Ever since we went to Hawaii for my 30th birthday celebration, I have been working on this pumpkin bar recipe. I wanted to be able to make something for our 10+ hours flight to Honolulu that would stay with me. I tried to be deliberate about the food I packed so I wouldn't feel ravenous and eat everything in site. It sort of worked, unfortunately, I still ate out of boredom. (10 hours is a LONG time to be stuck on a plane!) Since then, I have made these pumpkin bars a few more times. Each time, I tweak the recipe a bit to make it better. I think I finally have it the way I want it! I feel like this is my own recipe but I do want to credit the Happy Herbivore and the Fat Free Vegan for giving me my initial inspiration for the recipe I came up with. The Happy Herbivore's recipe is here and the Fat Free Vegan's recipe is here.
It kind of seems like there are several parts to this recipe but it comes together quickly. Also, once you have this recipe made, it makes 12 bars that last me for 1-2 weeks in the refrigerator. Once you get them individually wrapped, they are so convenient and they really do have staying power. I am really trying to think about the foods I eat and trying to mostly eat foods that will stay with me for 2 or more hours. Even though there are only 140 calories per bar, they have almost 6 grams of protein and 6 grams of fiber and less than 3 grams of fat. I would say that's some pretty good nutritional stats!
Once R discovered that she needs to eat gluten free, I experimented to see if I could easily convert this to a gluten free recipe. It worked perfectly with oat flour and Bob's Red Mill certified gluten free oats. Using these gluten free ingredients increases the calories a bit, but not too much. The gluten free recipe turned out just as good. I had to use almond extract in the gluten free version because I ran out of vanilla--that gave them a different taste but the bars still set up just the same as the wheat version.
Also, just a couple of notes about the recipe. 1) Don't fear the beans! Just like with the silken tofu, the beans take on the flavor of the pumpkin and and the pumpkin pie spice. It just adds protein and fiber and makes the bars have staying power. 2) The sweetener--I use Organic Zero, Truvia and stevia. Sometimes I use a combination of all of these. In the recipe, I just say sweetener. Use whatever you like. I would just suggest that if you use a liquid sweetener that you use the 4 TBSP of arrowroot or cornstarch to thicken it up more.
Pumpkin Protein Bars
(Regular and Gluten Free Versions)
Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
-1 1/4 cups oats (Gluten free version would use Bob’s Red Mill certified gluten free oats)-3/4 cups whole wheat pastry flour (Gluten free version would use oat flour)-1 tsp baking powder-1/4-1/2 cup sweetener (I don’t mind these bars not being too sweet because they are more of a snack than a dessert for me.)-3/4 tsp pumpkin pie spice-1/3 cup unsweetened apple sauce-1/2 cup almond milk
Mix these ingredients together—dry ingredients—mix up and then add the applesauce and almond milk. Once they are mixed up, spray a 9 x 13 pan and spread this mixture out on the bottom of the pan. This is your crust.
-1/2 container silken tofu (I use Nasoya Organic Silken Tofu)
-1 cup canned pumpkin
-3-4 TBSP arrowroot or cornstarch
-1 3/4 cups cooked white beans (I use navy beans)—1 can of beans would work fine-just make sure you drain and rinse them.
-1/2 cup sweetener
-1 tsp vanilla extract
-1 TBSP pumpkin pie spice
-1/2 tsp salt
Add all of the filling ingredients to the food processor and puree until smooth. Make sure all of the beans get pureed. I usually scrape down the sides of the food processor a couple of times just to make sure everything is mixed up well.
Once the mixture is pureed, spread it out over the crust in the pan. Make sure it’s evenly distributed.
Put in oven and bake for 25 minutes. While it’s baking, prepare the topping.
-1 ounce walnuts (about 1/4 cup), broken into small pieces
-1/4 cup oats (Gluten free version would use the Bob’s Red Mill certified gluten free oats)
-1/4 tsp cinnamon (optional)
-1 TBSP sweetener (optional)
Mix all topping ingredients together in a small bowl. Set aside—you will not add these just yet.
Once the bars have baked for 25 minutes, pull them out of the oven. Evenly distribute the topping. Using your hand, spoon or other cooking utensil, make sure the topping is pressed down into the filling. This will help keep the oats and walnuts from falling off the bars after they have baked. Once you have pressed the topping mixture into the filling, then bake for another 20 minutes.
You will want to pull the bars out of the oven and give them plenty of time to set up. This may take awhile. I usually pull them out of the oven and then do other things for awhile before I cut them up into individual bars. The bars are good right out of the oven, but they tend to be a little runny. Once they have set up, they are much more solid.
When they have completely cooled off, I wrap them individually in plastic wrap and store in the refrigerator.
I am going hiking this weekend and these will be going with me! They are great to pack in your lunch bag as a snack, to take hiking or just to have on hand in the refrigerator when you need an instant snack. Like I mentioned before, they are only 140 calories AND they actually stick with you. I hope you give these a try and like them as much as I do!