Paula Deen Pumpkin Bars Healthy Overhaul

PumpkinsNo Paula Deen recipe would be complete without lots of added fat! That’s why this pumpkin bar recipe from Food Network made such a great subject for our healthy substitutions lab.

This lab works great with five student groups.  Each kitchen makes a different recipe. The recipes in my materials are not labeled, so refer to the following list:

  1. Original recipe
  2. Add fiber with whole wheat flour and ground flax seeds
  3. Cut sugar and add extra flavor with cinnamon
  4. Cut fat by reducing oil using egg whites
  5. Overhaul: Use all of the healthful substitutes in a single recipe

View My Materials

Whenever I’m trying “healthy” versions of recipes students can usually pick out the original.  I give them this scenario:

Imagine you walk into Mentors (homeroom) and your teacher has prepared pumpkin bars for you and your classmates.  Do you say “No thank you, those are far too healthy,” or do you say, “YES! FOOD!”

Every high school student I know says “YES! FOOD!” I never have to worry about leftovers. 🙂

Healthy Recipe Substitutions FACS Lab

Last week students demonstrated an edible way to practice their kitchen math skills.  Math and recipe skills are their least favorite things to follow so I bribe them with food as needed. 🙂

Students received a basic muffin recipe:

Ms. Pins’ Basic Muffin Recipe 


  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • ½ cup granulated sugar
  • 1 Tbsp baking powder
  • ½ tsp salt
  • 1 cup whole milk
  • 1 tsp pure vanilla extract
  • 1 large egg
  • 4 oz butter, softened


  1. Preheat oven to 400° F.
  2. Combine the flour, baking powder and salt.
  3. Beat the eggs in a separate bowl. Add the sugar, milk, vanilla and butter.
  4. Add liquid ingredients to dry.
  5. Pour batter into prepared muffin cups and bake 20 minutes.
  6. Allow to cool before tasting.

Students’ first task is to divide the recipe in half.

Next, using their healthy recipe substitutions research, students modify their recipe.

They make a grocery list for their modified recipe.

The next day I demonstrate the basic muffin recipe by making the basic recipe above.  Students make their own recipe. (Remember I teach on a block schedule with 85 minute periods)

Students taste the muffins I prepared and their own.  They evaluate the muffins according to flavor, appearance, color, and texture. This Wordle is a good tool to encourage students to use words besides “Good, bad, gross, ok.”

  • What specific substitutions did your group make?
  • Taste and describe the original muffins according to FACT.
  • Taste and describe the healthy muffins according to FACT.
  • Compare and contrast the two muffins.
  • Name a food that your family eats that could be made more healthy.
The next day we continue our math practice with unit pricing.  It is very difficult!  I make it really hard to start and ease up on them later on.  That way they build confidence and know they can do it.
I photocopied the receipts I used to buy the supplies for the lab.
  • What is the cost of each muffin?
  • How does this cost compare to your favorite snack?
  • What other resources should be considered when considering the cost of food preparation?
  • Is a homemade muffin worth the extra work?
Overall the students were very happy with the results.  No one asked for a copy of the original muffins, but many asked for me to evaluate their papers quickly so they could have their recipes back!

Recipe Substitutions: A Classroom Project Using Google Presentations

Today students began their Recipe Substitutions presentations.  Each group is assigned a food product to replace or add to a recipe to make it more healthful.  They will use 1-3 slides to answer:

  • What is the purpose of your assigned ingredient in a baked goods recipe?
  • Why would someone want to omit or add your assigned ingredient?
  • What are three different “tricks” for omitting or adding your ingredient?
  • Can your “tricks” be traded with a 1:1 ratio or does the whole recipe need to change?
  • How does each substitution affect the finished product?

Google Presentations was a handy technology tool for this project.  I made a Google Presentation and gave access to everyone in the Marion district with the link to edit. That way I do not have to add each student individually.  The students will have to sign in to edit the presentation so I will be able to monitor their activity. Unfortunately that means I will not be able to let you view it until all of the projects are done.  Expect an update by this Thursday!

Another great source is Pinterest.  It is full of infographics of healthy substitutions. Check out my collection here.

The introductory slide is a list of expectations.  Each table has a slide to add to with their recipe modification.

  • Reduce Fat
  • Replace Eggs
  • Increase Fiber
  • Omit refined sugars
  • Replace Gluten and Casein
    • I like to sneak in special diets to each activity. In the future I may choose vegan recipes, “Paleo” recipes, etc.

Later this week students will receive a basic muffin recipe and decide how to modify it. I will have them divide the recipe in half and figure the unit price of the recipe.  It will be a practical assessment of the unit. And students always enjoy edible assessments! 🙂