Pumpkin Applesauce Bread and Healthier Cream Cheese Icing

Despite what I’ve put into my own body over the years (yikes), having a baby changes one’s perspective on food. I want Oden to not only be well-nourished (clearly no trouble there!), but I want him to learn to enjoy and prefer healthy options- you know, real food. Recently, I discovered Honestly (a blog by The Honest Company) and read story after story about new moms and how they fed their babies. I thought about how we fed Oden when he was born. I’ve expressed my frustration and disappointment with our breastfeeding struggles early on, and I appreciate that The Honest Company has an entire section of their blog dedicated to feeding stories of all types. The overall vibe is that there are many ways to nourish an infant and the goal of their “best-for-baby” approach is to remove some of the judgment new moms feel. I wish I’d learned more about what other mothers went through to feed their babies; I might not have been so hard on myself.

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Now that Oden is starting to eat more than just formula, I have the opportunity to provide him with the good stuff. While John and I have always eaten pretty well, I find myself making his food from scratch and looking for alternatives to processed sugar and scooping up the organic products when they’re on sale and (gasp) reading ingredient labels. Thank you, Oden, for yet another opportunity to learn!

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And then come the holidays. “Healthy” doesn’t always translate during this time of year, does it? The average American gains a pound (or five) between Thanksgiving and New Year’s Day. I confess that I can’t say no to another scoop of green bean casserole, that one glass of our family eggnog recipe is probably a whole day’s worth of calories, that I make at least three kinds of cookies for Christmas. I adore the season and its flavors. But you know what I don’t love? Pumpkin pie. I know that’s borderline un-American to admit the week before Thanksgiving. And sure, I love the warm, flaky crust with browned edges and those warm, comforting spices that scream autumn, but the custard-like texture does me in every time. I brainstormed other desserts I liked and landed on cake. I like cake! I started to wonder if there was A) such a thing as pumpkin cake and B) if it could be somewhat healthy. Baby steps, people.

There are plenty of recipes for pumpkin cake out there, and they all looked extraordinarily moist and delicious. To give it a fun twist for kids, I searched for a denser cake that could be cut into shapes and dipped into some kind of icing. Pumpkin cake fondue! What kid (or adult) wouldn’t like that? I started with the pumpkin “cake.” It’s really a pumpkin bread, using mostly whole wheat flour and applesauce and honey for sweetness!

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Dry ingredients went into one bowl: the flours, baking soda and powder, salt, and that unmistakably warm pumpkin pie spice. It’s a combo of cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg, allspice, and clove.

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In another bowl, I used a whisk to combine the wet ingredients: eggs, honey, vanilla, applesauce, and the star of the season- pumpkin! We’re so lucky to have pumpkin puree in a can! I have been using the leftover puree to make baby food mixtures for Oden.

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I whisked the dry ingredients into the wet ingredients and poured the whole thing into a prepared loaf pan. As the bread baked in the oven, the house smelled heavenly, like cinnamon and clove, just like the holidays should. Forty minutes later, I had a beautifully pumpkin-y bread cooling on the counter.

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No, I did NOT wait for it to cool completely before slicing off an end to taste. Yum! It’s got the flavors of pumpkin pie with the texture of a dense cake. Its sweetness is not overpowering and it would be perfect with a slather of butter for breakfast.

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I’ll be keeping this recipe for years to come, just as it is, but I still had that “pumpkin cake fondue” in mind, so I made a simple icing for dipping. Traditional cream cheese frosting has a ton of butter in it. Instead of butter, I tried using Greek yogurt. We always have it in the fridge for smoothies! I blended equal parts fat free cream cheese and yogurt, and then added a small amount of powdered sugar and vanilla (it IS icing, after all).

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I gave the icing a taste. Yum! It’s not a healthy replica of scrumptious cream cheese frosting (my favorite); it has a little tang to it and the texture isn’t as thick. But it gave me the sweetness I was after without the extra fat of the butter. Next time, I might add a dash of cinnamon to make it more festive!

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You could bake a loaf of this pumpkin bread to have for holiday guests. You could drizzle the icing over it as an after-dinner treat, or smear it on a slice like butter. You could channel your inner ten-year old and dunk chunks of it into the icing (bonus points for licking your fingers). Little kids would love the bread cut into shapes for dunking, and older kids could use a toothpick!

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Oden will love this someday! It’s amazing to think that I’ll be searching for and experimenting with healthy recipes to feed him for years to come. Whether you’re 7 or 70, whether you love pumpkin pie or not, there’s plenty of seasonal deliciousness here! Let the holidays begin!

Pumpkin Applesauce Bread (inspiration)

You’ll need:

  • 1 cup whole wheat flour
  • ½ cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 heaping tablespoon pumpkin pie spice
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • ¼ teaspoon baking powder
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 cup pumpkin puree
  • ½ cup unsweetened applesauce
  • ½ cup honey
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla

Heat oven to 350 degrees. Spray a 9X5 loaf pan with cooking spray.

In a bowl, combine the flours, pumpkin pie spice, baking soda, baking powder, and salt. In another bowl, whisk the eggs, pumpkin, applesauce, and vanilla. Add the dry ingredients into the wet and stir until combined. Pour into the pan and bake for 40-45 minutes. Check doneness with a toothpick that comes out clean. Serve toasted with butter, slathered with homemade icing, or cut into fun shapes for kiddos. Yum!

Healthy Cream Cheese Icing

You’ll need:

  • ¼ cup fat-free cream cheese
  • ¼ cup fat-free Greek yogurt
  • ½ teaspoon vanilla
  • 3 tablespoons powdered sugar

Use a hand mixer to blend all ingredients until creamy. Makes a perfect dunking sauce for pumpkin bread. Happy holidays!

Hungry for more? Check out my collection of recipes HERE.

More about life with Oden.

Be sure to check out The Honest Company’s blog, Honestly, and learn more about their judgement-free feeding philosophy!

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