Monday, November 21, 2016

Elderberry Tea and Syrup

During this time of year, it seems that colds and flu are running rampant. Thankfully, due to my family's diet and use of doTERRA essential oils, we hardly ever get sick; but I am always on the look-out for natural immune boosting items I can use. I had heard of elderberry syrup before, but I never really looked into it until we moved up to Idaho. Elderberries grow wild everywhere around here, and it seems like all my friends are praising the health benefits of using these tiny berries. Some of their most important benefits are their ability to boost your immune system and protect against bacteria and infection. You can use this tea (or syrup) every day as a preventative, or use it multiple times a day when you are feeling under the weather. Hearing all of this, I had to find out for myself what all the fuss was about. 
     The plants look somewhat like lilac bushes, with clumps of berries that have a white coating on the outside. Once the berries are washed they look either blue/black/purple (the ones I have) or red. The fresh berries grow anytime between July and November, depending on the climate. If you decide to go out looking for your own, make sure you research it a bit. I have a book on foraging for wild berries and I studied that, as well as researched online, quite thoroughly before I went out and picked any for myself. I didn't want to accidentally pick the wrong thing. My father-in-law also picked a cooler full of elderberries from our yard while my in-laws were visiting a few weeks ago, so I had a lot to work with. The recipe at the end of the post is only 1/5 of what I am showing you in the pictures, so don't fret when your pot doesn't look as full as mine. You can totally make an elderberry syrup with only 3 ingredients (water, berries and honey), but this recipe has some additional ingredients as well. All of these ingredients have immune boosting and antibacterial/antiviral properties, and they happen to taste really yummy as well. (Aside from the rose-hips that don't really have much flavor on their own.)
    Another important fact to note is that the only edible part of the elderberry plant is the juice from the berries. The leaves, stems and seeds are all toxic, so you have to be very careful when preparing them. (You can also use the flowers, but that is another post.)
     The first step to preparing the fresh berries is to remove the stems and rinse them. Then, just put them in a pot.

Another plant that grows like crazy around here is rose-hips. When they are in bloom, a lot of people call them country roses. They are extremely high in vitamin C, so I added them to my tea as well, but if you can't find any then you can leave them out. It's an optional ingredient. If you are able to harvest your own rose-hips keep in mind that the brighter they are, the more vitamin C they have. As they get older, they turn softer and darker, and loose a lot of their vitamins.
I just cut the top and bottom off the rose-hips and put them in the pot with the berries. You'll want to add 2-3 fresh rose-hips for every 1 cup of berries. (Or you can use 1 Tbsp ground rose-hips.) Or you can just skip it all together.
Next comes the citrus. I used lemon, but orange works really well also. You can zest 1 clean, whole organic lemon, or just cut it in slices like I did.
Add in some organic cinnamon sticks.
Then add the clove. I didn't have any fresh organic cloves on hand, so I added the ground version. I know some people are very adverse to using cloves, so if you are one of those people, just leave it out. You won't get the antioxidant or anti-septic benefits, but the syrup is still very beneficial without it.
Next comes the ginger. You need 2 Tbsp. It's more potent if you grate it, but I was in a hurry and just sliced it into coins.
I also added some fresh organic turmeric root. It is a good anti-inflammatory and antioxidant ingredient. Again, it is more potent if you grate it in, but I just sliced it into coins. (It's the small circles that look a little like carrots.) If you can't find fresh turmeric root, you can use the powdered version.
The last ingredient is water. The typical ratio is 2 cups of water for every 1 cup of fresh berries (1/2 cup dry), but I wanted to make it stronger, so I only added 1 1/2 cups for every 1 cup of fresh berries. I had 5 cups of berries, so I added 7 1/2 cups of water.
Bring the mixture up to a boil, and then turn it down to a simmer. Get a potato masher and gently smash the berries, so release all the juice.
Simmer the mixture for 20 minutes until it reduces and thickens a bit.
Then just let it cool, and strain it out. (If you are going to can the syrup for later use, just leave it hot and jar it up as you would any other juice. DO NOT add the honey before you can, because the heat will kill alot of the antibacterial/antifungal properties in the honey.)

