Oatmeal Chocolate Fudge Bars

IMG_5366If there’s one thing I’ve learned from my many years of baking, purchasing, reading about, talking about, and eating food, it’s that “healthy” means something different to just about everyone. Yes, we can probably all agree that deep-fried Twinkies have a very low chance of ever making it into the “healthy” category, and I’ve never met a person who has labeled fresh broccoli as “unhealthy,” but there is still a crazy level of disagreement when it comes to clean eating. I’ve read diet books that forbid the consumption of bananas, grapes, and watermelon due to their high sugar contents, but the vending machine in my residence hall back at school has a “fit pick” sticker pasted on Grandma’s Oatmeal-Raisin Cookies. There are also “fit pick” stickers on bags of low-fat pretzels and salted peanuts, which are scorned by others for their simple carbohydrates and high fat content, respectively. Sometimes it seems like there’s just no winning.IMG_5348

All that being said, there is winning when it comes to this recipe! I’m going to refrain from trying to convince you that these Oatmeal Chocolate Fudge Bars are “healthy” (because, yes, there are real milk chocolate chips and gobs of peanut butter in them), but I will say that they have no flour, no butter, no white sugar, and no un-pronouncable additives or preservatives. What they do have is a soft, slightly crumbly crust made from oats, maple syrup, and peanut butter–side note: pure maple syrup+peanut butter is one of the best unlikely combos ever–and a thick, smooth filling that consists purely of chocolate and peanut butter. I personally think these bars taste best when eaten straight from the fridge, but you can also freeze them to make them last longer. Although if you’re anything like my family and me, the bars will be devoured in record-breaking time whether or not they’re hidden away in the freezer. I recommend saving yourself the trouble by keeping them thawed in the fridge and at-the-ready for eager consumption. Even if you decide that these Oatmeal Chocolate Fudge bars aren’t 100% healthy, they are certainly 100% delicious…and when it comes to desserts, that’s what really matters, right? IMG_5340

Oatmeal Chocolate Fudge Bars

Yield: 16-25 bars (depending on how large you cut them)

2 & 3/4 cups quick-cooking oats (220g)*

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/2 cup pure maple syrup**

1/4 cup + 1/2 cup creamy peanut butter, divided

1 tablespoon water

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

5 ounces chocolate chips (I used milk chocolate)

Directions:

Line an 8×8″ pan with aluminum foil or parchment paper, leaving a short overhang, and set aside. In a medium-sized bowl, whisk together the maple syrup, 1/4 cup peanut butter, water, and vanilla until smooth. Stir in the oats and salt.

Scoop about 2/3 of the oat mixture into the prepared pan and press it down firmly and evenly with the back of a metal spoon. Set aside.

In a smaller bowl, combine the 1/2 cup peanut butter and chocolate chips. Microwave for about 40-60 seconds, stirring after each 20-second increment, until the mixture is smooth. Pour the chocolate mixture over the oat layer in the pan and spread evenly.

Sprinkle the remaining oat mixture evenly over the melted chocolate, and carefully press it down. Chill for at least an hour, or until the chocolate is firm. Carefully lift the bars out of the pan while holding onto the foil or parchment paper, and cut into squares.

*I only had old-fashioned rolled oats on hand, so I just pulsed them about 20 times in my food processor. Using old-fashioned oats by themselves will change the texture of the bars, making them more crumbly.

**Honey or agave nectar can be substituted for the maple syrup. If you do use maple syrup, make sure you are using PURE maple syrup (not regular pancake syrup).

Recipe adapted from Chocolate Covered KatieIMG_5349

Soft and Chewy Chocolate Chip Cookies

IMG_5297You guys, I finally did it!! I made regular, typical, standard, good old-fashioned chocolate chip cookies. No browned butter this time. No special caramel-filled chocolate chips. No toasted coconut, fancy sea salt, pretzels, or Oreos. And you know what? They were amazing. They reminded me that sometimes, you don’t need all the bells and whistles. There’s a reason that chocolate chip cookies are so iconic, holding their place as America’s #1 favorite cookie (at least according to The Huffington Post). I mean, chocolate chip cookies are essentially little balls of flour, sugar, butter, and chocolate…what more do you need?

<Psst…don’t worry; I am only capable of making about one “normal” batch of cookies every five years. Knowing me, browned butter/pretzels/m&ms/caramel bits/the contents of my baking cupboard will be back inside my cookies soon.>IMG_5305

On an entirely different note…I finally did it!! I decided to haul this little blog away from the back burner and onto my plate again. I won’t give you all the excuses I have about being an extremely busy third-year college student trying to balance classes, psychology research, being a resident assistant, and re-training after a long running injury. Oh yeah, and I didn’t have a kitchen of my own during the school year. But if I were to give those excuses, it would end with me apologizing for being M.I.A. for so long and hoping that there are still people out there who love reading recipes for ridiculously soft and chewy chocolate chip cookies. And the occasional quinoa salad…because balance.

As to the future of Emma’s Baking Addiction, we’ll just see how this summer goes. I’ll do my best to keep adding to the blog, but life might take over again in its pesky way. For now, you should at least make a batch of these incredible chocolate chip cookies. The addition of cornstarch makes them soooo soft, and if you’re careful not to over-bake them, they’ll stay soft and chewy for up to a week! My poor brother, who has been begging me to make “regular” chocolate chip cookies for over a year now, will be thrilled to find a box of these in his Montana mailbox. I can’t mail you all cookies, but I really hope you will make them yourself. The fact that I refrained from making a thousand adjustments to this recipe should tell you something….yes, they’re that good. Enjoy! 🙂 IMG_5286

Soft and Chewy Chocolate Chip Cookies

Yield: 2.5-3 dozen cookies

3/4 cup (1.5 sticks) unsalted butter, softened to room temperature

3/4 cup brown sugar, packed

1/4 cup granulated sugar

1 large egg, at room temperature

2 teaspoons vanilla extract

2 cups all-purpose flour

2 teaspoons cornstarch

1 teaspoon baking soda

1/2 teaspoon salt

1 & 1/4 cup chocolate chips

Directions:

Using an electric mixer, beat together the butter and sugars until light and fluffy. Mix in the egg and vanilla until combined. In a separate bowl, whisk together the flour, cornstarch, baking soda, and salt. On low speed or with a wooden spoon, add the flour mixture into the wet ingredients and mix just until combined. Stir in the chocolate chips. Cover the dough with plastic wrap or foil, and chill for at least 1 hour and up to 2 days.

When ready to bake, preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper or a baking mat. Scoop the chilled cookie dough into 1-tablespoon-sized balls and place on the prepared cookie sheets. Bake for 8-10 minutes, or until edges are set and slightly golden (be careful not to over-bake!). Let the cookies cool on the sheets for 5 minutes before moving to a cooling rack.

Recipe from Sally’s Baking Addiction