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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Double Chocolate Oatmeal Cookies with Dried Cherries & Almonds

IMG_3305One of the things I love about these cookies is how much they have going on. I mean, they aren’t just oatmeal cookies loaded with add-ins…they’re chocolate-oatmeal cookies loaded with add-ins. They’re not just chocolate-oatmeal cookies; they’re chocolate-oatmeal cookies stuffed full of dried cherries, chocolate chips, and almonds. And they’re not just double chocolate-cherry cookies because they have oats (and almonds!) as well!

….This game seems to be called how many times can I type the words chocolate, cherries, oatmeal, and almonds in a single paragraph. Looks like I’m winning, whatever that means.

Because I am me, I couldn’t just leave well enough alone so I ended up with these fabulous flavor-packed cookies. I just kept thinking of new additions that would make them even better and finally made myself stop when the recipe title got to 8 words (not counting my sneaky “&” sign). I was quite pleased with the end product though…we’ve got rich, chocolate-based cookies studded with sweet-tart dried cherries, dark chocolate chips (because, duh), and nutty slivered almonds BUT they’re also full of oatmeal to get that hearty, chewy texture that every oatmeal-cookie-lover adores. With all those different textures and flavors going on, you won’t be able to stop reaching for another.IMG_3298

Lucky for me and my arteries, these cookies were baked for my brother’s fellow EMTs & paramedics (upon his request) and were scooted out of the house before trouble, aka my slightly flawed philosophy that crumb calories don’t count, could ensue. (This zero-calorie philosophy also applies to raw cookie dough, pieces of streusel topping, and the chocolatey bits that stick to the knife while cutting brownies. Just so you know.)

My brother’s pleading text went something like this: “If you baked something for the EMS people I’m sure they would all be eternally grateful…They just get short on food this time of the month.”  What was I supposed to do, ignore a bunch of life-saving selfless people who also happened to be working on empty stomachs? Guilt-trip galore…and it worked, of course.

Feel free to play around with this recipe, substituting some add-ins for others, but make sure you try them! The chocolate-oatmeal combination is fabulous, and filling them with dried fruit, nuts, and chocolate takes these cookies to an even higher level of deliciousness!IMG_3316

Double Chocolate Oatmeal Cookies with Dried Cherries & Almonds

Makes about 18 large cookies

1/2 cup (1 stick) butter, at room temperature

1/2 cup light brown sugar, packed

1/2 cup granulated sugar

1 large egg

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

3/4 cup all-purpose flour

1/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder

1/2 teaspoon baking soda

1/4 teaspoon salt

1 & 1/2 cups old-fashioned oats

1/2 cup chocolate chips

1/2 cup dried cherries

1/2 cup chopped almonds

Directions:

Using an electric mixer, cream together the butter and sugars until light and fluffy. Add in the egg and vanilla, mixing until smooth.

In a separate bowl, whisk together the flour, cocoa powder, baking soda, salt, and oats. Stir the dry ingredients into the wet, mixing just until combined. Stir in the chocolate chips, dried cherries, and chopped almonds. Chill the dough for at least 30 minutes (you can bake right away, but the chilling will prevent spreading and keep the cookies nice and thick).

When ready to bake, preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper or silicon mats. Scoop the dough into balls about 2 tablespoons large and place on cookie sheets, spaced at least 2 inches apart.

Bake for 12-14 minutes, or until edges are set and centers are no longer shiny. They may look slightly underdone but will firm up as they cool. Let the cookies cool on the sheets for 5 minutes, then remove to a cooling rack. Enjoy!

Oatmeal-Chocolate Chunk Cookies

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Welcome to the workings of my over-analytical brain…read on if you have the inclination, or feel free to skip down to the recipe. I won’t blame you, ’cause cookies are always the best part! 🙂

One of the biggest mistakes that I think people make after graduating high school is believing that what they decide to do next will solely determine the rest of their lives. While it’s certainly true–and certainly a bit scary–that every new choice will AFFECT their adult lives, I have to keep reminding myself that things change. Transfers can be made; majors can be changed; job interviews may be botched and apartment deals may fall through. It’s way too constricting to think in terms of finding that ONE perfect college, major, job, etc., because you never know what new passions, opportunities, or disappointments may come along.