Once the mixture is cool, then you can add in the raw, organic, unfiltered honey. The more raw and unfiltered it is, the better for you it is. It will last a few weeks in the fridge. The syrup is very sweet by itself, so if you find it hard to take straight-up, you can always enjoy it as a tea by adding luke-warm water to a mug and mixing in some of the elderberry syrup. My hubby actually just mixes the juice with water, and a small amount of honey for his tea. It is more bitter this way, but that's the way he likes it.
Here's the recipe:  As I mentioned earlier, you can make a simple elderberry syrup by boiling 1 1/2 cups water with 1 cup of fresh berries. Smash the berries and simmer for about 10 minutes. Strain out the berry pulp and let it cool. Once cool, add an equal amount of raw, unfiltered honey. The other ingredients in my recipe are all beneficial, and tasty, but if you find you want more or less of an added ingredient know that you are free to change up the recipe to your liking.

Elderberry Syrup

1 cup fresh elderberries (or 1/2 cup dried)
1 1/2 cups filtered water
1 stick organic cinnamon
6 whole organic cloves (or 1/2 tsp ground - optional)
2 Tbsp freshly grated organic ginger (or 2 tsp dried)
2-3 fresh rosehips (or 1 Tbsp ground rosehips - optional) 
1/2 Tbsp freshly ground turmeric (or 1/2 tsp powdered)
Zest of 1 organic lemon, or orange
1 cup raw, organic, unfiltered honey

Combine all the ingredients EXCEPT the honey, in a pot and bring to a boil. Turn down to a simmer. Using a potato masher, smash the ingredients to release the berry juice. Simmer for 20 minutes until the mixture reduces and thickens. Strain the mixture through a fine mesh sieve. You should have 1 cup of juice.  (You may can the juice at this point, while it's still hot, if you are making a larger batch and want to have it shelf stable to save it for later use.) 
Let it cool, and add the honey. Store it in a mason jar, or other air-tight glass container, in the fridge. It can keep for up to 2 months in the fridge because of the high sugar content from the honey, but you will most likely use it up before then. 
Take 1 Tbsp daily as a preventative, or 3-4 times a day to help you get over an illness. 
You can serve it as a tea by adding 2-4 Tbsp of syrup to a mug and fill the cup with lukewarm water. (Hot water is not good for the honey.)

Thursday, November 10, 2016

Mama's 100% Whole Wheat Bread

I needed to make bread (for sandwiches and what not), and decided to take a couple after shots for you all. I was originally thinking to just tack these on to a post on my white bread, but I looked through all my posts and I was shocked to find that I haven't shared my white bread recipe with you yet! (I'll have to remedy that in the near future.)
So, I'm sorry that there are no step-by-step pics but I promise to do that when I post my white bread recipe. (I'm still baffled that I haven't blogged that already.) If you've made bread before, then it's no big deal. You know the drill. Mix the ingredients. Let it rise. Deflate it, shape it and let it rise again. Bake. Cool and eat. For those of you who are attempting to bake bread for the first time, I'll say this: it's not that hard! The hardest part is letting it rise and that does it all on it's own - you just have to judge when it's the right time to put your loaves in the oven. (I coincidentally let my loaves rise a little too long when I went to pick up the kids from school this afternoon, so that is why thy aren't as perfect looking as they should be.) But, even if you do happen to mess up, it's no big deal. The results could still be delicious. If not as sliced bread, a baked failure could be used to make croutons, bread crumbs and bread pudding. All delectable options for sub-par homemade bread. 

I like thick slices . . .

