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

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Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough Fudge

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Since I was little, I’ve been a notorious cookie-dough lover. Whenever my mom and I  baked cookies I would do whatever I could to make sure I ended up with a sufficient number of tastes before the cookies made it into the oven. That meant licking the spatula, licking the spoon, scraping the bowl, and forming the dough balls with my fingers so that I could have an excuse to lick them, too. It’s a wonder I never got salmonella! No matter, I loved my cookie dough. Once in a blue moon I managed to convince my parents to buy a roll of Toll House chocolate chip cookie dough, which always seemed to taste so much better than any homemade dough. Most likely because of all of the artificial flavors, sweeteners, and preservatives. But boy did that dough taste good!

I wish I could say that I’ve overcome my cookie dough addiction, but sadly I have not. In all honesty I much prefer cookie dough to actual cookies, which is too bad since cookie dough contains raw eggs and I know I shouldn’t be eating it. Sigh. The good news is, there are more of my kind in the world! Other cookie dough addicts! Like Lindsay Landis from Love and Olive Oil, who wrote an entire cookbook full of eggless cookie dough recipes! My dream come true. This recipe for cookie dough fudge is from her book, and it’s definitely not for the faint-hearted. I can only handle eating one tiny delicious square at a time since it’s so rich…it tastes exactly like you’re eating a hunk of raw cookie dough! Also, since it’s eggless there’s absolutely no risk of making yourself sick…unless of course, you eat the entire pan. And with this fudge, I wouldn’t blame you.

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Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough Fudge

Yield: one 8″x8″ pan, about 36 servings

For the cookie dough:

1/3 cup butter, softened to room temperature

1/4 cup granulated sugar

1/4 cup light brown sugar, packed

1/2 tsp vanilla extract

Pinch of salt

2 Tbs half-and-half

1/2 cup all-purpose flour

1/2 cup mini chocolate chips

For the fudge base:

1/3 cup light brown sugar, packed

1/3 cup butter

Pinch of salt

1/3 cup half-and-half

4-5 cups powdered sugar

1 tsp vanilla extract

1/4 cup mini chocolate chips (for topping the fudge)

Directions:

Line an 8″x8″ baking pan with aluminum foil, leaving overhang around the edges. Set aside.

For the cookie dough, in a medium bowl, beat together the butter and sugars until light and fluffy. Beat in the vanilla, salt, and half-and-half. Stir in the flour, mixing just until combined. Fold in the 1/2 cup of chocolate chips. Set aside.

For the fudge base, in a medium-sized saucepan, combine the brown sugar, butter, salt, and half-and-half. Place over medium-low heat and cook, stirring constantly, until the butter is melted and the sugar is dissolved. The mixture should be smooth. Remove the pan from heat and stir in the vanilla. Add in the powdered sugar, one cup at a time, until desired consistency is reached. (The more powdered sugar you add, the sweeter and thicker the fudge will be). Let the mixture cool for about 5 minutes before proceeding.

Fold the cookie dough into the fudge mixture. If you like chunks of cookie dough, gently fold so that the two mixtures aren’t completely combined; if you want a uniform fudge, mix the cookie dough in completely. Press the fudge into the prepared pan and smooth the top. Sprinkle with remaining 1/4 cup chocolate chips and gently press them into the dough.

Chill for 3-4 hours. Then lift the fudge out of the pan, invert onto a cutting board, and slice into squares. This fudge can be stored in an airtight container for up to 1 week in the refrigerator!

(Recipe adapted from Mel’s Kitchen Cafe, originally from The Cookie Dough Lover’s Cookbook)