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This past year has taught me to take life one step at a time. Contrary to how it sometimes feels near the end of high school/beginning of college, there’s no “right choice” as to what to do next. I’m more than happy with the school I chose, and although I’m pretty set on minoring in Spanish I still haven’t decided on a major. Psychology and creative writing are the top contenders, both of which I have a natural interest in and see myself pursuing as careers in some form or another. The problem was that for a long time, I kept thinking in terms of elimination, as though I had to keep crossing off less-important interests in my life until I narrowed it down to the one, the strongest of my interests that would then become my career.

As I thought about it though, I decided that that was ridiculous. My dad, an anthropology major/geography minor, has been a construction worker, park ranger, and teacher during different times in his life, and almost every adult I can think of has followed more than that one perfect path. It’s not as though I can make a huge mistake by majoring in creative writing, as if I would have to somehow give up my interest in psychology or any hope of having a career in which it’s involved. Yes, my chosen degree may change my range of job opportunities or qualifications after college/grad school, but I have to believe that things tend to work out in the end. Sometimes I have to tell my cut-throat, rational self to shut up for a minute and let my optimist side take the lead!

Basically, my philosophy right now is to experiment, find out what I love and what I don’t love as much as I thought I did, and get rid of the mindset that I can’t have more than one  passion. Aaaand, that passion doesn’t necessarily have to take form as a job! Maybe someday it will be harder to simply “change my mind,” but for now that’s kind of the point. One of my favorite quotes has always been “the biggest mistake you can make in life is to live in fear of making one!”

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You know, all of this applies to more than just school and education and careers…it also applies to cookies. I see recipes all the time claiming to be the best this, the perfect that, and sometimes I fall into the trap of trying to choose. Somewhere out there must be the perfect chocolate chip cookie recipe, the perfect flawless pie crust, the best blackberry pie. But maybe, just maybe, there can be more than one “perfect!” Sometimes I’m in the mood for the super-soft chocolate chip pudding cookie, but other times I want the more traditional thick and chewy ccc’s. I often fall into the habit of making my favorites over and over again (which, by the way I do not see as a problem!), buuuut sometimes it’s fun to try something else, something that might be just as good in its own different way.

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I’ve probably tried about a dozen different oatmeal cookie recipes over the years, ranging from thin/crispy/chewy to thick/soft/chunky. Sometimes I’m more creative with dried cranberries, white chocolate chips, coconut, macadamia nuts, etc., and sometimes I leave the cookies plain and pure. For some recipes I add in raisins and a dash of cinnamon, while other times I go for chocolate chips. Often I add both! Is there one right way to make oatmeal cookies? I say no!

So, although I already have these and these and these and these and these aaaand these on the blog, I’m adding another oatmeal cookie recipe. Because it’s always good to have options! And who can say no to Oatmeal-Chocolate Chunk Cookies? These are in the camp of crispy on the edges, chewy in the middle, and extra-oaty. Definitely one of the best cookies around 🙂

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Oatmeal-Chocolate Chunk Cookies

Yield: about 3 dozen cookies

1 cup butter, softened

1 cup brown sugar, packed

3/4 cup granulated sugar

2 eggs

2 teaspoons vanilla extract

1 & 1/2 cups all-purpose flour

1/2 teaspoon baking powder

1/2 teaspoon salt

3 cups old-fashioned oats

1 & 1/2 cups chocolate chunks

1/2 cup chopped walnuts

Directions:

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.* Line two baking sheets with parchment paper or a silicone mat and set aside.

In a large bowl, cream together the butter and sugars until light and fluffy. Beat in the eggs one at a time, followed by the vanilla.

In a smaller bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, and salt. Stir the flour mixture into the wet ingredients just until combined. Stir in the oats, chocolate chunks, and walnuts. Form the dough into balls about 1.5 tablespoons each. *To prevent spreading, you may choose to chill the unbaked cookies for 30-60 minutes. In this case, wait to preheat the oven.

When ready to bake, place the cookie dough balls 2 inches apart onto prepared cookie sheets. Bake for 12-14 minutes, or until edges are golden-brown and centers are set. Be careful not to over-bake if you prefer chewy rather than crispy cookies! Let the cookies cool on the sheets for 3 minutes, then transfer to a wire rack to cool completely. Store cookies in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 5 days.

