Cinnamon Oatmeal Date Bars with Chocolate Chunks

A hearty bowl of warm oatmeal that’s infused with cinnamon is such a comforting breakfast, but I never budget the time for making hot cereal on busy weekday mornings. So I made cinnamon oatmeal bars instead.

A half dozen ladies and I are throwing a virtual baby shower today for Krissy, who’s expecting her first baby, and I figured it wouldn’t be too cool to show up to a party, virtual or not, with a bowl of cold soggy oatmeal in hand. I thought these would be a bigger hit with the crowd.

Aside from being being portable, they’re no-bake so there’s no chance of burning my mouth on one like I have a tendency to do with oatmeal. I’m always so anxious to dig in that I usually burn my mouth on those scalding little grains.

I made these bars with a healthy dose of peanut butter, and although it’s possible to swirl peanut butter into hot oatmeal, I find it gets a bit lost. Although it’s not the most prominent flavor in these bars either, the cinnamon is; there’s a peanut butter undertone in just the right amount so that it doesn’t overpower the cinnamon or the dates, and instead complements them.

There’s chocolate involved in two ways, too. It just wouldn’t be a party without it.

After pressing the no-bake dough into the pan, I made a quick and easy chocolate ganache in the microwave and poured the silky brown elixir over the dough.

Then I roughly chopped a 72% percent dark chocolate bar, a Pound Plus from Trader Joe’s, and sprinkled that over the ganache before it set up, trapping the irregular chunks in it’s sleek grip.

Truthfully, I had no intention of adding chopped chocolate, but it’s hard to photograph a really sleek chocolate surface and after looking at that smooth ganache, I decided I didn’t want to struggle with chocolate glare since this was supposed to be a five-minute easy-breezy dessert. The chopped chunks turned out to be a happy accident because those dark little pebbles added both texture and an intensity of flavor that I loved.

To make these bars, simply combine oats, medjool dates, peanut butter, agave or any of the alternate sweeteners suggested, cinnamon, and vanilla in a food processor or high speed blender and process it until it combines and clumps together. I recommend a food processor over a Vita-Mix or high speed blender for clean up ease, but use what you have.

Some notes about the dough:

This dough needs to be able to hold it’s shape when pinched between your fingers or use an imaginary small marble test. If you can easily form one, your dough is on the right track. For example, look into the canister of the food  processor where 6 o’clock would be. That big, shiny, smooth surface is a good sign because it’s indicative of dough that can easily be pushed into a pan and then sliced into bars with ease without risk of them crumbling or falling apart.

If your theoretical marble crumbles and won’t stick together, the dough is too dry. Either add a few more dates, another dollop of peanut butter, or an additional squirt of agave and process again.

Conversely, if your marble is loose and very squishy or limp, seemingly greasy or too soft to create a well-formed little nugget, the dough has too much moisture in it, likely from the peanut butter. Add another small handful of oats, which will dry out the dough, and process again. I find this issue to occur less than the first issue, but your mileage may vary.

This is not an exact science, and you may need to play with your ratios by a quarter cup of something here or there, but the values suggested in the recipe will set you on the right track, likely with only minor tweaking necessary.

The resulting bars are chewy and have tons of texture. For a texture junkie like me, they’re like hitting the texture lottery. The ground medjools and oats provided one layer of texture. The crunchy peanut butter, which I don’t usually buy but had some on hand, but used in the bars, added another level of texture. And the chopped chocolate bits on top added a third layer.

Make sure your dental floss is handy after all that texture.

The bars are sweetened, but not overly so. They really are a pretty ‘natural’ bar with no refined sugar used. Agave or honey are my first choices for sweeteners because they do a great job of both sweetening and binding the dough, but brown rice syrup, corn syrup, or maple syrup will work. Maple, however, will both alter and mask some flavors much more so than the other syrups, and in this recipe, I preferred the cleaner sweetness of agave because I want the cinnamon essence to be prominent and unmasked.

 I’m really glad I didn’t have to bring these to an actual party and could keep them all for myself. See how I am.

