Changing for the better, one bite and (deep) breath at a time.

Sunday, October 7, 2012

No Bake Dark Chocolate PB Oatmeal Bars

I did it!  I developed my own recipe!  (OK, I usually tweak any recipe I use to make it more Meg-a-fied, but this time I developed it on my own!)  I wanted to make a healthier no-bake cookie or bar that could also sub as a pre- or post-workout snack and had the two flavors I love the most: chocolate and peanut butter.  The result?  These fun little oatmeal bars that are great as a dessert, sweet snack, or even breakfast on the go.  Chocolate for breakfast, you ask?  Better (and more satisfying) than a chocolate doughnut!

This recipe is made up of some of my favorite nutrient-rich foods:

Cocoa powder and dark chocolate - full of phytochemicals (flavonoids, theobromine) that are cardio-protective and lower blood pressure.  Most of us love chocolate, and combining cocoa powder with coconut oil and a bit of stevia forms a nice chocolate "sauce" that's also super healthy.

Coconut oil - this once demonized oil has been heavily researched in the past decade and is now understood to be quite health-promoting.  We now know that it is beneficial to your heart and thyroid, and it may boost your metabolic rate and immune system strength.  Coconut oil is made up of medium chain triglycerides, which are preferentially metabolized and used for fuel by the liver.  (Polyunsaturated fats are made of long-chain fatty acids, which are harder to metabolize and are preferentially stored for fuel.)  Much of the research vilifying coconut oil was performed on oil that was partially hydrogenated; virgin coconut oil is what you want to reach for.  It is solid at room temperature but melts easily, especially if kept in an Arizona kitchen (mine is usually liquid after a few days in my pantry).

Peanut butter - great source of protein, adds satiety to meal, and thought to lower cholesterol and triglyceride levels.  Plus, it's just plain awesome.

Oatmeal - full of soluble fiber, which is thought to bind to LDL cholesterol and "sweep" it away from arteries.  This makes oatmeal heart healthy and a good whole grain option, if you eat grains.  Oats are naturally gluten-free, but many crops are cross-contaminated with wheat, rye or barley, or they're processed in facilities that also process gluten.  If you are gluten intolerant, opt for gluten-free brands like Bob's Red Mill, Holly's Oatmeal, or GF Harvest.  The less processed the oats, the more slowly they will be digested, so opt for traditional oatmeal or steel cooked oats whenever possible.  You can make oatmeal overnight in the crockpot to save time.  I used old fashioned oats for this recipe.  

Honey/stevia - I only used a small amount of honey, which has antimicrobial properties and is high in B vitamins, in this recipe, but I recommend it (and stevia) over other sweeteners because of its health benefits and minimal processing.  Plus, if you buy honey made in your local region, it may help you manage seasonal allergies a bit better.

This recipe is pretty dense and "oat-y" but has a strong chocolate peanut butter flavor.  If you don't like oats as much, you can reduce the quantity.  You can also make this lower in carbohydrates by reducing the honey (increasing stevia), eliminating the chopped dark chocolate, and swapping out 1 - 1 1/2 cups dried coconut for the oats.


1/3 cup + 1 tablespoon coconut oil
3 tablespoons honey
Few dashes of stevia (to taste)
1/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 cup smooth peanut butter
2 cups old fashioned oatmeal
3-4 ounces dark chocolate chopped (optional; about 1 bar)


Add 1/3 cup coconut oil, honey, stevia, and cocoa powder to a small saucepan and heat until gently boiling.  

Remove from heat.  Stir in vanilla extract and peanut butter until well combined.  

Fold in oatmeal and chopped dark chocolate.  Drizzle with 1 tablespoon coconut oil to help bind the mixture.  

Spread evenly into an 8x8" baking dish and refrigerate to set.  

Cut into 12-16 squares and served once set.  Look how dense and yummy these are!  

I am considering freezing a few pieces to see how that goes, too!  Greg and I love having these in the fridge to satisfy our sweet tooth without a ton of sugar.  Let me know how you like them!


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