Another evidence of my over-rising is the large-ish air pockets in the bread. It still tastes yummy. It's just harder to make sandwiches with since the condiments could seep out of the holes. Next time will be better.
Here is the recipe:  *I added in 1 cup ground flax seed meal in place of 1 cup of the flour for added nutrition, but it's completely optional. I left that out of the recipe, because it's not something I do every time, but it's there in these pictures. In case you wanted to know. :)

Mama's 100% Whole Wheat Bread

3/4 cup warm filtered water (105F-110F)
2 Tbsp dry active yeast
1/4 cup raw, organic honey

In a large bowl, or stand mixer, whisk these ingredients together first. After the yeast has started to foam, then add:

2 2/3 cup warm, filtered water (105F-110F)
3 Tbsp organic, grass fed, unsalted butter, melted (can sub any oil if needed)
3 cups organic whole wheat white bread flour**(plus another 5-7 cups) 
1 Tbsp salt

Whisk it all together until there are no lumps and it's elastic. Switch to a dough hook (or a wooden spoon and your hands if not using a stand mixer), and gradually add 1 cup of flour at a time until the dough comes together. **Depending on the day, you will add anywhere from 5-7 more cups of flour (for a total of 8-10 cups of flour in the recipe - I only added 8 cups today.). Add the flour slowly, and only add enough until the dough comes together and is slightly sticky, but smooth and elastic. Let the dough sit for 30 minutes, so the whole wheat can absorb the liquid properly. Knead for 15 minutes, only adding more flour if it becomes too sticky. (If you add too much flour, the resulting bread will be dense.)

Place in greased bowl, making sure the entire dough ball is greased. Cover and let it rise until doubled. Punch down the dough in the bowl and divide into thirds. Take each third out and place on a flat work surface. Work with one third at a time. Using your knuckles, press out any remaining bubbles. Fold the dough over on itself into thirds (like a wallet or bill fold). Evenly distribute the bubbles and for into a loaf shape. Place into a greased standard loaf pan and let rise until the dough is just 1 inch above the rim of the pan. (It usually more than doubles in size, but don't let it get too tall. If it rises too much it will deflate in the oven and not be so pretty.) 

Bake all 3 loaves in a 380F degree oven on the middle or bottom rack. (Every oven is different. If you know yours burns everything when put too low, then use the middle rack.)
When the loaves are browned on top and bottom, and sound hollow when tapped, they are done. Turn out the loaves onto a flat towel and brush the tops with butter. Cover with another towel and let cool for at least 30 minutes before cutting.


Tuesday, October 25, 2016

Cheesy Spaghetti Squash Gratin

My closest Costco (that happens to be 1 1/2 hours away in the next state over) is gradually getting more and more organic options available to us consumers, and I couldn't be happier about it! I have learned to not bat an eye when I have to drive long distances, because that is just my way of life now. I live in the mountains, and drive a long time to get almost anywhere. I want my kids to participate in sports? I drive. I want to shop at more than one store (that doesn't have much of a selection)? I drive. I need a hospital? I drive. (We recently found out this last one when my oldest daughter fractured her arm so badly that she needed surgery. We went to the closest hospital - 30 minutes away in the next town - and found out that they don't do surgery there. So it was another 1 hour drive to the closest "big" city to go to their hospital. Now I drive that far (1 1/2 hours) for surgery followups and doctors appointments. FUN! (Can you sense the sarcasm?)) So, I still make Costco trips once a week (usually on the days that my girls take gymnastics - also in the next state over), and I get beyond excited when I see a new organic produce option that wasn't there before! When I was there a few days ago I picked up some spaghetti squash with no real plan in mind, but I knew I would think of something delicious.
   I wanted to stay away from the traditional - treating the squash just like spaghetti noodles, and serving them with a marinara or a meat sauce. Not that the traditional preparation isn't good, it's just that I find myself serving it that way more often than not, and I wanted to switch things up tonight. I remember seeing a few posts about a cheesy spaghetti squash, and thought that would hit the spot nicely. Pardon the dark pictures, but this is real life. The sun is setting as dinner is getting done, and that's just life. So, here is the dish right before (or as) we dug in. Everyone enjoyed it - some more than others - but my daughter, who would live on macaroni and cheese alone if allowed to, said that she LOVED it. And had a huge bowl full. She said that "it's a case of 'don't judge a book by its cover.'" She didn't think that she was going to like it based on it's looks, but then she tasted it's cheesy goodness and was blown away.
   It's basically macaroni and cheese, but with squash instead of noodles. What's not to love? You can change up the cheeses with any you wish. I used cheddar and Parmesan because that is what I had in the fridge, but some Gruyere and Monterey Jack would be lovely too.