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Cinnamon Oatmeal Date Bars with Chocolate Chunks (no-bake, vegan, gluten-free)

Makes one 8-by-8-inch pan, about 9 generously-sized bars

Ingredients:

3 cups old-fashioned whole rolled oats (not instant or quick cook)

about 15 medium soft Medjool dates, soft pitted

3/4 cup peanut butter, creamy or crunchy

1/4 cup agave nectar (brown rice syrup, honey, corn syrup, or maple syrup may be substituted)

1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract

1 teaspoon+ cinnamon

1 1/2 cups semi-sweet chocolate chips

3 tablespoons cream or milk (coconut or almond milk may be used)

3 to 4 ounces dark or semi-sweet chocolate, chopped (whole chocolate chips or chopped chocolate chips may be substituted)

Directions:

Line an 8-by-8-inch pan with aluminum foil and optionally spray with cooking spray; set aside. To the canister of a food processor or Vita-Mix (I used a food processor) add oats, dates (I used Trader Joe’s), peanut butter (I used crunchy), agave, vanilla, cinnamon to taste, and process until dough comes together. Dough will be dense and when squeezed between fingers, it should hold it’s shape, not fall apart, nor be crumbly. If dough is crumbly or you cannot easily form a marble-sized ball with it, it’s too dry and needs more liquid or a binding ingredient such as more agave, more peanut butter, or more dates in order for it to come together. If mixture seems too wet, is sloppy and loose, add more oats. This is not an exact science and you may need to play with the ratios of wet and dry ingredients, but the goal is a dough that is dense, thick, holds it shape, can be packed into a pan, and when sliced, will hold it’s shape in bar form. Press mixture into prepared pan, packing it down, pushing it into the corners, and smooth it with a spatula; set pan aside.

For the chocolate topping: In a medium microwave-safe bowl, add 1 1/2 cup chocolate chips and heat on high power for 1 minute to soften them; set aside. In a small microwave-safe bowl, bring the cream or milk to a boil and it will happen quickly, in about 20 to 30 seconds. Pour cream over chocolate and let stand for about 3 minutes. Stir or whisk to combine and if chocolate is not smoothing out easily or combining, reheat mixture for 15 seconds or until it can be stirred smooth. Pour chocolate over the bars in an even layer, smoothing it with an offset knife or spatula.

Evenly sprinkle and distribute the chopped chocolate chunks (I used Trader Joe’s 72% Pound Plus bar) over the ganache before it begins to set up. Place pan in the refrigerator for at least 30 minutes, or until chocolate sets up a bit, before slicing and serving. Bars can be stored in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 1 week, or stored in the refrigerator for up to 2 weeks, or can be frozen for up to 3 months. I prefer to store them in the refrigerator.

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Related Recipes:

Microwave Chocolate Peanut Butter and Oat Snack Bars (No-Bake, Vegan, GF) – Makes just 3 bars in 5 minutes

No-Bake Maple Flaxseed Cookies (vegan, GF) – Made with just 3 ingredients, including flax seeds, which gives these great depth of flavor, nutty and almost peanut buttery. They can be eaten as cookies, made into bars, wrapped as snacks, or shaped into pancakes and drizzled with syrup and raisins

Pumpkin Spice Peanut Butter and Chocolate Chip Granola (vegan, GF) – Tis the season for pumpkin along with peanut butter, oats, and chocolate

Peanut Butter Chocolate Chip Protein Bars (No-Bake, Vegan, GF)

Peanut Butter Chocolate Chip Coconut Oil Protein Bars (No-Bake, Vegan, GF)

Peanut Butter Pumpkin Bars (vegan, GF) – Fast and easy and people write to me frequently saying these were a hit for them

Peanut Butter Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough Bites (no-bake, vegan, GF) – These little bites are so easy to make and you don’t even have to dirty a food processor

Do you make oatmeal frequently or use oats in your baking?

I enjoy oatmeal but don’t make it much because we’re usually running late most mornings and there’s no time for it.

However, I love baking, or no-baking, with oats. They are so versatile, they add delicious chewiness and texture to anything they’re added to, they’re healthier than using all-purpose flour, and I just love their flavor. And when copious amounts of cinnamon and chocolate are involved, even better. I have an arsenal of my favorite Oats and Oatmeal Recipes here

I also have an entire post dedicated to little Balls and Bites Recipes, mostly made from oats, or nuts, with dates

Best of luck with your new baby, Krissy! Check out these other ladies’ blogs who are also taking part in the virtual baby shower for Krissy:

