These little gems are a personal favorite of ours, a little something of my own creation that have been a big hit every time I’ve shared. I’m enjoying one as I type this, so I’d like to share from our kitchen to yours!
I actually came up with this recipe before I was super gung-ho about reading ingredients, so I originally was using Betty Crocker Oatmeal Cookie Mix as my base. But, as you can imagine, once I started paying attention to the package’s ingredients list, I gave Betty Crocker the boot, and here’s why:
- Enriched flour bleached – Here is a nice article that sums up why you should be looking for “whole wheat flour” as an ingredient in your food products vs. enriched flour, and is also what you should be using for baking as well. Buy organic if you can, as wheat crops are usually GMO and covered in synthetic pesticides.
- Corn syrup – High fructose corn syrup has been black-listed from our kitchen, and even though corn syrup is technically slightly “better” than HFCS, it’s still a branch of the same ugly tree.
- Partially hydrogenated oils – Another thing that we avoid, whether partially or fully hydrogenated. You can read more about why hydrogenation is bad here.
- Color added/Artificial flavor – These are two of those really vague, umbrella terms that show just how unregulated and obscure our food industry is. What does this mean? Where are you getting the flavor from, through what processes? As much as I can, I avoid artificial anything – flavor, color, etc.
So this left me without the biggest puzzle piece in my banana bars, and I’m no baker by any stretch, so I certainly wasn’t about to MacGyver a solution to this problem on my own. I was bummed!
But then, the ray of light – I stumbled across a lifesaver of a blog post from Fake-It Frugal that gives you the recipe to make your own cookie mix for not one, but FOUR different varieties – chocolate chip, sugar, oatmeal, and gingerbread. (I can promise you I will be making ALL of these soon, but having a list and quantity of all the ingredients for my oatmeal bars became Priority #1!)
With recipe in hand, I headed to the kitchen! Here’s what you’ll need to make these magnificent bars, and you can feel good knowing that you know exactly what’s in them!
Step 1: Prep the cookie mix substitute:
1 Cup Whole Wheat Flour
1/4 Cup Sugar
1/4 Cup Brown Sugar
1 1/2 Cup Rolled Oats (NOT Instant Oats)
1/2 teaspoon Baking Soda
1/2 teaspoon Salt
1 teaspoon Cinnamon
I chose to put the oats in my food processor for about 15 seconds to get them to a finer texture, but this is just my personal preference. You can put them into your mix as-is, for a chewier bar.
Here’s what it’s going to look like. Barely different than if I’d ripped open a Betty mix packet, right?!
Step 2: You’ve got your cookie mix, now make the dough:
-Take 1 fully ripe banana (the softer the better) and put it in your food processor with 1 Tablespoon of water for a few seconds to make a nice liquid puree.
-Add the banana puree to your cookie mix, along with 1 Tablespoon coconut oil. (Or, if you don’t have coconut oil, you can use EVOO. Melted butter would also work, but I try to avoid using butter in favor of healthier alternatives.)
– With a spoon, mix all of this together with pressing motions to get the liquid ingredients to blend in as best you can. By nature, this is a thicker dough. Depending on how much puree your banana yielded, your mix might be a little more on the powdery side. That’s okay. If you’d like, you can drizzle just a little bit more coconut oil or EVOO to help, if necessary.
-Press this mixture into a lightly greased baking pan or dish (metal or glass both are fine). I’ve found that using a metal spoon seems to work well (better than plastic) for this purpose.
-Bake at 350° for 20 minutes. You’ll notice that these don’t harden, which is what you’re shooting for. Your goal is “underdone”, to end up chewy! Since this mix contains no eggs, you’re A-OK being underdone.
Voila! You’ve got yummy bars that make a quick, filling grab-and-go breakfast or a delicious treat. This recipe is super easy to customize, so feel free to tinker!
*Some Yummy Optional Steps! Try Any or ALL!*
-Mix in a Tablespoon of high-quality peanut butter (or other nut butter) to the dough mix, for extra protein!
-Add 1/4 or 1/3 cup of pumpkin puree (not pumpkin pie filling) for extra fiber, protein, and vitamin K, to name a few benefits. [If you use pumpkin, put it in BEFORE you put in the oil, because you may find that it gives you enough extra moisture that you no longer need any oil.]
-Throw a small handful of raw slivered almonds and/or pecan pieces into your food processor to be chopped into your desired piece size, and stir that into your dough for an extra dose of protein and healthy fats.
-Instead of using 1 full cup of wheat flour, you can use 3/4 cup wheat flour + 1/4 cup ground flax seed, to really boost the health benefits! Flax seed is a rich source of micronutrients, dietary fiber, manganese, vitamin B1, and the essential fatty acid alpha-linolenic acid (ALA or omega-3).
-Put 1/2 cup of any organic fruit in the food processor and pulse a few times (not puree), then fold gently into the dough mix after you’ve gotten it well-blended. Blueberry works awesome!
-BEFORE BAKING – After you’ve pressed the dough mix into the baking dish, top with raw almond crumbs, lightly pressing them into the top of the dough. (To get the crumbs, just put a Tablespoon or so of raw slivered almonds in your food processor to make into a light, crumbly near-powdered texture.) It adds a little more crunch and nice visual presentation to your bars.
Hope you enjoy! Comment section is open for thoughts or questions!