Peanut Butter, Honey, and Banana Oat Bars

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Grocery shopping with a brother in the house isn’t always easy. Grocery shopping for an 18-year-old brother is even harder. Grocery shopping for a 6-foot-4, 18-year-old brother who also happens to be training for a triathlon can drive one to insanity. Especially when I’m the one that does most of the shopping. It seems like no matter how much food I buy, it’s inhaled in approximately 48 hours. Which means another trip to the store, followed by another 2-day inhalation period, followed by another empty fridge and of course another trip to the store. It’s a vicious cycle.

Now don’t get me wrong. I love my brother, I do, but his bottomless pit of a stomach can be a little frustrating. I’ve taken to writing my name in Sharpie on every food or drink that I plan on ingesting at some point in the near future, because if I don’t eat it within those two or so days of buying it, it’s long gone. This system has worked quite well for me, with the downside of making me look like an obsessive-compulsive hoarder to all third-party observers. But hey, you’ve gotta do what you’ve gotta do.

This week my brother is off visiting a friend in North Dakota, which means it’s just my parents and me at home. This morning I woke up to find 4 brown bananas in our fruit bowl, and I nearly fell over. Bananas are one of my brother’s favorite foods and they never, ever, ever survive long enough to develop even one lowly brown spot. Since brown bananas (aka perfect-for-baking bananas) are unheard of in our house, I jumped at the chance to finally sift through all the banana-based recipes in my bookmarks file and get baking!

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After much debate, I decided to experiment with a new recipe idea: Peanut Butter, Honey, & Banana Oat Bars. I figured I’d use my go-to and highly adaptable Chewy Granola Bar recipe to start, subbing in mashed banana for the applesauce in the original recipe, using honey for the sweetener, and leaving out the nuts and dried fruit. I wanted the pure flavors of banana, honey, and peanut butter to come through loud and clear, so I kept things simple. Without all the add-ins, this recipe is super minimal when it comes to ingredients and it’s also mega-easy. I just whisked together the mashed banana, peanut butter, and honey, adding in a splash of vanilla and a dash of cinnamon for a little extra flavor. Then I folded in the oats, the last ingredient if you can believe it. (I used quick-cooking oats in these, which make for a more uniform, less chewy texture, but you could totally use old-fashioned rolled oats if you like your bars a little chewier and crumblier.) Next it was into the oven for about half an hour, and the next thing I knew I was pulling out a pan of delicious-smelling Peanut Butter, Honey, Banana and Oat Bars!

Since there weren’t any add-ins in the bars I opted to top them with a glaze for a little something extra. I remembered seeing these Peanut Butter, Banana, and Honey Cookies over at Two Peas and Their Pod, which were topped with a peanut butter-honey glaze, so I dug out that recipe and mixed up the glaze. And I’m so glad I did. I literally wanted to eat the entire bowlful with a spoon; it’s that good. Silky-smooth, sweet but not at all like that powdered-sugary-stick-to-your-teeth kind of sweetness that so many glazes end up having, this glaze brought the bars from delicious to swoon-worthy.

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The bars themselves turned out soft, chewy, and packed with the flavors of peanut butter, honey, and banana. They taste just like a peanut butter-honey-banana sandwich, which is one of my favorite comfort foods of all time. The bananas keep the bars nice and soft, while the oats give them a chewy texture. And wait, it gets better! Not only are these bars super delicious, they’re also sugar-free (minus the glaze), dairy-free (if you use almond milk in the glaze), AND gluten-free if you make sure to use gluten-free oats! Even with all that healthfulness going on they are absolutely not lacking in the taste or texture department. I would never in a million years guess that these are so healthy. Win-win!

A lot of good can come from a couple old bananas. I’m definitely going to have to make these bars again….maybe I can just write my name in Sharpie on the banana skins and they’ll survive to the point of overripeness. Or maybe I can just give my brother one of these bars when he gets home and he’ll see for himself how good they are. Definitely worth leaving the bananas alone for a couple of days. However, considering the vast amount of PB & J he eats in a day, keeping the peanut butter jar full enough for a batch of these bars will be challenge in itself….

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Enjoy, friends! 🙂

Peanut Butter, Honey, and Banana Oat Bars

Yield: 16 two-inch square bars

1/2 cup smooth peanut butter

1/2 cup mashed banana (1 medium banana)

1/3 + 1/4 cup honey

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon (optional)

2 & 1/2 cups quick-cooking oats

For the glaze:

3 tablespoons creamy peanut butter

1/2 cup powdered sugar

2 tablespoons milk

1 tablespoon honey

Directions:

Preheat oven to 325 degrees F. Grease an 8″x8″ glass pan or line with parchment paper. Set aside.

In a medium bowl, whisk together the peanut butter, mashed banana, honey, vanilla, and cinnamon until smooth. Stir in the oats until the mixture is well-combined.

Spoon the mixture into the prepared pan, pressing it firmly into the bottom. Bake for 25-30 minutes or until the top is golden-brown. Let the bars cool completely. (You can speed this up by placing the bars in the freezer for about 45 minutes.)

Meanwhile, make the glaze. Whisk together the peanut butter, powdered sugar, milk, and honey in a small bowl until smooth. Drizzle the glaze over the cooled bars, then slice into squares. (Note: leftover glaze makes a stellar dip for apples, bananas, pretzels, etc.!) Store leftover bars in an airtight container at room temperature.

(Glaze recipe from Two Peas and Their Pod, Bar recipe from Emma’s Baking Addiction

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