Audra of The Baker Chick | Mini Salted Caramel Brownie Pies
Cassie of Bake Your Day | Red Bell Pepper & Ranch Cheese Dip
Erin of Big Fat Baker | Blueberry Punch
Jacqueline of The Dusty Baker | Kid-friendly Gluten-and-Dairy-Free Chicken Fingers
Lauren of Keep It Sweet | Baby Blue Cake Pops From Scratch
Nicole of Sweet Peony Blog | Roasted Blueberry Cupcakes with Cream Cheese Frosting

Thanks to everyone who entered the Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Cookies + KitchenAid Stand Mixer + $200 Williams-Sonoma Gift Card Giveaway

   

111 Responses to “Cinnamon Oatmeal Date Bars with Chocolate Chunks”

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    j3nn — September 25, 2012 at 12:27 am

    Yep. These beat the heck out of a bowl of oatmeal! I love the chocolate shavings on top. It really gives them personality. It says, “I’m sophisticated AND delicious!”

    Reply

    • Averie @ Averie Cooks replied: — September 25th, 2012 at 12:30 am

      I thought so, too. And it saved me so much struggle with any chocolate glare. And they added so much flavor in a sophisticated kinda way :)

      Reply

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    Michelle @ Eat Move Balance — September 25, 2012 at 2:08 am

    Oh boy, I love the idea of this recipe. I could actually see myself making this! I love all things oatmeal and dark chocolate. I also like easy, and not having to use butter and sugar. I just don’t keep those things on hand. I’ll be saving this try in the upcoming weeks. Thanks!

    Reply

    • Averie @ Averie Cooks replied: — September 25th, 2012 at 2:44 pm

      Vegan, GF, easy, there’s lots of pros with these I thought, too. I can’t believe though that you don’t keep butter & sugar on hand. If you could only see my baking supplies :)

      Reply

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    Leanne @ Healthful Pursuit — September 25, 2012 at 3:45 am

    I successfully burn my mouth with my porridge every SINGLE day. Without fail.

    Reply

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    Erica — September 25, 2012 at 3:54 am

    The bars look totally yummy! Especially that top layer of chocolate. Great selection for the shower. I eat oatmeal at least once a week and really enjoy oatmeal in baked goods

    Reply

    • Averie @ Averie Cooks replied: — September 25th, 2012 at 2:43 pm

      You have great oatmeal-baked goods recipes! Some of your cookies, mmm, so good!

      Reply

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    dragonmamma/naomi — September 25, 2012 at 4:11 am

    Problem is, I could eat a LOT more of those in much quicker time than a bowl of oatmeal! I need the scalding heat to slow me down.

    Reply

    • Averie @ Averie Cooks replied: — September 25th, 2012 at 2:42 pm

      LOL that’s how I feel about hot vs iced coffee. I can slam both, but iced coffee and me is deadly b/c I can chug it like water…probably faster!

      Reply

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    thyme (Sarah) — September 25, 2012 at 4:27 am

    Mmmmm…I’m at breakfast and I sure wish I had one of those instead of my morning oatmeal!

    Reply

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    Alison @ Ingredients, Inc. — September 25, 2012 at 4:54 am

    awesome girl! hope your week is off to a good start

    Reply

    • Averie @ Averie Cooks replied: — September 25th, 2012 at 2:41 pm

      thanks for all your comments today – been thinking about you and hoping your settled in after the move and all you’ve had going on xoxo

      Reply

  8. #
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    Jen @ Savory Simple — September 25, 2012 at 5:30 am

    These look fantastic!

    Reply

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    Katrina @ Warm Vanilla Sugar — September 25, 2012 at 5:35 am

    mmm looks delicious!

    Reply

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    Rachel Cooks — September 25, 2012 at 6:01 am

    These look SO good!

    Reply

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    Heather (Where's the Beach) — September 25, 2012 at 6:08 am

    I love crunchy PB. In fact I picked up creamy by accident yesterday and was nearly heartbroken LOL. I am a big fan of oats and use them all the time, not just for breakfast. Love using oat flour for my veggie burgers.

    Reply

    • Averie @ Averie Cooks replied: — September 25th, 2012 at 2:39 pm

      I never buy crunchy (or very rarely) but randomly had just enough in the bottom of the jar for these..and it worked out perfectly!

      Reply

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    bev @ bevcooks — September 25, 2012 at 6:09 am

    Oh good heavens…

    Reply

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    Christine (The Raw Project) — September 25, 2012 at 6:14 am

    Another great dessert creation and it looks wonderful. Especially with the creative presentation! :-)

    Reply

    • Averie @ Averie Cooks replied: — September 25th, 2012 at 2:39 pm

      this is so you – raw/nobake, vegan, GF, food processor!