Here's the recipe: (organic ingredients are always encouraged)

Cheesy Spaghetti Squash Gratin

1 large spaghetti squash
2 Tbsp butter
2 Tbsp flour (I used organic sprouted whole wheat)
2 cups milk or half and half
1/4 tsp freshly grated nutmeg
1 tsp salt (to taste)
1/2 tsp freshly ground black pepper (to taste)
3/4 cup cheddar cheese - divided*
1/2 cup Parmesan cheese - divided*

Cut the squash in half and use a spoon to scoop out the seeds. Roast, cut side down, on a parchment lined baking sheet @ 350 for 45 minutes (until tender), and let cool. Once cool, Scrape out the strings of squash with a fork, and drain in a fine mesh strainer over a bowl while you get the sauce ready.
In a large skillet or saute pan, over medium heat, melt the butter and whisk in the flour. Let the flour cook for 1 minute, and then slowly whisk in the milk so there are no lumps. Grate in the nutmeg, and add a little salt and pepper (to taste). Continue to whisk until the mixture bubbles and thickens. 
Stir in the drained squash and the half of each of the cheeses. Once it's all combined, put the mixture into an oven safe baking dish and cover the top with the remaining cheese. (If your skillet is oven safe you can just leave it in the pan, sprinkle with cheese and put the whole thing in the oven.) Bake at 350 for 20 minutes, or until the cheese on top is brown and bubbly. Serve warm.
**Another good cheese combination would be 1/2 cup Gruyere, 1/2 cup Monterey Jack and 1/4 cup Parmesan

Tuesday, September 13, 2016

Pumpkin Spice Kettle Corn

Have you ever made homemade kettle corn? It's not much different than making Stove-top Popcorn. You just add sugar in with the salt when you pop it. (The foil lid trick that I learned from watching Alton Brown is genius, so make sure you employ that! I explain it here.)
    Well, I just completed making my Homemade Pumpkin Pie Spice, and Little Bit (my youngest) asked me to make popcorn, and Squishy (my second youngest) amended that request to be the "caramel kind." I asked her if she meant kettle corn, (which is a rare treat around here because it requires granulated sugar) and she affirmed my assumption. She wanted kettle corn, and I wanted to use my new spice blend, so I combined the two. The final product was delicious, and I knew I couldn't keep the recipe to myself.  The spices do cause it to be a little darker than normal, but nothing that's off-putting. It just speaks more of fall.

Here's the recipe:

Pumpkin Spice Kettle Corn

3 Tbsp organic coconut oil
1/2 cup organic popcorn kernels (mushroom popcorn if you can find it)
1/3 cup organic cane sugar
1 tsp fine sea salt
1 tsp organic Pumpkin Pie Spice**

Place the oil and a few popcorn kernels in a 6-quart metal mixing bowl, or large pot. Cover with heavy-duty aluminum foil and poke 10 slits in the top with a knife.
Place the bowl (or pot) over medium-high heat and shake constantly using tongs to hold the bowl. (I use oven mits when I use a pot.) Once the kernels pop, carefully remove the foil, and add the remaining kernels, sugar, salt, and pumpkin pie spice**.
Re-cover the bowl and return to medium high heat. Continue shaking constantly until the popcorn finishes popping, about 3 minutes.
Remove the bowl from the heat and carefully remove the foil. Let it cool before eating.
**If you are worried about the spices burning, you can sprinkle the pumpkin pie spice blend on after the kernels are popped, before it cools.

