For a long time it's been my knee-jerk substitution: if a recipe called for walnuts, I'd automatically sub in pecans. Around our house pecans are in ready supply (in previous blogs I've mentioned about our "forest" of 13 pecan trees). Besides, I've never particularly cared for the taste of walnuts—too strong, too bitter.
But lately Hubby has been extolling the health wonders of walnuts. The new issue of Prevention magazine features walnuts as the current in-season superfood. Hubby had been reading this and at his latest grocery-store run brought home a bad of freshly shelled walnuts. He's been munching them the way I munch almonds—as my mid-morning health snack.
Prevention magazine mentions how walnuts give dishes a heart-healthy punch; they score highest of all nuts in the omega-3s that protect against heart disease. Their stores of fiber and unsaturated fat can help lower bad LDL cholesterol naturally. Oh, OK. I give in. Walnuts need to make their way into my diet.
That resolve, plus some leftover carrots dippers from my New Year's artichoke dip and a dab of leftover cream cheese from holiday cookie preparation, gave me good reason to try this Healthy Low-Fat Carrot Cake Bars recipe. I used walnuts where I'd normally sub pecans. The result produced some delightful bars (recipe provided by www.carrotrecipes.net); I can serve some now and freeze the rest for a later occasion.
O how virtuous I feel as I ingest this carrot-rich dessert that is infused with walnuts, the in-season superfood. May be a while before I can bring myself to munch on walnuts full-bore, but at least with this recipe I've taken the first step toward my change-over.
Healthy Low-Fat Carrot Cake Bars
3 eggs (or 3/4 cup egg substitute)
1 3-ounce jar baby-food carrots (or carrots pureed in blender to make 3 ounces)
1/2 cup packed brown sugar (or 1/4 cup brown-sugar substitute)
1/2 cup canola oil
1 teaspoon vanilla
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 teaspoon allspice
1/4 teaspoon salt (or salt substitute)
1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
2 cups grated fresh carrot
1 teaspoon ground ginger
1/2 cup chopped walnuts
3 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
3-ounces Neufchatel cheese, softened (low-fat option subbed for cream cheese)
1 teaspoon vanilla
powdered sugar sifted to make 2 cups
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line with a foil a 13-inch-by-9-in baking pan and lightly grease the top of the foil; let foil extend over the ends of the pan. In a large bowl beat together eggs, carrots, sugar, oil, vanilla, baking powder, cinnamon, allspice, and salt. Add flour slowly; beat to incorporate. Stir in carrots, ginger, and walnuts until just mixed. Spread into foil-lined pan. Bake 25 minutes until a toothpick inserted in the middle emerges clean. Cool pan on a wire rack. Meanwhile prepare the frosting: In a small bowl beat together butter, cream cheese, and vanilla. Add sugar and beat on low until thick and smooth. Spread over cooled cake. Sprinkle a few chopped walnuts onto top of cake. Cut cake into bars. Lift foil by ends to remove cake from pan. Remove bars to serving tray or airtight storage container. Keep refrigerated. Makes 18 bars.