      Reply

  14. #
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    Lauren at Keep It Sweet — September 25, 2012 at 6:20 am

    These look delicious and those big chocolate chunks are calling my name!

    Reply

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    Aimee @ ShugarySweets — September 25, 2012 at 6:33 am

    These look delicious. Love all the chopped up chocolate on top!!

    Reply

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    Cassie — September 25, 2012 at 6:36 am

    Love how healthy these are. I have some dates in the pantry now that need to be used up. Love these flavors!

    Reply

    • Averie @ Averie Cooks replied: — September 25th, 2012 at 2:38 pm

      I figured I’d try to not make a total sugar bomb for the shower :)

      Reply

  17. #
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    sally @ sallys baking addiction — September 25, 2012 at 6:38 am

    You know I love oat bars! Baking with oats is something I really just started doing last year. Granolas, granola bars, oatmeal bars, etc. I’ve never used dates as a binder in any of those recipes, though. Sure I see it from time to time but have never actually gone there! I love dates though – perfect snack with a heavy smear of PB! Oats are the “flour” in my recent sknny brownies too. I feel much better eating goodies with oats in them… plus the whole texture aspect!

    I love your rationale for the shaved chocolate! I would’ve done the same thing.. but maybe with chocolate chips… the shaved chocolate is MUCH prettier and fancier in my opinion though! These look dense, moist, and chewy — all things I love in a good oatmeal bar! Pretty lighting and pics :)

    Reply

    • Averie @ Averie Cooks replied: — September 25th, 2012 at 2:38 pm

      Plus I had this opened bar of TJs choc that was just staring at me in the face so thought, why not. And without all that chunkiness, these wouldn’t have been the same. A true happy accident! When I was strictly GF for about 5 yrs, I would use oats as the flour in just about everything. I’d just put 1/4 c or 2 c or whatever i needed of oats in my Vita, blend for 10 secs, and flour was ready – so it’s just second nature for me reach for oats! LOVE THEM!

      Reply

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    Hayley @ The Domestic Rebel — September 25, 2012 at 7:22 am

    Chocolate and cinnamon just may be one of my favorite combinations. Besides cinnamon and caramel and PB&J, that is :) okay, so I have a lot of favorites, but there’s something so spicy and rich about pairing cinnamon + chocolate that I’m so glad I discovered! These oatmeal bars look phenom; I want the whole pan!

    Reply

    • Averie @ Averie Cooks replied: — September 25th, 2012 at 2:36 pm

      I love all your combos and am the same! PB & J or PB & Choc :) are my faves!

      Reply

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    Karly — September 25, 2012 at 7:22 am

    Um, yes. I’ll take these over oatmeal any day.

    Reply

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    Lindsay @ Nourish Nutrition + Wellbeing — September 25, 2012 at 7:54 am

    These look too good to be true. I love that you added the dates. I am going to make these today for a few of my clients. Thank you!!

    Reply

    • Averie @ Averie Cooks replied: — September 25th, 2012 at 2:35 pm

      No way they’d stick together without the dates. You could use more PB but then that would overwhelm the oat-ey taste. Dates are nature’s perfect glue!

      Reply

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    Laura (Tutti Dolci) — September 25, 2012 at 8:39 am

    I love those chocolate chunks!

    Reply

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    Christina @ The Beautiful Balance — September 25, 2012 at 9:36 am

    You’ve done it again, Averie! These look incredible, I love this combo together :)

    Reply

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    Charul @ Tadka Masala — September 25, 2012 at 9:54 am

    With those chunks of chocolate on the top they will a huge hit at party you can name of, virtual or not! :)

    Reply

    • Averie @ Averie Cooks replied: — September 25th, 2012 at 2:34 pm

      they were a big hit with me :) i was glad I didn’t actually have to bring them to a party & share them..ha!

      Reply

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    Jackie @ The Beeroness — September 25, 2012 at 10:26 am

    I’m a totally breakfast eater. No matter how crazy, I have to grab something. This looks perfect tohave on hand for those extra crazy days

    Reply

  25. #
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    Nicole {Sweet Peony} — September 25, 2012 at 10:30 am

    Yum, I love oatmeal bars… especially when there’s chocolate! These look so delicious, Averie! :)

    Reply

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    susan — September 25, 2012 at 11:16 am

    okay – those are the next snack item on my list! these look perfect!

