • 4-6 medium-sized apples (4 for standard pie pans, 6+ for deep-dish)
    • ½ c. water
    • 2 tbsp. butter (healthiness debatable but flavour unbeatable)
    • 2 tbsp. brown sugar
    • 1 tbsp. corn starch
    • 1 tsp. cinnamon
  1. Peal the apples and set the skin aside (to use in the crust—can’t let all that nutrition go to waste!). Core and thinly slice the apples.
  2. In a saucepan, bring water and butter to a boil. Stir in brown sugar, cinnamon and corn starch. Add apple slices and cook covered over medium heat, stirring regularly until they begin to soften (~10 minutes). Remove from heat and set aside.
Today in gratuitous kitchen appliances: an apple-pealing-thingamajig. Words cannot describe the aroma coming from that saucepan.

  • Chocolate-pumpkin filling:
    • 2½ c. pumpkin (¾ of an 800 ml can)
    • 3 eggs
    • 1 c. buttermilk (or evaporated milk)
    • 1 to 1½ c. brown sugar (to taste)
    •  c. cocoa powder
    • 2 tsp. vanilla extract
    • 1½ tsp. cinnamon
    • 1 tsp. nutmeg
    • ½ tsp. grated fresh ginger
    • ½ tsp. salt
  1. Beat eggs in a bowl. Add all other ingredients and stir until well combined.
  2. Spoon apple filling into two pie shells (recipe below), distributing evenly. Pour pumpkin mixture over the apples. For bonus points, garnish with a ring of apple slices.
  3. Bake at 350°F (180°C) until filling is set, about 45-50 minutes.
Apple granola pie crust. Consider doubling the recipe to account for inevitable snacking during preparation…

Traditional pastry pie crusts are finicky and above my culinary paygrade. Plus, pastry makes what could otherwise be a relatively healthy dessert into an artery-clogging calorie bomb. For a healthier, more forgiving option, try this apple granola crust. This ain’t your grandma’s tender, flaky crust; it’s dense, chewy and chock full of nutrition.

Apple granola pie crust (two 9″ crusts)

  • 2 c. large flake oats
  • ½ c. dates (pitted)
  • ½ c. walnuts
  • ½ c. shredded coconut
  • ⅓ c. whole wheat flour
  • 4 apple peelings (from filling recipe above)
  • 1 tsp. cinnamon
  • ¼ tsp. salt
  • ¼ c. vegetable oil

  1. In a food processor, pulse dates until a paste forms. Add 1 c. of oats and all other ingredients. Pulse until the mixture has a crumbly consistency. Add the remaining 1 c. of oats and blend briefly, leaving the oats mostly intact.

  2. Transfer the mixture into two sprayed or non-stick 9″ pie dishes. Starting from the center, gradually press the crust into the edges and just over the lip of the dish, aiming for uniform thickness.

  3. Bake at 350°F (180°C) for about 10 minutes. Careful, it burns quickly!

This is the consistency you want.

Inspiration born of desperation

Last year, I was invited to a Thanksgiving potluck for forlorn students who weren’t heading home to their families. It had been a hectic week, so I didn’t think about what I’d bring until Monday afternoon. I poked around the kitchen looking for ideas. The fridge and cupboards were practically bare. I found some dusty spices and expired condiments (housewarming gifts from the previous tenants), a few sad vegetables, eggs, an apple and—aha!—a can of pumpkin; I could make pumpkin pie, a classic crowd-pleaser. I started throwing ingredients together. Then it dawned on me that I didn’t have milk… and stores were closed. Rifling the cupboards turned up a couple forgotten packets of hot chocolate mix—problem solved! And, what the heck, I threw the apple in as well. It was serendipity; not only was it delicious, but there were no fewer than four run-of-the-mill pumpkin pies at the potluck.

This is the second post in a series, Endurance Eats, where I share healthy vegetarian recipes for hard-training athletes.