So it’s the New Year and so many people might be doing the “healthy” thing. Which is totally cool. But you know what is also totally cool? These bars. Cause technically they are healthy. I mean, they don’t have any refined sugar in them. They are made with molasses (blackstrap to be exact) which did you know has tons of vitamins and minerals? It has iron, calcium, magnesium, vitamin B6 and selenium. And that means it can improve your skin, promote healthy bones and relieve stress! Who knew that you could eat eat dessert bars that are actually packed with vitamins and minerals?
This caramel sauce is vegan and paleo which means that for anyone who is dairy-free or looking for a naturally sweetened caramel sauce, this one is for you! Plus, it is super easy to make. All you need is canned coconut cream, coconut sugar, maple syrup and a little sea salt. A little stirring and then voila! you have the creamiest caramel waiting for you to pour over these bars. And if you are feeling like you need a little taste tester, why not add a bit to your coffee? Pretty sure that is a wonderful idea…
Caramel sauce, dark chocolate, shortbread and pumpkin, so really what’s not to love? The dark chocolate is only made with two ingredients: cocoa powder and coconut oil. Bam. So simple! If you want it to be a little sweet you could add a drizzle of maple syrup. But I’m all about the 100% dark chocolate. I’m sure you could also melt your favorite chocolate bar that you have on hand! And let’s not forget how great dark chocolate is for your health. It is high in antioxidants, contains flavanols which helps heart function, and may help prevent cancer (source).
This shortbread crust is the base of the bars, then a layer of pumpkin spice goodness, which I think most resembles a fudge consistency. But back to the crust, all you need is coconut flour, coconut oil, coconut sugar and an egg or flax egg. You can tell you’ll be needing a few coconut ingredients! If you are looking to buy coconut oil, you’ll notice one jar will say “refined” or “unrefined.” One of the differences is that “refined” will be more of a subtle coconut taste. I prefer using “unrefined” coconut oil because of the minimal processing therefore having the most health benefits (source).
Let’s talk about the spices in this pumpkin layer. First we have ginger, which reduces inflammation, improves digestion and boosts immune system! Don’t be afraid to add grated raw ginger root if you don’t have powdered ginger on hand! Then we have cinnamon, which is high in antioxidants, anti-bacterial and is a natural sweetener without adding sugar. And lastly, we have my favorite spice which is cardamom (I put it in my coffee every morning!), also contributing to help improve digestion and is in the same plant family as ginger. These spices aren’t just for fall anymore! I’m using them all year ’round.
Now, the top of the bars are just as important as the rest of the layers. Flaky, crackly, sea salt. And you guessed it right! I’m going to tell you about the health benefits of sea salt. They contain a high level of minerals, are a great source of electrolytes (yes, you can sprinkle sea salt in your water for a workout recovery!) and helps regulate blood pressure (read more about sea salt benefits here)!
So now you know that healthy bars do exist (with vitamins!) You can eat your bars and have them too.
Does that saying work on these? Yea, I think so.
Pumpkin Caramel Shortbread Bars (Gluten Free, Vegan + Paleo)
- 1/2 cup Pumpkin cooked
- 1 tbsp Molasses
- 1/2 tbsp Maple syrup
- 1/2 tsp Cardamom
- 1/2 tsp Cinnamon
- 1/2 tsp Ginger
- 1 Egg flax egg if vegan
- 3 tbsp Coconut oil or ghee
- 3 tbsp Coconut sugar
- 4 tbsp 1 tsp Coconut flour
- 1/4 cup Coconut oil
- 1/6 cup Cocoa powder
- 1/2 cup Coconut cream
- 1/4 cup Maple syrup
- 1/4 cup Coconut sugar
- 1/4 tsp Sea salt
Preheat oven to 350. Place parchment paper in a 8x8 or a rectangle pan. Mix together the shortbread ingredients and then place in the pan. Bake for 10 minutes or until crust is golden brown. Allow to cool for 10 minutes (or just place in freezer!)
Mix pumpkin ingredients in a bowl and then pour over shortbread.
Make the caramel sauce on the stove in a medium sized pan on high heat by mixing all the ingredients and stirring constantly until bubbles form. Then turn the temperature down to low and continue stirring until the sauce turns into a thick consistency. Then pour caramel mixture over the pumpkin layer in the pan.
Make the chocolate sauce by melting cocoa powder and coconut oil over low until fully incorporated. Pour chocolate over caramel layer and allow to cool until firm in the freezer about 30 minutes. You'll want to make sure the chocolate isn't too hard so it's easy to cut. Or just flip the bars upside down so the shortbread crust is the top layer and then cut into desired square sizes! Serve right away or store in the freezer for snacking later 🙂