Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Pumpkin Bars with Pumpkin Butter Frosting and Oat Milk on the Side

My mom makes fabulous pumpkin pie: streusel-topped and cheesecake versions. I remember hovering around the kitchen while she would whip them up the day before Thanksgiving dinner. She would bake the extra filling in custard cups, and let me eat it for lunch, explaining matter-of-factly, "It's got pumpkin, milk, eggs--that's a totally wholesome lunch!"

Well, my child-self is certainly not complaining that she got to eat pie for lunch, but my adult-self is falling just short of feeding my kids the same. Instead, they get these pumpkin bars I made up today when I found myself with the soaked oats that were leftover from making oat milk and a new jar of pumpkin seed butter. After circumspectly eying the new "bites" and turning his face away in disdain, Sawyer finally agreed to allow the fork into his mouth, and then proceeded to devour them all. (This is how we refer to all types of food that Sawyer may be reluctant to eat if he knew their real name--as "bites." If you come to dinner at our house, you will hear us cajoling him to "Do his _____bites!," insert "tasty bites" for vegan chicken nuggets, "brownie bites" for black bean creations of all sorts, etc. Call it subterfuge if you must; whatever it is, I embrace it because it works.)

Getting back to the oat milk, I started making my own using the method Ann Fleming describes in Go Dairy Free, and I would recommend it to anyone looking for an easy, affordable way to make delicious non-dairy milk at home. You just soak 2 cups of rolled oats overnight with 5 cups of water (shake them vigorously together after combining). The next morning I strain the mixture through a fine mesh sieve, being sure to really squeeze the oats to get the good stuff out. I then blend the strained milk with 1 tbsp. chickpea miso and 1 tbsp. maple syrup, and pour it on our cereal and use it in my baking throughout the week. This process leaves you with leftover soaked oats, which I either just eat as they are, or incorporate them into baked goods like these pumpkin bars.

For pumpkin bars:
1 1/2 c. cooked white beans
1/2 c. canned pumpkin
1/4 c. canola oil
1/4 c. maple syrup + 2 Tbsp. agave (You could just use one or the other, of course)
1/2 tsp. each lemon, orange, and vanilla extracts
2 egg replacers ( I used Ener-G brand, but 1/4 c. of any starch mixed with 1/4 c. water should do just as well.)
2 c. oats, soaked overnight in water and then strained, as described in oat milk directions above
1/2 c. barley flour (You could sub white whole wheat or whole wheat pastry flour)
1/4 tsp. salt
1 tsp. pumpkin pie spice
a few tablespoons yogurt, optional

For Frosting:
1/3 c. pumpkin seed butter*
2 Tbsp. maple syrup or pumpkin butter
1/4 tsp. ground cinnamon

*I know this stuff is expensive and not readily available everywhere, but it sure is yummy. You can make your own if you have a good food processor by just whizzing  3/4 cup pumpkin seeds with a tablespoon of oil and a dash of salt until they turn into butter--Viola!

1. Preheat the oven to 350 and grease a 9 in square baking pan. Puree the beans, pumpkin, oil, sweeteners, extracts, egg replacer, and oats in a food processor until the mixture is as smooth as you can get it. The oats will still leave it with some texture.
2. Sift together the flour, salt, and pumpkin pie spice in a medium mixing bowl, and then add the wet ingredients from the food processor. Stir until just combined and pour into the prepared pan. Bake for 35-40 mins., until a fork inserted in the center comes out clean.
3. After taking the bars out of the oven, I am a fan of preserving their moisture by pricking them all over with the tines of a fork and then spreading a few tablespoons of yogurt on top, but this is optional if you don't have any yogurt around.
4. When the bars are cool, mix together the frosting ingredients and spread evenly over the top. Store the bars in the fridge until you are ready to eat them.

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