Chewy Oatmeal Peanut Butter Bars with Buttery Chocolate Frosting

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“What WERE those things?” my friend Ingrid asked.  “They were aaaamzing.”

What those “things” were is my new favorite super easy “cookie”  recipe that is impossible to resist.  These chewy, peanutty bars with soft butter chocolate frosting have everything going for them:

First, you probably have the ingredients for them on hand right now.

Secondly, they have fiber and protein to help slow down the absorption of sugar, so  you and your kids or guests can enjoy an indulgent treat with less of a sugar rush.  (I confess to have eaten a couple of them with an ice cold glass of milk and happily called it breakfast.)

They only take about 5 minutes to mix, just 18 to 20 minutes to bake. Cool to the touch, frost, cut and serve a bunch.  This makes them the perfect dessert to bake for last-minute guests, to satisfy a gotta-have-it-now craving for a sweet treat, or make n’ take to a potluck or bake sale.

Making a pan of bar cookies is so much faster and easier than baking cookies… and, I’ve not yet met a cookie I like as well as these peanuty chocolate babies.  Be sure to save the link to this recipe because I think you’ll use it again and again.

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Chewy Oatmeal Peanut Butter Bars with Chocolate Frosting
(24 to 30 bars depending on what size you’d like them to be)
1/2 c. butter (or 1/4 c. coconut oil and 1/4 c. butter)
1/2 c. peanut butter
1/4 c.  sugar (I use organic)
1/2 c. packed brown sugar
1 egg
1 tsp. vanilla
1 c. flour  (or 3/4 c. flour plus 1/4 c. hemp seeds or ground flax  or wheat germ)
1/2 tsp. baking soda
1 c. rolled oats
1/2 cup lightly salted peanuts, course chopped (I actually like them in whole or halved)
Directions:
Beat butter and peanut butter for 30 seconds. Add sugar and brown sugar, beat until fluffy. Beat in egg and vanilla. Stir together flour (Or flour and seed mixture) baking soda and salt, add to beaten mixture and beat until blended, stir in oats and peanutss. Spread mixture into 9″x13″ pan.
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Bake in 350 degree oven for 18 to 20 minutes or until golden brown around the edges. Let it cool, then frost with the following:
Buttery Chocolate Frosting
1/4 cup softened butter
2 T. Hershey’s Cocoa
1 1/4 c. powdered sugar
1 t. vanilla
1 to 4 T. milk
Cream butter with cocoa.  Add powdered sugar and vanilla and 1 T. of milk.   Mix, adding 1 T of milk at a time until the frosting is smooth and creamy and easily spreadable.  Pour over bars, spread evenly to edges.  Cut bars in squares and serve.
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Crispy, Nutty Cocoa Energy Bars

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I just returned home to Denver after a fabulous road trip with my husband Greg, to visit my daughter (co-author, co-blogger, co-conspirator), Rachel and her little family in Texas.

Her little boy Jackson, the most cheerful 2 year-old in the Lone Star State, greeted us at the door as if we’ve never been gone, and we were instant buddies again.

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We loved watching him play in his “beach” (sandbox), help his dad out with yard work….

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and make himself at home in the kitchen.

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(He disappeared for 20 seconds and Rachel found Jackson eating this tub of vegan butter, and when she took it from him – quick as a flash, he grabbed another unopened tub and ran with it to the other side of the house, as if the butter tub was a football and he was toddler quarterback.)

Speaking of football and butter…. funny lady Anita Renfro posted this cartoon yesterday that cracked me up, because this could easily be me and Rachel watching Chopped, while our husbands watch Monday Night Football.

cooking show cartoon

And speaking of cooking and football…

I just may have created the perfect football snack. These Crispy, Nutty Cocoa Energy Bars are a cross between a granola bar, a Pay Day candy bar,  a Reeses and Rice Crispy Treats.  They are also vegan, gluten-free (if you use gluten-free oats), chocked full of protein, healthy fiber, Omega 3s.  But your guests and kids will never guess these treats are mostly good for them.

The great thing about this basic recipe is that you can really be creative with what you like, and what you have on hand to make it your own.  They are perfect to tuck into your kids’ lunches.  Kids prefer these to cookies, in fact, and you can be sure that they are getting plenty of fiber and protein to help slow the absorption of sugar.  So no sugar crashes as happens so often with cookies.

Go, Team, Go!

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Crispy, Nutty Cocoa Energy Bars

½ cup peanut butter (I used the natural kind)

½ cup agave nectar (you can substitute honey or brown rice syrup if you prefer)

1 ½ T. coconut oil (or olive oil)

2 T. pure maple syrup

¼ cup brown sugar

½ t. sea salt

1 t. vanilla

2 cups oats (use gluten-free oats if you want to make this recipe gluten free)

2 cups cocoa crisped rice cereal  (I used a brand from the natural cereal section)

½ cup hemp seed or wheat germ or flax meal

2/3 cup chopped peanuts (I used a mixture of plain roasted and honey nut. They were already in fairly small pieces so I didn’t chop them.)

