Sunday, May 4, 2014

Pumpkin Pie Bars

My daughter has had some intestinal issues for awhile, and I've been doing sort of a reverse elimination diet to see what may be bothering her, considering she's still too young to tell me what's wrong.  We're currently gluten-free, dairy-free, tomato-free, and oatmeal-free.  Plus now I'm thinking of removing all grains, because although her symptoms are resolving, they still aren't what I imagine is 'normal'.  It's been quite a challenge coming up with a variety of healthy meals that appeal to both a toddler and a pregnant momma who doesn't tolerate cooked veggies very well.

Coconut flour.  That's my latest challenge.  When you eliminate grains, there aren't too many things left to bake with except coconut flour, almond flour (expensive), and garbanzo bean flour.  And I can't eliminate baking, because it's too convenient for me to have a bag of muffins or breakfast bars in the freezer to pull out when I'm feeling lazy or tired.  And since coconut flour was only $4 per pound in the bulk bins at Whole Foods (compared to almond flour's $7 per pound), that's what I bought.

The challenging part about coconut flour is that it is super absorptive.  Meaning I have to use half a carton of eggs for every recipe it calls for, because if you add more water or liquid, it won't bind together once cooked.  I tried making coconut pumpkin muffins (not very good) and coconut pancakes (too egg-y for me. Tasted too much like French toast, and if I wanted French toast, I would have made French toast).  I had an open container of pumpkin puree and figured I would try one more recipe before I froze what was left.  And am I glad I did, because these Coconut Flour Pumpkin Bars were deee-licious.

I found the recipe here: and adapted it to my needs, like always.  I swear, I can't stick to a recipe if I tried.  There is always something that I want to tweak to our family's preferences. 

Pumpkin Pie Bars
15 oz. pumpkin puree (about 1 1/2 cups)
3/4 cup coconut flour
 A ripe banana, mashed up + enough raw honey or maple syrup added to it to make 3/4 cup
1 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
3/4 tsp ground ginger
1/4 tsp ground cloves
3/4 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp salt
2 large eggs, preferably pastured
Grease an 8x8 pan with coconut oil or butter. Combine all of the ingredients, and mix until smooth.  Bonus points if you bring your kid in the kitchen to help.  Double bonus points if your kid is old enough to do it themselves, and you can watch from the kitchen table while drinking a cup of tea.  Dump into pan and smooth out the top with a spatula.  Bake at 350F for 40 minutes or until the edges are golden and the middle is firm.  Cool completely, then cut into 16 pieces.  Store them in the fridge for up to a week.  They freeze nicely if you want to keep them longer.
I have never been a big fan of pumpkin pie, but these were delicious! Moist, flavorful, and full of nutrients.  Pumpkin is packed full of the antioxidant vitamins A, C, & E, plus the B-complex vitamins, calcium, potassium, and much more.  Plus, even without much added sugar, it's just sweet enough because of the ripe banana. 
This is what happens when you try to take pictures with a hungry toddler in the room.

"Just one Mommy? Please?"

I know people are most likely to think about pumpkin during the fall, but I try to eat a little pumpkin all year.  When cans of pumpkin puree (not pumpkin pie mix, which is loaded with sugar) go on sale in the fall, I stock up so that I can use them for the next several months.

After I open a can for a recipe and end up having leftovers, I usually freeze my puree into silicone molds that I bought at Meijer which hold 1oz or 2 Tb per square.  Then when I know I'm going to be baking the next morning, I pop exactly what I need in the fridge the night before, and it's thawed and ready for me in the morning.  I also put the frozen cubes of leftover pumpkin puree into smoothies, soups or sauces (it hides especially well in macaroni and cheese or tomato soup), or my homemade food processor ice cream (more on that later).
Frozen pumpkin and frozen applesauce cubes
I use this freezing tip with all sorts of purees, like applesauce.  Sometimes I make my own purees by steaming broccoli or cauliflower and pureeing it with my immersion blender (and sometimes a touch of water if it's too thick), just so I can have some on hand in the freezer.  Then I can throw some extra nutrients into any ordinary meal or snack!


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