Greek yogurt, egg whites, unsweetened coconut and fat-free sweetened condensed milk make these caramel bars a lighter version of the classic seven layer bars.
Typically when you hear the words “baking” and “healthy,” they’re not in the same sentence, especially when it comes to the holidays. It seems like a bit of an oxymoron, eh? The holidays are the time to just let go, to overlook better choices. Or is it?
Luckily bloggers like Amy Atherton, of Amy’s Healthy Baking are changing the way people think about virtuous sweets.
With simple substitutions like alternative flours, healthier oils and natural sweeteners (and less of them), baked goods can in fact be healthier and tasty at the same time, and this is something Amy has undoubtedly figured out. So to all of you skeptics out there, her mindset is for you.
With enticing creations like Strawberry Banana Bread Oatmeal Cookies, Greek Yogurt Lemon Poundcake, and Dark Chocolate Cheesecake Thumbprint Cookies, Amy’s blog is full of tantalizing treats that are still kind to the waistline (cue the “hallelujah” tunes). Frankly we don’t know how she’s figured out how to significantly cut back the calories, sugar, and fat in her desserts without sacrificing flavor, but we won’t question her genius.
Ladies and gents, you can have your cake and eat it too.
Amy started baking at an early age. As a child she’d help her dad make his special banana muffins on the weekends, and whole wheat bread from scratch during the holidays. “His passion for baking definitely rubbed off on me!” Amy admits.
Amy released her second cookbook, Healthier Chocolate Treats: Breakfasts, Snacks & Desserts for Every Chocoholic, and it’s a dessert-lover’s dream and a resource for healthier sweets during the holiday season.
There are a few recipes in the book that she took great pains to perfect. Her Chocolate Flax Crackers (which she says taste like chocolate Teddy Grahams!), Oatmeal Chocolate Chip Cookies, S’mores Cheesecake Bars, and Dark Chocolate Drizzled Coffee Bundt Cake are all things she feels turned out exceptionally well. And we want to try them all.
She also divulged a healthy baking secret. “While most people are familiar with my favorite swap of using Greek yogurt in place of extra butter or oil, the trick that surprises most people is that extra vanilla extract enhances and can practically imitate butter’s flavor. In my favorite chocolate chip cookie recipe, I only include 4 tablespoons of butter, rather than a full stick or two like in traditional recipes, yet those healthier chewy cookies taste just as rich and buttery because of the vanilla extract!”
Extra vanilla — who knew?
And now, my List of 10 Q’s for Amy’s A’s
1. Describe your recipes in 3 words:
Sweet, clean, doable.
2. If you could be one blogger other than yourself, who would you be?
While I secretly wish I could spend a day as quite a few different bloggers out there — or at least be a fly on the wall of their kitchen for a few hours — I’d love to be either Lindsay from Pinch of Yum or Jennifer from Show Me The Yummy. They’re both incredibly talented, especially when it comes to photography (seriously, they take amazing and stunning shots for every dish they make!) as well as creating fun and easy recipes, but I’d especially appreciate being either of those ladies because they have a built-in team with their husbands. Those duos always seem really happy, cute, and in love with each other and what they do — that’s so fun to see!
3. Which 3 bloggers do you follow?
4. What is the one kitchen tool you could never give up?
My kitchen scale! I use it every single day, both for blog recipes and cooking regular meals. It’s actually a lot easier than measuring ingredients with traditional measuring cups and measuring spoons, and it ensures all of the sweet treats I make turn out with the perfect taste and texture every time.
5. What is something you’ve never made before that you’re dying to make?
I’ve wanted to make traditional tiramisu for a while now.
6. What did you have for dinner last night?
One of my homemade spinach and turkey burgers! I make a big batch of those turkey burgers on Sundays to reheat throughout the week.
7. What’s one secret talent outside of the kitchen nobody knows about you?
I grew up playing all sorts of musical instruments! I started on piano, then moved to flute, piccolo, alto sax, bari sax, oboe, and English horn.
8. You’re happiest when cooking/eating:
Healthy food—or anything with chocolate! Then again, I have a major weakness for french fries… Especially the thicker-cut, extra crispy kind!
9. The one secret to your success is?
My incredibly loving and supportive family. They’ve been taste testing my recipes, offering guidance and feedback, and cheering me on from the very beginning. (My brother was actually the one who encouraged me to start a blog!) I wouldn’t have made the leap of faith to pursue full-time food blogging without them, and I’m so incredibly grateful.
10. What advice would you give to a novice healthy baker?
Start by trying recipes from reputable, trustworthy sources like Cooking Light, Eating Well, or (slightly shameless plug!) my blog, and follow those recipes without making any modifications or substitutions. It sometimes takes a little while to get the hang of healthier baking since you’ll be working with different ingredients, so it’s much easier to get your feet wet by following recipes exactly before you try experimenting with ingredient swaps of your own.
Thank you Amy for being one of our favorite foodie crushes!
And now, the recipe for Lighter Caramel Seven Layer Bars from Amy’s Healthy Baking
These bars are just one of the 55 recipes from Amy’s digital cookbook Healthier Chocolate Treats: Breakfasts, Snacks & Desserts for Every Chocoholic that serve all of our chocolate cravings but on a lighter note.
Traditional seven-layer bars are packed with calories. Amy’s version has lightened our load by making a few easy substitutions for the traditional ingredients. Rather than a heavy, buttery crust, Amy’s figured out that egg whites and graham crackers create a lighter, lower-calorie base.
Instead of using sweetened coconut, unsweetened desiccated coconut delivers the expected coconut flavor just right when sweetened up with the lighter condensed milk. And instead of huge chunks of pecans, sprinkles of chopped nuts flavor just fine.
If you make this recipe, please let me know! Leave a comment below or take a photo and tag me on Instagram with #foodiecrusheats.
- 10 full sheets honey graham crackers
- 3 large egg whites, at room temperature
- 6 tablespoons unsweetened shredded or desiccated coconut
- ½ cup miniature chocolate chips
- ¼ cup finely chopped pecans
- 6 caramel candy squares
- 4 ounces fat-free sweetened condensed milk
- ¼ cup plain nonfat Greek yogurt
- 1 tablespoon sugar or sugar substitute
- Preheat the oven to 350°F, and coat a 9-inch square pan with nonstick cooking spray.
- Break the graham crackers into pieces, and add to a food processor or blender and pulse into fine crumbs. Transfer the crumbs to a bowl, and mix in the egg whites until fully incorporated. Press the mixture into the bottom of the prepared pan.
- Sprinkle the coconut, miniature chocolate chips, and pecans over the graham cracker crust in the order listed. In a small bowl, melt the caramel candy squares in the microwave for 30 seconds or until melted and drizzle over the bars. In a small bowl, stir together the sweetened condensed milk, Greek yogurt, and sugar or sugar substitute. Evenly drizzle the milk mixture over the toppings.
- Bake at 350°F for 18-20 minutes. Cool completely to room temperature, and refrigerate for at least 3 hours before slicing into squares.
Visit Amy and her blog at Amy’s Healthy Baking.
Purchase her book Healthier Chocolate Treats: Breakfasts, Snacks & Desserts for Every Chocoholic here.
As always, thank you for reading and for supporting companies I partner with, which allows me to create more unique content and recipes for you. All opinions are always my own.
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