(Recipe adapted from Brown Eyed Baker, originally from Baking Illustrated)

 

Oatmeal-Raisin Energy Balls (No-Bake!)

IMG_6974I’ve only been home from college for two weeks, but I’m already in full-on summer mode. The weather was particularly cooperative when I first got home, with sunny days and temperatures in the 70s, and although our island has now succumbed to its more usual May weather (overcast skies and temperatures in the low 60s) I’m still in a summery mood. I’ve started back up with my summer jobs, taken long runs in the (sometimes) sun, bought tons of fresh summer fruit that finally doesn’t cost an arm and a leg, and carried out a considerably admirable attempt at purging my closet of STUFF. Since coming home I’ve been somewhat overwhelmed at the amount of STUFF cluttering up our entire house, and I’m trying to do a bit of summer cleaning. I can never decide which is stronger: the hatred I have of the actual cleaning, or the wonderful freeing feeling of a de-cluttered house. It’s an ongoing dilemma.

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One of my favorite parts of summer is more time for cooking and baking, and it’s been so nice to be back in a real kitchen. Ice cream sandwiches, Greek-themed dinners, chickpea curry, lemon-poppy seed bars and energy bites are just a few of the things that have emerged from my kitchen in the past two weeks. Today I’m sharing a recipe for some of the quickest, easiest, and healthiest little treats you can find. These Oatmeal-Raisin Energy Bites are gluten-free (if you use gf oats), dairy-free, low-sugar, and packed full of fiber, protein, and healthy fats. They’re made in one bowl with one spoon, and you don’t even have to turn on your oven! Sounds pretty fool-proof to me.

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The other morning I woke up to an email from my mom (yes, we live in the same house and see each other multiple times a day yet she still gets a kick out of emailing me), saying that the little energy balls were so, so delicious and she hopes I’ll make them “again and again.” I just had to chuckle. Especially considering the fact that she was in the next room when I read it. I won’t even pretend to understand her logic, but there’s no doubt about it that these energy bites really do taste amazing! They’re full of flavor, are sweet but not too sweet, and have a wonderful chewy texture from the softened oats. I think the balls are quite reminiscent of oatmeal-peanut butter cookie dough, but they’re so much better for you!

This recipe is also super adaptable. Use whatever nut butter you like in place of the peanut butter, sub in maple syrup or agave nectar for the honey, use cocoa powder or oat flour instead of ground flaxseed, and use your favorite add-ins if you don’t like raisins. Chocolate chips, dried cranberries, or nuts would all be delicious. I promised my mom (via email, just to humor her) that I would be more than happy to make them again and again! I can’t wait to play around with other combos, and these simple balls are the perfect solution to an 8pm snack craving. Hope you enjoy these as much as we do!

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No-Bake Oatmeal-Raisin Energy Balls

Yield: about 20-24 balls

1 cup old-fashioned oats

1/2 cup creamy peanut butter

1/2 cup ground flaxseed

3/4 cup unsweetened coconut flakes

1/3 cup honey

1 teaspoon vanilla

1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1/2 cup raisins

Directions:

Combine all ingredients in a large bowl and stir well. If the mixture is too dry, add in an extra tablespoon or so of honey. If it’s too wet, add in a bit more oats.

Chill for 30 minutes, then form the dough into tablespoon-sized balls. The energy bites can be stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 1 week.

(Recipe adapted from Smashed Peas and Carrots)

 

The Ultimate Oatmeal-Raisin Cookies

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Back in my early baking days, before Pinterest and food blogs and reasonably fast Internet and a computer that didn’t have a gigantic egg-shaped bulge in the back, I used actual cookbooks. Cookbooks, handwritten recipes scribbled on notecards, and the recipes printed on the back of ingredient bags/boxes were the most common sources of all my recipes. When I had the urge to bake chocolate chip cookies, I simply flipped over the bag of chocolate chips and followed the traditional Tollhouse recipe. The recipe for my favorite soft gingersnaps was found in a homemade, spiral-bound cookbook given to my dad from a past student, and the recipe for my grandma’s famous Crown Jewel Cake (aka Lady Finger Cake) was handed down to me, handwritten of course, from her mother-in-law.