Homemade Pumpkin Pie Spice

    I don't like the cold. I love the rain, and the cooler weather (in the Spring and the Fall), but I don't like the cold. The one thing that makes it bearable is to be able to cook and bake to my heart's content, without running the risk of making my house unbearably hot. So, while I'm dreading a northern winter that is going to come sooner than I would like, I'm enjoying the fall right now.
    When the weather starts turning cold, I start craving everything that makes me think of fall. The biggest flavor being Pumpkin Pie Spice. I used to get the pre-made spice blend from Trader Joe's to make my fall goodies (like Pumpkin BarsChocolate Pumpkin PiePumpkin Magic MuffinsPumpkin ButterCheesecake Pumpkin Filled CakeChewy Pumpkin Chocolate Chip CookiesCreamy Pumpkin PieNutella Pumpkin Swirl BreadEasy Pumpkin Whoopie PiesPumpkin Cake with Chocolate Ganache, etc.) but sadly, the closest Trader Joe's is now nearly 4 hours away, and I am all out. I don't trust the other blends in the small town store I have to shop from, so I decided to make my own.
     After searching the internet, and my cook books, I decided on this particular blend. It is the exact one that is listed in my Betty Crocker cookbook, and also the one that The Pioneer Woman uses. Those are two of my go-two places for basic recipes, and if it is good enough for them it is good enough for me. (I should note that I found this blend to be a little shy on the nutmeg for my taste, so I add another 1/2 tsp. You should feel free to customize this to your taste. Increase or decrease the amounts of each spice based on what you and your family enjoy. And FYI: I never cook with cloves, but it is something that is included in this blend. I personally think that clove is too strong on it's own for any of my baking needs, so I didn't have any on hand, but Amazon came to the rescue. I order nearly all my organic spices from them, and the 2 day shipping is a life saver! I think the cloves are nicely tamed in this blend, but you can completely omit it, if you are that opposed to it - I know my sister in law is.) ;)
   Immediately following my completion of my new spice blend, I added it to my Postum, my hot cocoa, and my kettle corn. (Yes, I did eat all of that today; and yes, they were delicious.) I wanted to make Pumpkin Spice Pancakes, but I thought I should wait for another day, since my sweets consumption has been more than met today.)
   I hope you enjoy this blend. If you have a blend you like better, let me know! I would love to try it out. And I'm always welcoming new Pumpkin Spice recipes. Keep them coming, all fall long!!

Here's the recipe: (all organic ingredients are encouraged)

Homemade Pumpkin Pie Spice Blend

3 Tbsp ground cinnamon
2 tsp ground ginger
2 tsp freshly ground nutmeg (I add another 1/2 tsp)
1 1/2 tsp ground all-spice
1 1/2 tsp ground clove

Mix all ingredients until thoroughly combined. Store in an airtight container.

Monday, September 12, 2016

Scotcheroos (And explaining my absence)

     I have been MIA for almost a year now. My life has been turned upside down, and I was having a hard time getting through each day with the normal mommy of 5 duties - forget about blogging. But I think I'm finally in a place where I can pick it back up again.
    So, what happened? My mom died. One day she was here, and the next she's waiting on the other side of the vale with all those who have passed before her. I talked to her on the phone, the night before she passed. No life changing conversation, just the usual ever day chit-chat that we found ourselves in multiple times a day. It was just a couple days after Thanksgiving, and we were talking about how the holiday went and what we were doing with left-overs. She had been sick previously, with her yearly annoyance of bronchitis that she always got that time of year, but she said she was pretty much recovered. Completely on the mend and I had planned on seeing her at church the next day. The next morning, I get a call from my dad at 8am saying that my mom passed away. There was no definitive explanation. It was assumed to be a heart attack. She had passed away that morning while getting ready for the day. My dad came downstairs and saw her slumped on the floor by the couch. He asked if she was o.k., and when she didn't answer he came to her and noticed she wasn't breathing. He started CPR and called 911. The paramedics came. She was still warm. They worked on her, and transported her to the emergency room where they continued to try and resuscitate her for 20 minutes until she was pronounced dead. She had just turned 62.
    There was no warning. No drawn out sickness or disease that could have prepared me for losing my sweet mother and best friend. I thought she would be around to see my kids get married and hold her great grand children. She was so young. I thought we had more time. It was just her time to go, and she went. I miss her every day. And even though I still ball my eyes out when I have to think about her passing (like now), I know that this is not the end. She instilled in me a love of the gospel and a testimony that this earthly life is not all there is. We lived before we came here and we will continue on after we leave. It is but a blink of an eye in the grand scheme of things, but I have a hard time being patient until I can see her and hold her again.

