Thursday, January 28, 2010

Peanut Butter Oat Chocolate Brownie Bars

I had been fighting the urge to make something chocolate for well over a week. Posts like this chocolate almond cake were wearing me down until finally, I snapped and gave in, still feeling guilty as I was pulling down bowls and melting butter.

On the radio at the time was NPR. More specifically the talk show, On Point with Tom Ashbrook. And who, might you ask, was Tom interviewing this particular day? Michael Pollan, author of the books Omnivore's Dilemma and In Defense of Food and contributor to the documentary, Food, Inc. He was on the show talking about his new book, Food Rules (you can listen to the audio of this program here). Now, Pollan is all about eating the best-for-you healthiest foods. His motto and the subtitle to In Defense of Food is “Eat food. Mostly plants. Not too much.”

Listening in to this program while I measured white refined sugar, cocoa and peanut butter did not help to alleviate my guilt. No, it did not. But then, wait! Tom read the next one of Pollan's "food rules". Do you know what it was?? In effect, Pollan said that it's okay to eat junk food if you make it yourself. He went on to say, that you should keep treats a treat (meaning you should not make them often). I hadn't made a "treat" in weeks!

Well, I'll be. It's as if Michael Pollan himself poked his head out of my little kitchen boom box, looked over my shoulder and gave me permission to make my sweet.

THAT, my friends, got rid of most of my guilt. What removed the remaining guilt? The results. I was craving chocolate, so initially planned on making a pan of brownies. I decided this was too boring and started flipping through my dessert binder (yes, a whole binder devoted to desserts) and had an idea. I took both my brownie recipe and a peanut butter oat bar recipe and combined the two. Both recipes I've had for years and have tweaked them to my liking (actually, to my loving). The idea of layering the two excited my taste buds to no end, so I gave it a go and am happy to say that this new recipe is worth making again and again and again. And, as a bonus, it seems to induce remaining guilt dispersion.

These are very soft and chewy. Both layers sport some fudginess which happens to be my favorite characteristic of a bar or brownie.

I do not recommend only eating two and a half of these bars for your lunch. While it may seem like a good idea at the time, there is a very good chance you will feel pretty jittery because of it. That, and I don't think Mr. Pollan would condone homemade junk food as a substitute for one of your main meals. Just a hunch I have.

Peanut Butter Oat Chocolate Brownie Bars
Even though these bars have two layers, they are very simple to make. If you really love brownies, double the brownie layer for a more intensely chocolate punch.

For the brownie layer:

3/4 cup butter, melted
2 cups sugar
3/4 cup cocoa
1 tsp. vanilla
2 eggs
1 cup flour
1/2 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. salt

Combine the above brownie ingredients in a large bowl and set aside.

For the peanut butter layer:

1 1/2 cup chunky or creamy peanut butter (I use chunky)
1/2 cup shortening
1 1/2 cup sugar
1/4 cup milk
2 tsp. vanilla
2 eggs
1 cup flour
1 tsp. salt
2 tsp. cinnamon
3/4 tsp. baking soda
2 1/2 cups quick oats

Combine peanut butter layer ingredients in a large bowl. Coat a 9 x 13 inch pan with cooking spray. Spread the brownie batter evenly over the bottom of the pan. Carefully, spread the peanut butter layer evenly over the brownie layer. Bake at 350 degrees for 25-30 minutes or until the top has turned a very light brown and a knife inserted comes out almost clean. Do not over bake.

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  1. Oh my, those looks delicious.

    Is this called "paybacks?"

  2. Now those look yummy ~ AND I agree ~ a treat once in awhile is a good thing...maybe even necessary! Thanks for sharing the recipe with us. :)

    Have a wonderful day!

  3. Uh, yum. I was all set to run down to the store for the stuff to make Mama JJ's Shoofly cake, but you've stopped me in my tracks. Now I've got myself a real (omnivore's) dilemma.

    I heard Michael Pollan say the same thing about the treats yesterday on Oprah - and my reaction was almost identical. :)

  4. How did you know I just bought 15lbs of oatmeal? I have EVERYTHING on the ingredient list... guess what I'm making tomorrow?

  5. How did YOU know that I'm a Peanut Butter and Chocolate addict? At least I was until acid reflux became an issue in my life. I'm wondering if I could substitute carob powder for the cocoa?

    How providential that Michael Pollan was on the air! Thanks for posting the link to this interview.

  6. JJ, "Paybacks" indeed:-).

    Mavis, With all that oatmeal, you must try our baked oatmeal if you haven't yet- it's in our recipe index. And, tell me how you like the bars!

    Amy, I have never used carob powder, so I am not sure how it would do as a substitute. Maybe halve the recipe and try it?

  7. I'm almost done listening to the podcast and there it was..."Treat treats as treats!" as well as "Enjoy them on special occasions", "We don't have to deprive ourselves", etc.

    AND the interviewer said to "take your time and eat it slowly."

    I'm going to have to get that book.

  8. I just made these! Thank you! They smell wonderful :) I think my husband is going to love this Valentine treat!

  9. I made these last week and they were fantastic! Thanks for such a yummy recipe. I'm really enjoying your site and you are very encouraging to me as my family moves toward a more self-sufficient and real food lifestyle. Thanks again, and blessings to your family.


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