Never underestimate the power of a tasty treat to lift your spirits. Recent example: I often send my test recipe creations to Jeff’s team at work so they can provide opinions and useful feedback. It’s definitely a win-win situation: they all get to indulge in decadent treats that surprisingly contain numerous health benefits, and I get honest critiques for tweaking and improving the recipe.
Yesterday I made these Pumpkin Bars and my favorite comment was from Jamie. He loved the bars, saying they were “incredibly delicious.” But he also said he was having a really bad day and not feeling all that well, but after eating my bars, he felt great!
I’m thrilled these bars helped Jamie feel better. He didn’t even know those decadent calories contained a few health benefits as well.
Harvest Pumpkin Bar Health Benefits:
*Half the oil replaced with light mayonnaise
*63% whole grain from my favorite version of whole wheat flour – King Arthur white whole wheat
*Antioxidant-rich ground cinnamon
*Neufchatel cream cheese reduces fat in the frosting slightly
*More antioxidants from the garnish: both ginger and cinnamon are antioxidant-rich
Harvest Pumpkin Bars with Cream Cheese Frosting
4 large eggs
1 1/3 cups granulated sugar
½ cup vegetable oil
½ cup reduced fat mayonnaise (suggest Hellman’s Light)
1 can (15 oz.) pure pumpkin
¾ cup all-purpose flour
1¼ cup white whole wheat flour (suggest King Arthur brand)
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
3/4 teaspoon salt
2 ½ teaspoons ground Saigon cinnamon
Cream Cheese Frosting
1 package (8 oz.) light Neufchatel cream cheese
½ cup unsalted butter, softened
2 ½ cups powdered sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
¼ to 1/3 cup finely chopped crystallized ginger or cinnamon-sugar (mix 2 tablespoons raw turbinado sugar with ¼ teaspoon Saigon cinnamon)
Preheat oven to 350°F. Coat a 10x15x1-inch jelly roll pan with cooking spray. Combine eggs, sugar, oil, mayonnaise and pumpkin in large bowl and mix at medium speed until light and fluffy. Whisk together flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt and cinnamon in a separate medium bowl. Add flour mixture to pumpkin mixture and mix at low speed until batter is thoroughly combined and smooth. Spread into pan. Bake 25 to 30 minutes or until toothpick inserted in center comes out dry. Let cool completely before frosting. Cut into bars.
For frosting, combine cream cheese and butter in a medium bowl and mix until smooth. Add powdered sugar and mix at low speed until combined. Stir in vanilla. Spread over cooled pumpkin bars. Sprinkle crystallized ginger or cinnamon-sugar over frosting. Store bars in refrigerator. Makes 24 bars.