The holiday season is just around the corner. This is the time of year where family gatherings and holiday parties are written into almost every weekend of the calendar. For most, that brings excitement and cheer. For a food allergy family, it can bring a little bit of hesitation and fear ~ to say the least. That’s why we came up with a delicious dessert option ~ one our son craves on an almost daily basis. Take a peek into these allergy friendly pumpkin bars.
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As a food allergy family for over a decade, we have spent quite a few holiday seasons dodging bullets for our son. Those familiar with our story know that he has life-threatening food allergies to eggs, peanuts and tree nuts (you can read Our Food Allergy Story: The Bite That Sealed The Deal right here). Of course, when you think about it, those ingredients are included in 99.9% of all holiday edible treasures.
When our son was younger, the laundry list of allergies to foods was actually much more extensive, so we’ll count our blessings. Nonetheless, having severe food allergies made getting together with family and friends very daunting and frustrating. Why? Because no one really quite understands when you ask them to wash their hands or use the baby wipe being handed to them after they just ate a deviled egg. Nor did they understand, “No, you can NOT give our son a bite of your pecan or pumpkin pie or a sip of your eggnog.”
On the brighter side, the situation did inspire us as a family to find recipes we could easily alter so that he, too, could enjoy the same thing everybody else was having, yet without the fear of an allergic reaction occurring. Even his older brothers were in on the ingredient label reading and cook book exploration.
Introducing ~ Frosted Pumpkin Bars
Of late, my middle son has been a maniac in the kitchen (he is following in his older brother’s footsteps). One of his recent favorite recipes centers around a pumpkin-related dessert ~ perfect for any family holiday celebrated between October and December. We found it in a Taste of Home Magazine (Pumpkin Cookbook 2017, p. 10) and Aaryn immediately went to work on making it safe enough for his younger brother. The challenge? The recipe called for eggs, which is a HUGE no-no in this house. So, he had to find a good substitute that would keep the bars moist and cohesive.
Over the years, we have tried using various alternatives ~ including bananas and a potato starch product. There were quite a few times where the dish just fell completely flat or the substitute didn’t marry with the other ingredients well enough. Plus, I wasn’t sure I wanted my chocolate chip cookies to taste like bananas. Know what I mean?
This go round, though, Aaryn decided to use applesauce in place of the eggs. Did it work? Let’s find out.
Here’s how Aaryn did it!
The two younger boys pulled the ingredients together and Aaryn began to measure out what he needed. I encouraged him to do the measuring first, so that he knew he had exactly what he needed, plus the process would be a little be more streamlined when it came to putting it together. In place of the two eggs listed in the original recipe, he used 1/4 cup of applesauce per egg. So, that meant he measured out for a 1/2 cup.
From there, he started the mixing process ~ blending together the first six ingredients in one bowl and then whisking the dry in a separate bowl.
- FIRST BOWL: sugar, canned pumpkin, orange juice, canola oil, applesauce (in place of the eggs) and grated orange peel (see measurements in recipe below).
- SECOND BOWL: all purpose flour, baking powder, pumpkin pie spice, baking soda and salt (see measurements in recipe below).
Once both bowls were sufficiently blended, he carefully blended the flour mixture in with the pumpkin mixture (what he liked to refer to as “pumpkin sludge”). He did such a great job adding small amounts at a time in order to avoid the potential catastrophe of flour going EVERYWHERE. (Phew! He is our clumsy one, so I admit I was a little nervous).
At that point, it was time to add the mixture to an already greased baking pan. We actually used a 13×9 casserole dish, but a 15x10x1 baking pan is what the original recipe recommended.
Aaryn then placed the pan in the oven at 350°F and, while the recipe calls for 18-22 minutes, we weren’t sure if using the applesauce over eggs would alter the cooking time. So, we started off with 16 minutes.
When The Timer Went Off…
In the end, it took between 25 and 30 minutes total. When it was done, Aaryn was able to stick a knife into the center and pull it out perfectly clean. That means it was time for it to cool while the frosting was prepared.
The frosting required him to melt some butter on the stove. This is where having a flat range delivers peace of mind! In our last home, we had a gas stove, so I was ALWAYS a nervous wreck if the boys wanted to cook something stove-top. Of course, Aaryn will admit that having the flat range takes the fear out of the process for him, as well.
He melted the butter on the stove for about 5-7 minutes, stirring it constantly, and then transferred it into a larger bowl. Next, he gradually beat in the remaining ingredients:
- confectioner’s sugar
- milk, adding only enough until he had the consistency of frosting that he desired. Obviously, he wanted it to be capable of spreading over the bars.
Which was the next step…
Once the bars were covered from one end to the other with delicious frosting, we actually chose to cover the top with foil and stick them in the fridge to help the frosting set some.
Later on that night, we enjoyed a very delicious and perfectly moist frosted pumpkin bar ~ including the youngest, who devoured his piece in seconds flat (but that’s because he’s twelve and a bottomless pit at the moment).
We've taken a popular seasonal pumpkin treat and made it safe for those who have egg, peanut and tree nut allergies!
- 1 1/2 cups sugar
- 1 cup canned pumpkin
- 1/2 cup orange juice
- 1/2 cup canola oil
- 1/2 cup applesauce
- 2 1/4 tsp grate orange peel
- 2 cups all purpose flour
- 2 tsp baking powder
- 2 1/4 tsp pumpkin pie spice
- 1/8 tsp salt
- 2/3 cup salted butter
- 4 cups confectioner's sugar
- 1 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
- 4-6 tbsp 2% milk
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Grease a 13 x 9 baking dish (this is what we used, at least).
In a mixing bowl, combine the first six ingredients and beat until they are well blended. In another mixing bowl, whisk together the dry ingredients: flour, baking powder, pumpkin pie spice, baking soda and salt. Once blended, gradually beat the dry mixture into the pumpkin mixture.
Transfer the combined mixture into the already greased pan. Bake for about 18-22 minutes, or until a fork inserted into the center comes out clean. Cool completely in the pan placed on a wire rack.
Meanwhile, in a small heavy saucepan, melt the salted butter over medium heat. Heat for about 5-7 minutes or until golden brown. Be sure to stir constantly.
Transfer the melted butter to a large mixing bowl. Gradually beat in the confectioner's sugar, vanilla and just enough milk to reach the consistency you desire. Spread the delicious over bars and let stand until set.
This recipe adds a little more spice and substitutes the egg that is in the original recipe. The original from Taste of Home is just as delicious as this rendition and I highly recommend giving it a try!
Less Stressed Holidays
These days, we pretty much have holidays down to a science and our son does not lack for anything when it comes to a holiday meal. Not that we have room to be careless – goodness, no!! We are still as diligent as ever and our epinephrine auto-injectors are with us at ALL times.
However, from appetizer to dessert, we know he never has to walk away without a full belly. He has every right to that “unbutton the pants” feeling as anybody else does.
Side note: When asked directly, he stated this is clearly his favorite dessert by far and swears he could enjoy it anytime of the year.
Have you been looking for an egg-free, peanut-free and tree-nut free dessert to prepare over the holidays for someone in your family who has food allergies? Give this a try! Substituting the egg with applesauce was a perfect switch out and we will be making this dessert for years to come!
Thanks Taste of Home for the inspiration!
Read more food allergy related stories:
- How This Food Allergy Family Does Halloween
- Food Allergy Awareness: Our Story Continues
- Finding Ways to “Enjoy Life” With Food Allergy Snacks
- How Mickey’s Not-So-Scary Halloween Party “Treats” Food Allergies
- Read more…