Directions:

Preheat 350 degree

In a saucepan mix the first 6 ingredients and bring to a slow boil for 2 minutes.  Turn off heat.  Add vanilla.  In a large bowl  place oats, rice cereal, hemp seed (or wheat germ or flax), and nuts.  Pour the hot peanut butter mixture over the dry ingredients and combine well. Pour all into a pan that has been greased with coconut oil or olive oil. Pat the mixture down firmly, using a piece of plastic wrap to keep it from sticking to your hands.

Bake for 15 minutes, let cool and then let harden in fridge (or freezer, if you are in a hurry).  Then using a sharp knife, cut into squares or rectangles.  (Or footballs, if you are feeling creative!)

Variations: Add coconut, chocolate chips or dried fruit. Use other nuts besides peanuts, and another nut butter instead of peanut butter, especially if you worry about peanut allergies.  Almonds and almond butter or cashews and cashew butter would be delicious. Try another kind of crispy, light cereal for cocoa rice crisp cereal.  (I have used Corn Chex, crushed, with good results.)

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Quick Buttery Coffee Cake (made with Pancake Mix)

(Becky, the Mama.)

This is our second week of condo living in regions of the U.S. where the sun is shining, the grass is green, the birds are singing and this week, in Oceanside, California, the ocean is waving.   


The sentence (and scene) above is brought to you by our much younger selves, when we each bought Time Share, never dreaming that someday we’d end up married to each another, with four vacation weeks to use up, per year, between us.  (And it is a use it or lose it proposition. So what can we do but go play?)

Neither of us would say that Time Shares are great financial investments; but man oh man, they have been AWESOME investments in terms of fun, extended get-aways  for our marriage. We’re both blessed with jobs we can do anywhere, as long as we have laptops and cell phones.

Some ways that we save money and also get business done while we’re away:

1) We drive instead of flying whenever possible, getting crazy good deals on hotels using Hotwire.com or Priceline.com.  I stock up on books on tape from the library (Greg listens with earphones while driving),  and we have wifi – via his cell phone– and a plug for my lap top (goes in the cigarette lighter)  in the car, creating a roving office-on-wheels. I get some of my best writing done on the road, my feet up on the dash, computer on lap, pillow behind my head. Greg also sees clients everywhere we go.

2) We always look for places to stay that have a full kitchen, bringing along a couple of boxes of kitchen essentials so that I can cook “on location” rather than eating out.

For whatever reason, cooking is an enormous treat for me, and especially when on vacation. I like the challenge of creating good meals from whatever supplies I bring, plus fresh local meats and produce.

It has been a long time since I’ve baked something sweet, at home or “abroad,” but today  after a nice long walk through an artsy Farmer’s Market with Greg, I began thinking that a warm coffee cake with a crunchy, buttery, cinnamon topping sure sounded good. 

Coffee cakes are one of my favorite treats to make because they typically aren’t overly sweet, they whip up and cook quickly, and it makes its own topping while baking.  If you have a good basic recipe, you can swing it a dozen ways!   Add blueberries or chopped apples, a variety of nuts, a little citrus zest, or even chocolate chips and you can dress up a basic cake anyway you want to go.  The added bonus: you get to eat cake for breakfast.  What’s not to love?

I didn’t bring baking powder or soda with me, however (a HA!) I brought some pancake mix.  Sure enough, I sleuthed up a recipe online for coffee cake made with pancake mix that got some lovely reviews.  I used it as a starting point, played with it a bit, and within 30 minutes… from stir to cut and serve…I was eating a fluffy, moist, perfectly balanced coffee cake.  So good, this will be my Go-To Coffee Cake Recipe from now on.  This recipe makes a small cake (perfect for a couple),  so I plan to double the recipe when I get home and make this for our big family next week, arriving for what we call “Thanksgiving Camp.”

Quick Buttery Coffee Cake (with Pancake Mix)

Preheat oven to 375 degrees

1 c. pancake mix, any kind (I want to try Trader Joe’s pumpkin pancake mix! Vegans use an egg & dairy-free mix)

1/3 c. sugar

1 egg  (vegans can use fave egg substitute)

1/3 c. almond milk (or any kind of milk you like)

¼ c. butter, melted  (I used ½ olive oil, ½ butter, Or use your favorite vegan butter.)

Topping:

2 T. softened butter (or vegan butter)

¼ c. brown sugar

2 T. pancake mix (or flour)

2 T. oatmeal (or mixture of oatmeal, hemp seeds, chia seeds)

1/3 c. chopped pecans (almonds, walnuts, sunflower seeds, peanuts)
Instructions:

In a medium sized bowl whisk pancake mix and sugar together.  Add egg, milk, butter and stir until smooth.

Butter a small pan, such as a round cake pan.  (I found a small broiler pan in the condo that worked well. It’s smaller than it looks in the pictures, only about 8 by 10 inches. )

Mix topping in another small bowl and crumble on top of batter.  