My mom. Senior year.
    So, that was the first life shattering event that happened over this last year. The next is my wildland firefighter husband getting a captain's position out of state. He accepted the job, and within a few short weeks we moved from southern California to Northwest Idaho. Going from one small town to another, but not having the luxury of being close to a large town. We now live in a sleepy mountain town and I frequently drive hours just so my kids can participate in after school sports. There are no friends or family nearby, and I have felt isolated, alone, and completely out of my element. However, I am adjusting. It's been just over 9 months since my mom passed, and 5 months since we moved. There are positives in everything, you just have to look for them. And I'm looking hard!







My old view looked out onto a town of about 1600 people, but just over the hills I could find myself in towns bigger than 200,000 people. Every restaurant and store imaginable, available to me on every whim.
And a warm sandy beach wasn't that far off either.







This is my current view looking out over a town of about 1100 people, and I have to drive 1 1/2 hours to get to the closest "big" towns that are about 30,000 people. And forget about a warm ocean beach.



I do miss the beauty of the desert sometimes.


Especially the sunsets, that I have yet seen to be matched.











But, the mountains do have a beauty all their own. And I consider myself blessed to live here. I just have to keep focusing on the positives, to keep going every day. Views like this make that a much easier task.



















So what now?
    I will continue to blog my recipes for you guys (and myself).  As you may have noticed over the last 2 years, most of my cooking lately has been all organic and free of any highly processed sugars/foods (white sugar/white flour, etc.). But, I will be posting some recipes that hold fond memories, like these Scotcheroos, that don't fall into my healthy eating lifestyle, but are a part of me non the less. My grandma used to make these, and my dad now makes these, and my mom even made them from time to time (although she much rather enjoyed eating them than making them). I haven't made these in over a year, but it was the last blog post that I was working on when my snow-globe of a life was given a good shaking, so I thought I would start here.
    The recipe is not healthy, and is full of processed ingredients, but it is a childhood memory for me, and something that makes me think of my family, especially my mom, so here it is. (I have been tinkering with making a healthier version, but I haven't worked out all the kinks yet. I'll share it when I get it just right.)
   Have you had Scotcheroos before? When I was little, I surmised that they were called Scotcheroos because of the butterscotch chips and the O cereal made the "oos." I'm not sure what the reason behind the name is, but if you've never had it before it's yummy. A chewy peanut butter mixture holds together cereal into whatever shape you want, while butterscotch and chocolate chips are the finishing touches on top. You can mix the melted chips together, layer them, or decoratively splatter them all over the top like I did to make the simple cereal treat look extra special. There's not really any way to mess these up. They always taste delicious.


Here's my grandma's recipe:

Chocolate Scotcheroos

1C sugar
1C white corn syrup
1C peanut butter
6 cups o shaped cereal
1 bag chocolate chips (2 cups)
1 bag butterscotch chips (2 cups)

In a saucepan, over medium heat, stir together the sugar and corn syrup. Bring to a boil, and then remove from heat. (The longer you boil it, the harder the treats will be.)
Stir in the peanut butter until smooth, then add the cereal. Press the mixture into a buttered 9x13 pan. Melt the butterscotch and chocolate chips and pour/spread over the cereal mixture. Let set before cutting.

