“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.
1/2 c. peanut butter
1/4 c. sugar (I use organic)
1/2 c. packed brown sugar
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
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.
We loved watching him play in his “beach” (sandbox), help his dad out with yard work….
and make himself at home in the kitchen.
(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.
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!
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.)
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.)
(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.
Sweet Potato Pecan Pie Breakfast Oatmeal
Makes two large servings (as a main entree) or four smaller servings
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.
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.)
3) Combine coconut milk, maple syrup, and cinnamon in a small bowl. Microwave for 15 seconds. Drizzle on top of oatmeal right before eating.
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