Bake for 20 minutes.  It will look a bit like the surface of a crater, but with each “dent” there’s the yumminess of melted butter and cinnamon going through the cake. Sooo delicious.  Serve warm and crumbly!!  (Or if I serve it later, I’ll zap a piece for just a few seconds in microwave.)

 This was printed from: We Laugh, We Cry, We Cook
The site URL: http://welaughwecrywecook.com
The title: Quick Buttery Coffee Cake
The URL: http://wp.me/p1UwM9-Nt
This was printed from: We Laugh, We Cry, We Cook


Sweet Potato Pecan Pie Breakfast Oatmeal

Sweet Potato Pecan Pie Oatmeal topped with Maple Cinnamon Coconut Milk. Scrumptious!

(Rachel, the daughter)

Jackson, my almost one-year old is becoming a little boy with a mind and will all of his own.

This morning while feeding him his breakfast of sweet potato oatmeal with coconut milk, he flat out refused to take a bite. He locked his lips, grabbed the spoon from me, sloshed his oatmeal around, then offered me a bite. I obliged with a convincing “Nom, nom, yumm, yumm,” lip-smacking display as I pretended to take a bite. Then I offered him a bite. He didn’t buy it.

Again, he held the spoon to my mouth. I took a little bitty nibble off the end of the spoon and offered him the same. He took one teeny tiny nibble, then lifted the spoon back to my mouth. “Fine, I’ll take a bite and you’ll see how delicious it is,” I told him. So I took a big bite and was surprised at how delicious it actually was. I smacked my lips and let out a genuine “Nom, nom, yumm, yumm,” and offered him another bite. He cleaned his spoon and proceeded to finish the whole bowl.

So Jackson, apparently, has decided, If she won’t eat it, I’m not eating it. I don’t blame him. Some things people feed babies are just offensive. Thankfully, I mostly stick to this rule anyway, often just giving him a serving of whatever I’m eating.

I liked the breakfast I had made for Jackson so much that after he cleaned his bowl, I went back to the stove and made myself a version of his sweet potato and coconut milk oatmeal.

This could be enjoyed in any of it’s three stages, 1) off the stove top as a bowl of warm oatmeal, 2) as a breakfast bake with a crunchy pecan pie topping, or 3) with a drizzle of coconut maple syrup poured on top. Any version will have you saying “Nom, nom, yumm, yumm.”

The casserole is perfect for bringing to a friend (everyone brings dinner, but what about bringing the most important meal of the day to a new mom or family in need?), or to a breakfast meeting. It’s dairy-free, egg-free, soy-free (if you don’t use soy milk and you use soy-free Earth Balance), and can easily be made gluten-free by using gf oats and omitting the wheat germ.

Delicious on it’s own, but taken to a whole new level of yumminess with warm maple cinnamon coconut milk drizzled on top.

Sweet Potato Pecan Pie Breakfast Oatmeal

Makes two large servings (as a main entree) or four smaller servings

Ingredients

Sweet Potato Oatmeal
1 c. water
1 c. milk or unsweetened nondairy milk (I used unsweetened almond milk)
1/4 t. salt
1 c. old fashioned oats (not quick cooking)
1/2 c. cooked sweet potato*
1/4 c. golden raisins (optional)
1/2 t. cinnamon
1 T. maple syrup

Pecan Pie Topping
1/2 c. chopped pecans
1 T. wheat germ (could omit or replace with a few more pecans if you don’t have on hand or to make gluten-free)
1 T. soy-free Earth Balance (or butter)
1 T. brown sugar

Maple Coconut Drizzle
3 T. Coconut Milk (full fat from a can)
1 T. maple syrup
1/4 t. cinnamon

*Next time you’re baking sweet potatoes, bake an extra one, mash it up and freeze it in ice cube trays. Pop them out and store in a plastic baggie to have on hand for recipes like this any time you need them.

Directions

1). Preheat oven to 400 degrees. In a medium sauce pan, bring water, milk, and salt to a boil. Stir in oatmeal, reduce to medium heat and add the remaining ingredients.Cook for about 7 minutes or until most of the liquid is absorbed. (You could stop now and serve this as is and it would be delicious.)

Pour the oatmeal into either oven safe individual serving bowls (divided) or a small casserole dish.

2) In a small bowl, use your fingers to combine pecans, wheat germ, brown sugar, and Earth Balance. Sprinkle it over the top of the oatmeal and bake for 10 minutes or until golden brown and crunchy on top. (You could stop now and serve as is and it would be delicious, a perfect dish to bring for a potluck breakfast.)

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Creamy sweet potato oatmeal with a crunchy golden pecan topping. Serve it as is or jazz it up with a drizzle of warm cinnamon maple coconut milk.

3) Combine coconut milk, maple syrup, and cinnamon in a small bowl. Microwave for 15 seconds. Drizzle on top of oatmeal right before eating.

This was printed from: We Laugh, We Cry, We Cook
The site URL: http://welaughwecrywecook.com
The Title: Sweet Potato Pecan Pie Breakfast Oatmeal
The URL: http://wp.me/p1UwM9-w9
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