Pumpkin bars are practically a fall rite of passage, but many of the recipes for these seasonal treats are loaded with sugar, fat and very little nutrients because they are made with canned pumpkin. Not these. I took the famous Paula Deen pumpkin bar recipe and gave it a healthy makeover with less egg, sugar and oil, but all of the flavor and then some.
The secret ingredient in these bars is (drum roll please): roasted squash! I received about eight gorgeous acorn squash from my coworker, Marie Iverson, whose husband grows them on his farm. I roasted about half of them up one afternoon, then saved all of the squash filling for bars, soups and side dishes.
This tastes just like the canned pumpkin kind of bar, but better! The squash flesh is so sweet and flavorful, you can eat it plain and be completely satisfied. Best of all, when you use fresh, locally grown squash, the bars taste better and add lots of vitamins, minerals and fiber to this treat! I added whole-wheat flour to the recipe for added fiber and nutrients.
The bars were a huge hit with my family and coworkers, who all agreed that they were so flavorful, they didn’t miss the cream cheese frosting! For those pumpkin bar purists out there, I found a lower calorie/fat frosting recipe that will work nicely with these bars and no one will know the difference!
NOTE: You will need to roast one medium-sized squash before starting this recipe. This takes about an hour or so with prep included, so I roast my squash well before I make the bars. Directions for roasting are at the bottom of this post.
3/4 cup brown sugar
3/4 cup white sugar
1/2 cup vegetable oil
2 cups roasted acorn squash* (butternut will work just as well)
1 cup whole-wheat flour
1 cup all-purpose flour
1 tsp. cinnamon
1 tsp. freshly ground ginger
1 tsp. salt
1 dash nutmeg
2 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. baking soda
1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.
2. Using a hand mixer, combine the eggs, sugar, oil, ginger and roasted squash until light and fluffy. (Use electric mixer at medium speed.)
3. Combine the flour, baking powder, cinnamon, nutmeg, salt and baking soda.
4. Add the dry ingredients to the pumpkin mixture and mix at low speed until thoroughly combined and the batter is smooth.
5. Spread the batter into a greased 13 by 10-inch baking pan.
6. Bake for 30 to 40 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the middle of the pan comes out clean.
7. Cool and cut into bars.
* Directions for roasting a squash:
1. Cut the squash in half and scoop out the seeds. Save the seeds for toasting!
2. Set both halves face down on a baking sheet with a rim.
3. Pour enough water onto the baking sheet to cover the bottom with water.
4. Roast for 40 minutes, or until squash are tender.
5. Allow to cool, then use or store in an airtight container in the fridge for later.