What a week!! I had two big midterms last week and I am still recovering from all the studying and test-related stress! Luckily, our friend Suzanne offered to prepare a post for us. Suzanne is one of our good friends from UC Berkeley (where I got my masters—I guess I just love being a student!), and has written a guest post for us before. I am a big fan of her previous recipe, and can’t wait to try out these yummy (and relatively healthy) fall treats below…!
FROM OUR FRIEND SUZANNE:
The return of fall always signals a return to the kitchen, and to so many warm, comforting recipes I’ve missed over the recent months. When rainy fall weather made its fashionably late appearance this week, baking with pumpkin couldn’t be far behind.
I found these pumpkin bars at Mel’s Kitchen Cafe. Mel had made an admirable effort to nudge this Paula Deen recipe in the “healthy” direction by substituting half of the oil with applesauce. I took it to the next level by further cutting the fat and sugar, and swapping in whole wheat pastry flour. Given the indulgence level of the original, my altered version is still decadent, but a whole lot healthier.
My son had begged for apple-banana applesauce – which he promptly rejected upon realizing it actually tasted like banana – so I used that for my applesauce here. It had no added sugar, but was sweetened with extra fruit juice, making it very sweet. I reduced the sugar from 1 2/3 cups to 1 cup; If you use a regular unsweetened applesauce, you might kick the sugar up another 1/4 cup. I was a bit concerned about the banana flavor, but it disappeared into the pumpkin and spices. The result was a moist, flavorful, and slightly sweet cake.
For the frosting, I used only 1/4 the butter and 3/8 the sugar, with low-fat Neufchatel instead of regular cream cheese. This meant a slightly smaller batch of frosting, but still plenty for a nice thick layer, with a delightful tangy flavor that paired perfectly with the subtly spiced cake. The whole family loved it!
Pumpkin Bars with Cream Cheese Frosting
Adapted from Paula Deen via Mel’s Kitchen Cafe
Bars (more of a cake, in my opinion):
- 4 eggs
- 1 to 1 1/4 cup packed brown sugar
- 1/2 cup applesauce
- 1/2 cup oil
- 15-ounce can pumpkin
- 2 cups whole wheat pastry flour
- 2 teaspoons baking powder
- 2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1 teaspoon baking soda
- 8-ounce package Neufchatel cream cheese, softened
- 2 tablespoons butter, softened
- 3/4 cup sifted confectioners’ (powdered) sugar
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- Milk if needed to thin frosting
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Using an electric mixer at medium speed, combine the eggs, sugar, oil and pumpkin until light and fluffy. Stir together the flour, baking powder, cinnamon, salt and baking soda. Add the dry ingredients to the pumpkin mixture and mix at low speed until thoroughly combined and the batter is smooth. Spread the batter into a greased 13 by 10-inch baking pan. Bake for 30 minutes. Let cool completely before frosting.
To make the frosting: Combine the cream cheese and butter in a medium bowl with an electric mixer until smooth. Add the sugar and mix at low speed until combined. If the frosting is too thick, add milk a teaspoon at a time. Stir in the vanilla and mix again. Spread on cooled cake and cut into bars.
Tasty Easy Healthy Green Recipe Ratings:
|Recipe Report Card||Notes About Recipe Ratings|
Four Chefs (Delicious!)
|Destined to become a fall classic.|
Four Easy Chairs (“ABC, Easy as 123…”)
|The cake is simpler than most cakes I’ve made, and the frosting is pretty quick too.|
Three Apples (Average Nutritional Quality)
|It’s much healthier than the original version, but still plenty of sugar and calories.|
Four Leaves (Mother Earth Approved)
|Except for the butter, all of the ingredients were organic.|