Then there are the “under the radars” you never consider before actually having kids: the open access to Halloween bags after bedtime, the “cleaning” of ice cream cones when the melting outpaces the licking, and the baking of ooey, gooey treats “because I need to…for the kids.”
The latter is just how these Chewy, Chocolatey CheeriOats Bars came to be.
It was an hour before I was due to pick up a crew of six girls for lacrosse practice when it dawned on me that an after school snack was in order, the perfect excuse to bake a batch of the chewy sort of treat I’d been mulling over all day.
After foraging through the pantry for inspiration, I settled on cereal bars in the order of a rice crispy treat, only built on a base of Cheerios along with wholesome add-ins for good measure.
The result is a super satisfying bar that hits all the right sensory buttons: chewy, chocolatey, nutty, crunchy, and a little salty. Yum. All this at about 100 calories a pop, a reasonable indulgence paired with a glass of milk for an after school treat.
Eschewing the corn syrup, sweetened condensed milk, and marshmallows that are typical of bars, I relied largely on organic brown rice syrup for the “glue” to hold it all together. This mild-tasting, viscous sweetener is available in many specialty stores, organic markets such as Whole Foods, and the “health food” section of some supermarkets. I use it in place of corn syrup in much of my baking, sometimes in combination with honey or maple syrup.
Since the bars are full of both Cheerios and whole oats, they have a pleasing crunch and enough soluble fiber to make you feel like there’s some good in there. Whole peanuts and peanut butter help to make the bars filling with a hit of protein. Raisins and chocolate add sweetness.
It all comes together by quickly melting the brown rice syrup with a touch of brown sugar, peanut butter, and vanilla, pouring it over the dry ingredients, and pressing the whole lot into a baking pan.
The recipe makes 25 bars, which means once you drop those six kids off for practice, there are 19 left over for you to choose from…along with a cup of tea and quiet house.
If you like this, you may also like Peanut Butter Chocolate Chip Granola Bars or Whole Lotta Love Bars
CHEWY, CHOCOLATEY CHEERIOATS BARS.
This is effectively a “no bake” bar, except for the fact that the oats get lightly browned in the oven before the mixing begins. What’s important in the recipe is 1)to get the syrup good and hot before adding it to the cereal 2)to stir it together very quickly so that the syrup coats the dry bits before it starts to cool and 3)to press the mixture very firmly into the pan so the bars hold together well.
• 1 cup whole oats
• 3 cups Cheerios or similar oat cereal
• 1/2 cup semi-sweet or bittersweet chocolate chips
• 1/3 cup roasted, salted peanuts
• 1/3 cup raisins
• Oil for greasing the pan
• 1/2 cup organic brown rice syrup
• 1/4 cup firmly packed brown sugar
• 1/4 cup creamy, no-sugar added peanut butter
• 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
Spread oats in the bottom of a 9×9-inch baking pan and toast in the oven until fragrant and lightly browned, about 15 minutes.
While the oats are browning, put the Cheerios, chocolate chips, peanuts, and raisins into a large bowl. Set aside.
Pour the brown rice syrup, brown sugar, and peanut butter into a small, heavy pot and warm over medium heat to dissolve the sugar and melt the ingredients together into a thin, smooth syrup, stirring occasionally. Once the ingredients are melted, stir in the vanilla.
When the oats are done, remove from oven and add to the bowl with the Cheerios. Mix well.
Lightly grease the bottom and sides of that same baking pan.
Drizzle the hot syrup over the cereal mixture and use a wooden spoon to quickly work the ingredients together so it is one, uniform lump, with no dry bits left out.
Put it immediately into the greased baking pan and use the spoon to press it down very firmly, filling out the entire pan. Once the mixture has cooled enough to touch, use your hands to press down on the mixture further until it is one solid, uniform block.
Leave it to cool for 30 minutes. Then, invert the bars onto a cutting board, turn it right- side up, and cut it into 25 bars.
Store in an air-tight container.
Makes 25 bars.
Adapted from a recipe for Banana Nut Energy Bars by the folks at Cheerios.