I had it in my head that there was one, maybe two, tried-and-true recipes for whatever I wanted to bake. My little baking world offered fewer choices, fewer variations, and less of an urge to produce the perfect this-or-that. Which was both good and bad, I suppose. Sometimes I think I get a bit carried away with all the spunked-up versions of traditional baked goods that float around the Internet, searching tirelessly for the perfect chocolate chip cookie, the perfect blackberry pie. However, sometimes all that searching, that endless supply of online recipes lying at my beck and call, leads me to a jackpot.

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Oatmeal-raisin cookies have been one of my favorite stand-by cookies since the beginning of my baking career. For years I used the recipe for Vanishing Oatmeal Raisin Cookies conveniently located on the underside of a Quaker Oat canister lid. As my baking skills grew, my cookies changed from dry, slightly-burnt lumps or flat, greasy circles to perfectly tasty, chewy, cookies. I had nothing to complain about, so I never used any other recipe. Until now, that is.

Sadly it seems as though oatmeal-raisin cookies are hardly a favorite of the cookie family. So often they get passed up for chocolate chip, peanut butter, white chocolate macadamia, or other more “exciting” cookies. After coming across a recipe on Annie’s Eats for “The ultimate” oatmeal-raisin cookies, I knew I had to try it. This was definitely a recipe that had been tested over and over, especially since it called for weighted ingredients. I’ve simply listed the measured amounts below, since I don’t happen to be the lucky owner of a food scale, but you can view the original recipe from the link at the bottom if you’d prefer to weigh your ingredients.

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These really may be The Ultimate Oatmeal-Raisin Cookies. With an entire tablespoon of cinnamon, a vanilla bean (which is worth the splurge!) plus a tablespoon of vanilla extract, rehydrated raisins (just soak ’em in some hot water to get them plump and juicy) and carefully proportioned ingredients, this recipe is above and beyond that of the oat box’s. Sorry, Quaker Oat Man.

Though I’m admittedly a lover of thick & chewy cookies, these fall more into the thin & chewy camp. Just as long as you’re careful not to over-bake them they won’t be crunchy, just crisp around the edges and wonderfully chewy in the center. The flavors of cinnamon and vanilla come through, but not too strongly, and the cookies are just a bit saltier than most cookies–a feature that I happen to love, since a hint of saltiness pairs so well with the nutty oats. While I was still scooping the dough balls my dad sniffed the air and asked what I was baking–they’re that aromatic! When they actually were baking, my house smelled heavenly. Like cinnamon-raisin-vanilla-buttery goodness.

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Bring oatmeal-raisin cookies out of the sidelines by baking these ULTIMATE oatmeal-raisin cookies! I still love my trusty old Quaker Oats recipe, but I have to admit that after trying these beauties it will be hard to go back.

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The Ultimate Oatmeal Raisin Cookies

Makes about 2 dozen large cookies

1 cup + 1 teaspoon all-purpose flour

1 tablespoon ground cinnamon

1 & 1/2 teaspoons baking soda

1 teaspoon salt

11 tablespoons unsalted butter, at room temperature

3/4 cup brown sugar, lightly packed

5 & 1/2 tablespoons granulated sugar

1 vanilla bean pod

1 tablespoon vanilla extract

1/4 cup eggs, lightly beaten (about 2 medium eggs)

2 cups old-fashioned oats

1 cup dark raisins (or a mixture of dark and golden raisins)

Directions:

Place the raisins into a bowl and cover with hot water. Let them soak for 20-30 minutes so that they can rehydrate and plump up. Then drain the raisins and spread them onto a clean hand towel, blotting gently to soak up any extra water.

In a medium-sized bowl, whisk together the flour, cinnamon, baking soda, and salt. Set aside.

In a larger bowl, using an electric mixer, beat the butter until smooth and creamy. Add in the sugars and beat for 3-4 minutes or until light and fluffy. Split the vanilla bean pod down the middle and, using a butter knife or a spoon, scrape the seeds into the bowl. Add in the vanilla extract and eggs; mix until smooth.

Add the flour mixture in two additions, mixing just until incorporated. Stir in the oats and raisins. Cover the dough and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes.

