When I discovered that pumpkin was used for desserts other than pumpkin pie, well, it was a very happy time in my life. The day that brought me pumpkin ice cream lives large in my memory. Pumpkin cheesecake day was another. So it’s safe to say that stumbling on this recipe for butternut squash cheesecake bars from Eating Well magazine was cause for excitement.
Butternut, in my opinion, is almost as sweet and flavorful as pumpkin–and the rich texture of the nutritious squash adds even more. Personally, I am a bit reckless with fat and will probably add the full-fat cream cheese version to my repertoire, but at least I’ll balance that out by using a non-refined sweetener such as Sucanat, or maybe even maple syrup.
9 low-fat graham crackers, (4 1/2 ounces)
1/2 cup old-fashioned rolled oats, (not quick-cooking or steel-cut)
2 tablespoons plus 1/2 cup sugar, divided (or try one a natural sweetener, read more here)
1/4 cup plus 3 tablespoons all-purpose flour, divided
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
3 tablespoons non-fat milk
8 ounces non-fat cream cheese, at room temperature
8 ounces reduced-fat cream cheese, (Neufchatel), at room temperature
1/2 cup squash puree
2 large eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon salt
1. Preheat oven to 350 F. Grease a 9-by-13-inch baking pan.
2. Process graham crackers, oats, 2 tablespoons sugar, 1/4 cup flour and butter in a food processor until finely ground. Add milk; pulse until completely moistened.
3. Transfer the graham cracker mixture to the prepared pan and evenly pat into the bottom. Bake for 10 minutes. Cool on a wire rack for 20 minutes.
4. Meanwhile, reduce oven temperature to 325. Beat both cream cheeses and the remaining 1/2 cup sugar in a large bowl with an electric mixer at medium speed until creamy, scraping down the sides occasionally. Beat in squash puree until smooth. Beat in eggs one at a time. Finally, beat in vanilla, cinnamon, salt and the remaining 3 tablespoons flour. Scrape the filling into the pan, spreading evenly over the crust.
5. Bake until set and the edges are light brown, about 35 minutes. Let cool completely on a wire rack, then refrigerate for at least 1 hour before cutting into bars.
RECIPE TIPS AND NOTES
To make your own squash puree, halve and seed one medium acorn or butternut squash. Place, cut-side down, on a lightly greased baking sheet. Bake in a preheated 375 F oven until soft, about 50 minutes. Cool, then scrape out the flesh with a fork. Or simply use frozen (thawed) or canned squash puree. Find frozen squash puree near other vegetables in the freezer section and canned squash near the canned pumpkin.
Servings: 18 bars
Nutrition per bar: 146 calories; 6 g fat (3 g saturated fat, 1g mono unsaturated fat); 37 mg cholesterol; 18 g carbohydrates; 5 g protein; 1 g fiber; 209 mg sodium; 79 mg potassium
Exchanges: 1 starch, 1 fat.
Carbohydrate servings: 1.
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