Saturday, October 17, 2015

Pumpkin Bars

    The other day it rained. It rained hard. Not just a downpour, but I'm talking monsoon type water accumulation. The rain and hail came on suddenly and would not quit. Mudslides soon followed, with people and vehicles getting swept up in the currents and buried in a matter of moments. The accompanying lightning and thunder were just the lights and soundtrack to complete the "apocalyptic" weather event that had descended upon us. I've never seen a storm like that before, and I read that it was a once in 1,000 year event. Lucky us.
   Well, thanks to the lovely weather, my family and I were trapped indoors. But, we were all safe, healthy and warm with plenty of provisions to see us through until the storm passed, and the wreckage left in it's quake could be addressed. So, what do I do when it looks like the world is ending outside? I bake of course. Wouldn't you?
    I first made my kids some homemade hot chocolate (cocoa powder, milk, vanilla and pure maple syrup), at their request, and then got to baking. I had a few cups of fresh pumpkin puree ready to use, so I got out my cookbooks and started searching. I came across a recipe for Pumpkin Bars in my local church cookbook, but as I was reading the recipe I saw that it was full of highly processed ingredients (white flour, white sugar, vegetable oil) that I'm trying to weed out of our diet, so I decided I would change things up. I used whole wheat pastry flour, pure maple syrup and butter as substitutions. Yes, I still use butter. It's not as processed as vegetable or canola oil and it's good for you. I promise. Look it up. :)
    Well, the end result was delicious. A moist cake that is just sweet enough, but not cloyingly so, that is topped with a delectable cream cheese frosting (or whipped cream if you prefer). I just had to share it with you. I bet you're thinking, "Wait. I thought this was supposed to be a bar recipe. Why did she just say it's a cake?" Well, while reading through the original recipe I noted that it seemed to me that it would be more of a cake than a cookie bar (because of the amount of eggs, and the inclusion of a fair amount of both baking powder and baking soda) and I was right. This is definitely a cake, but if the original author can call it a bar, then I will too. (You can cook it on a sheet pan if it makes you feel better - like you are making a cookie bar, instead of a cake. But don't be mad at the end result. It will be soft, moist and tender like a cake. Not at all crispy, gooey or chewy like a cookie.)
    Ok, now down to the recipe. As I mentioned before, I swapped out less processed ingredients to fit our healthier life style, and I also added some ground flax seed for extra nutrition. I reduced the amount of sweetener, not only because I wanted to keep it on the healthier side, but also because I opted to use pure maple syrup instead of white sugar, and it's pretty pricey. (100% Pure Maple Syrup is my sweetener of choice, though, so if you haven't tried it you really should. I find the best price in my area is at Costco, but definitely shop around to find a good deal where you are. I keep jugs of it on hand, since we only use that and honey for most of our sweetening needs anymore. I should really buy stock in it!)
Do you have any favorite healthy swaps? I'd love to hear about it.

Here's the recipe:
adapted from Shauna Young's Pumpkin Bars 

Pumpkin Bars

1 1/3 cup 100% pure maple syrup
4 large eggs
1 cup butter, melted (I always use salted)
2 cups fresh pumpkin puree (can sub 16 oz can pumpkin)
1/2 cup ground flax seed (I use Bob's Red Mill Organic Golden Flaxseed Meal)
2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
2 tsp pumpkin pie spice (or cinnamon)
1/2 tsp salt

Preheat oven to 350F. Whisk together all the ingredients, except the flour, until smooth. Slowly mix in the flour until fully combined. Spread the batter evenly into a prepared 10x15 baking dish, or a sheet pan. Bake 20-30 minutes (until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean). All ovens are different. Check after 20 minutes, and then go from there. Cool, and serve with cream cheese frosting (recipe follows) or sweetened whipped cream.
Cream Cheese Frosting

8 oz cream cheese, room temperature
1/3 cup salted butter, room temperature
3 Tbsp pure maple syrup (to taste)

Blend with an electric mixer until all ingredients are smooth. Mix for an additional 5 minutes on high (to get it light an fluffy). Refrigerate if the frosting gets too runny, and then whip again before icing the cake/bars.