When ready to bake, allow the dough to sit at room temperature for 10-15 minutes while you preheat the oven to 325 degrees F. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper or silicon liners. Scoop the cookie dough into balls about 3-tablespoons large and drop onto prepared cookie sheets 2-3 inches apart. Bake for 17-18 minutes, rotating sheets halfway through, or until edges are set but tops are still puffy. Let the cookies cool for 5 minutes on the sheets before transferring to a cooling rack.

(Recipe adapted from Annie’s Eats)

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

Banana Oat Flour Muffins (Gluten-free!)

 

IMG_3860Being a creature of habit, I eat almost the same breakfast every single day: oatmeal. I love it for being quick, easy, healthy, wholesome, delicious, inexpensive, and incredibly versatile when it comes to add-ins. That’s a whole lot of plus factors for one single food! Even though I almost always eat oatmeal in the mornings, I like to mix things up when it comes to toppings. Some days I go for chopped apple, cinnamon, and a drizzle of maple syrup, while other days I’m in the mood for classic blueberries & honey, the combo that I always went for when I was little. I love adding raisins, chunks of pear, sliced strawberries, really any type of fruit! My favorite combo, however, is diced banana, cinnamon, and nutmeg. The hot oatmeal warms the banana and you end up with a bowl of hot, sweet, warmly spiced deliciousness. I know, I know, I’m weird. What can I say, I like my oatmeal! 🙂

On the busiest of busy mornings, even oatmeal can be too time-consuming. That’s where this wonderful little recipe comes in! These Banana Oat Flour Muffins are basically a grab-and-go version of oatmeal: chock full of hearty oats and oat flour, a splash of milk, and some add-ins/flavorings of your choice. That’s it!! I made these without any sugar at all (not counting the banana and raisins) and they were still plenty sweet in my mind. Especially if you’re enjoying these for breakfast, the extra sweetness really doesn’t seem necessary. As far as the other ingredients go, just use your favorite oatmeal additions! I of course went for my favorite banana/cinnamon/nutmeg combo, along with a little almond flavoring, but the possibilities are endless: try using unsweetened applesauce in place of the banana, vanilla extract instead of the almond, any type of dried fruit instead of the raisins, or a little peanut butter. You could add a couple tablespoons of cocoa powder for an extra-delicious chocolate version, too! Maybe I’ll experiment with a cocoa/peanut butter/banana edition the next time I make these….and there will definitely be a next time!

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Oatmeal-lovers and muffin-lovers alike are bound to LOVE these babies! The muffins also freeze very well, so you can make a big batch and simply grab one out of the freezer in the morning, nuke it in the microwave for a few seconds, and enjoy a quick, healthy, yummy breakfast on-the-go. What more can you ask for?

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Banana Oat Flour Muffins

2 cups oat flour

1/2 cup old-fashioned oats

2 tsp baking powder

1/2 tsp ground cinnamon

Pinch of ground nutmeg

1 large ripe banana, mashed

1 cup milk (I used vanilla almond milk)

1/2 tsp almond extract or vanilla extract (optional)

1/4 cup brown sugar*

1/2 cup raisins

Topping:

1 Tbs brown sugar, packed

1/2 tsp ground cinnamon

Directions:

Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. Grease a 12-cup muffin tin or line with paper muffin cups. Set aside.

Whisk together the oat flour, oats, baking powder, cinnamon and nutmeg in a large bowl. In a smaller bowl, mix together the mashed banana, milk, almond extract, and brown sugar until well-combined. Pour the wet ingredients into the oat mixture and stir until just combined. Fold in the raisins. The batter will be thick.

Scoop the batter into prepared muffin tins. In a small bowl, mix together the 1 tablespoon of brown sugar and 1/2 teaspoon of cinnamon. Sprinkle over the muffins.  Bake for 12-15 minutes or until an inserted toothpick comes out clean and muffin tops bounce back when lightly pressed. Let cool for 5 minutes, then transfer muffins onto a cooling rack. Serve.

Leftovers can be frozen or stored in an airtight container at room temperature.

*You can make these muffins sugar-free by simply leaving out the brown sugar. I made these with no sugar at all except that from the banana, vanilla almond milk, and raisins, and they turned out delicious. However, if you aren’t used to eating less-sweet muffins, I would recommend including the brown sugar.

(Recipe adapted from Happy Herbivore)