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Carrot Cake Bars

Carrot cake is one of those foods that is deceivingly unhealthy for you. At first glance, you may think I’m eating something high in vegetables so it’s got to be better than those chocolate chip cookies, right? Wrong! While carrots are high in beta-carotene which provides us with plenty of vitamin A, the culprit in most carrot cakes is scrumptious cream cheese frosting. No need to worry though because these carrot cake bars are sure to be less calories and fat content than previous carrot cakes you’ve indulged in. Not only are these bars healthy for you, but you can also make them anytime, rather than needing an occasion to bake a cake.

This recipe is an adaptation from Fitness Magazine.

~ 2 cups whole wheat flour
~ 1 cup packed brown sugar
~ 3/4 cup granulated sugar
~ 2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
~ 1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
~ 1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
~ 8 slightly beaten egg whites
~ 1 cup applesauce
~ 1/2 cup canola oil
~ 3 cups finely shredded carrot
~ 2 cups powdered sugar
~ 8 ounces cottage cheese

1. Preheat oven to 350°. Grease a 15-by-10 inch baking pan with non-stick spray.
2. In a large mixing bowl, stir together the flour, brown sugar, granulated sugar, cinnamon, baking powder and baking soda.
3. In a medium bowl, stir together the egg whites, applesauce and oil. Stir into the flour mixture thoroughly. Stir in the shredded carrot.
4. Spread batter in the prepared pan. Bake until a toothpick inserted near the center comes out clean, about 25 to 30 minutes. Cool completely.
5. For the frosting, in a medium bowl, beat together the powdered sugar and cottage cheese until smooth.
6. Spread the frosting over the carrot cake; slice and serve.

Please note that the frosting had a consistency that was too  liquid-like. As a fix, I put the bars in the fridge to allow the frosting to cool and harden. Instead, more powdered sugar or less cottage cheese could be used in the frosting. Another possible adaptation is to use the classic cream cheese for the frosting. Cottage cheese is a healthier option, however cream cheese creates a thicker consistency.

To enhance the bars with more flavor, you can add 1/2 cup chocolate chips to the batter or on top of the bars; 1 cup cubed pineapple to the batter; or 1/2 cup chopped walnuts to the batter or the icing. I tried the adaptation of adding walnuts to the batter, which provided a nice crunch to the previously moist bars while enhancing the flavor.

Several tips that can be used in alternate recipes are found in these bars. First, applesauce is used instead of half of the amount of oil to slash the fat content. Second, when making frosting, often butter is used, but that can be omitted to slash calories and fat content; the consistency and flavor will still be delicious!

In case you’re curious, the provided nutrition facts from Fitness Magazine are as follows. Given that there are 36 bars, each bar has 125 calories, 2g protein, 21g carbohydrates and 4g fat.

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