food

Baked Treat: Carrot and Zucchini Bars With Cream Cheese Frosting

foodsweet treats

Three carrot zucchini bars with cream cheese frosting When I found out that I would be writing guest posts for Mom It Forward, I shared the news with my sister, sister-in-law, and several of my girlfriends, all of whom are great moms. I also asked them what kinds of recipes and cooking tips they were interested in reading about.

I know from talking to my family and friends that feeding children balanced and healthy meals can be challenging since children can often be picky eaters. Some of the recurring requests among everyone I emailed was how to get kids to eat more fruits and vegetables, how to "hide" fruits and vegetables in certain dishes, and how to make sweet treats a little healthier without using artificial sweeteners and overly-processed ingredients. All these requests were right up my culinary alley since my food philosophy is all about using real ingredients, fresh produce, and cooking {or baking} all of it from scratch.

Desserts are an indulgence that everyone, including children, needs to enjoy in moderation, but there are ways to make them a touch healthier without sacrificing flavor, pleasing texture and appearance.

This recipe for Carrot and Zucchini Bars is a delicious example of a healthier sweet treat. Shredded carrots and zucchini not only fleck the batter with pretty color, they are a good source of vitamins. Plump golden raisins and toasted walnuts add fiber.

Although the original recipe called for only all-purpose flour, I decided to use half all-purpose flour and half white whole wheat flour. I'm not a fan of 100 percent whole wheat flour, but I do like using white whole wheat flour when I bake. It has a milder flavor and keeps the crumb of these bars tender. White whole wheat flour also adds fiber to this dessert.

If you like carrot cake, you will love these Carrot and Zucchini Bars. The flavor and texture are almost identical. The only change I would make to this dessert the next time I make it would be to add cinnamon to the batter for extra warmth and spice. The Vanilla Cream Cheese frosting makes these bars extra-indulgent, but a little frosting goes a long way since cream cheese frosting is rich. And I know kids love frosting!

These bars can also be left unfrosted to enjoy for breakfast or as an afternoon snack. I also cut the bars into smaller squares for better portion control.

If you are looking to make a healthier sweet treat for your family, give these Carrot and Zucchini Bars a try. No one has to know about all the healthy ingredients that are in this dessert, and your secret is safe with me.

Carrot & Zucchini Bars With Vanilla Cream Cheese Frosting Recipe

Recipe adapted from Better Homes and Gardens New Cookbook

Special Equipment:

Food processor fitted with shredding disk (or box grater); stand mixer (or hand-held electric mixer)

Carrot & Zucchini Bar Ingredients:

  • 3/4 cup all-purpose flour
  • 3/4 cup white whole wheat flour
  • 1/4 tsp. salt
  • 1/4 tsp. baking soda
  • 1 tsp. baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp. ground ginger
  • 1 1/2 cups shredded carrot (about 3 small carrots)
  • 1 cup shredded zucchini (1 small zucchini)
  • 2 eggs, at room temperature, lightly beaten
  • 1/2 cup canola oil
  • 1/4 cup honey
  • 1 tsp. vanilla extract
  • 3/4 cup packed brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup golden raisins
  • 1/2 cup chopped walnuts (optional)

Vanilla Cream Cheese Frosting Ingredients:

  • 1 8oz. block cream cheese {not fat-free}, softened to room temperature
  • 1 1/4 cups confectioner's sugar
  • 1 tsp. vanilla extract

Directions for the Bars:

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

  1. Whisk together the flours, salt, baking soda, baking powder, and ginger in a bowl. Set aside.
  2. Take another bowl and combine the shredded carrots, shredded zucchini, beaten eggs, oil, honey, vanilla, brown sugar, raisins, and walnuts. Stir with a rubber spatula to blend. Add reserved flour mixture to the carrot-zucchini mixture and stir well to combine. Transfer the batter to an ungreased 13 x 9 x 2 baking dish and spread out evenly.
  3. Bake for 25 minutes, or until a wooden skewer inserted into the center of the cake comes out clean. Cool the cake completely in the pan.
  4. Use a sharp knife to cut the cake into bars. For the cleanest cuts, wipe the knife on a damp paper towel in between cuts. Transfer each bar to a platter.

Directions for the Vanilla Cream Cheese Frosting:

  1. Place the cream cheese, confectioner's sugar and vanilla extract in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment. Over medium speed, whip the ingredients until completely incorporated and smooth in texture. Use at room temperature for easiest spreading consistency.
  2. Store frosted bars in a covered container in the refrigerator for up to 3 days and bring to room temperature before serving. Unfrosted bars can be stored in a covered container at room temperature for up to 3 days.

What are some of your favorite healthy sweet treats?

Featured image courtesy of Flickr.

Flavia Scalzitti is a food blogger based in Houston, Texas. She is originally from Maryland and comes from an Italian family. Flavia grew up around people who used food and cooking as a way to keep their traditions alive, celebrate their Italian culture, express their love for their family, and nourish the people they cooked for with the freshest and best quality ingredients. She is entirely self-taught and is also passionate about baking. In addition to cooking and baking, Flavia enjoys learning about and practicing photography, reading, traveling, practicing yoga, and spending time with her husband, Peter. She blogs at Flavia's Flavors: http://www.flaviasflavors.com

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