    Reply

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    Melissa @ Treats With a Twist — September 25, 2012 at 12:02 pm

    OMG did you see my tweet yesterday (probably not)??? I was saying that I just burned the top of my mouth on my oatmeal…again!! Too funny. These look like a great solution ;)

    Reply

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    Nicole — September 25, 2012 at 12:19 pm

    These look delicious. I have switched to oats/oat bran for breakfast as we move into cooler weather!

    Reply

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    Amber K — September 25, 2012 at 12:31 pm

    Oatmeal bars will always be better than regular old oatmeal! These look delicious.

    Reply

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    Jolene (www.everydayfoodie.ca) — September 25, 2012 at 4:05 pm

    I used to make oatmeal a lot, but I am more into eggs for breakfast lately. I love oatmeal in baking!

    Reply

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    Kiran @ KiranTarun.com — September 25, 2012 at 4:39 pm

    Yummy oatmeal bars — perfect for mama-to-be!

    Reply

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    Caralyn @ glutenfreehappytummy — September 25, 2012 at 5:27 pm

    oh my gosh how delicious! i wish i could take a big bite through the screen! haha

    Reply

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    Paula — September 25, 2012 at 5:39 pm

    I haven’t used dates in a while but I love this no bake recipe! I use oats quite often in baking and sub them in for part of the flour. My husband makes oatmeal for breakfast a few times a week…and I make it for dinner sometimes when he is working in the evening. The ganache on top is to die for–you probably know by now how much I love frosting!! I could definitely justify eating this for breakfast after a morning run!

    Reply

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    Laura Dembowski — September 25, 2012 at 5:48 pm

    Those look awesome. Though I have for some strange reason been craving a packet of instant cinnamon apple oatmeal that used to comfort me on days off from school when I was young, I can’t remember the last time I ate a bowl of oatmeal. I love baking with it and am always looking for new recipes!

    Reply

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    purelymichelle — September 25, 2012 at 6:22 pm

    you know I love this recipe!

    Reply

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    angela @ Canned Time — September 25, 2012 at 6:28 pm

    I love how you added the chopped chocolate to the melted layer, such a nice look. I bet it would be pretty with white chocolate for the chopped sprinkled on dark melted chocolate too. I have to make this one dairy free. A double batch though!

    Reply

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    Jennifer @ Peanut Butter and Peppers — September 25, 2012 at 8:17 pm

    Oh my gosh how amazing do these bars look? Another one of your recipes to bookmark!! They look amazing!!!

    Reply

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    Katie — September 25, 2012 at 8:51 pm

    I use oat flour almost exclusively when baking and I never think to buy oats. I am sure making my own oat flour would be loads cheaper too.

    I used to eat oatmeal cookies all the time, but I haven’t in a long time. Oatmeal raisin, with cinnamon, might be the most perfect dessert.

    Reply

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    Michele Sparrow — September 25, 2012 at 10:10 pm

    Oh goodness! Those look good enough to eat! ;-) Seriously though…you and your bars. NO ONE can top you! Cookbook! Just sayin’ ;-)

    Oats and me have a love/hate relationship. I LOVE them. Especially as granola but if I eat them, I don’t feel well. It’s really a bummer. They are my favorite! My boys, on the other hand, eat oatmeal for breakfast usually about 2 days per week. I make it from scratch with rice milk, cinnamon, maple syrup and vanilla. Oh our house on those days! So good! I need an oatmeal cookie or bowl of oatmeal Yankee Candle! LOL! Gorgeous pics and gorgeous food, Averie!

    Reply

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    Ala — September 25, 2012 at 11:03 pm

    I’m an oats-and-crunchy-PB-in-smoothie kind of gal–texture, texture, texture! This recipe looks fabulous!

    Reply

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    Audra@The-Baker-Chick — September 26, 2012 at 7:00 am

    This is a great bar recipe for Krissy! I’m sure she’ll love having a healthy recipe in her new Mom arsenal. Also- these look decadent too- love them!

    Reply

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    Sheila — September 26, 2012 at 10:06 am

    This recipe looks amazing!! Your recipes are becoming my favorite.

    Reply

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    Nikki @ Chef in Training — September 26, 2012 at 10:48 am

    Oh My, Averie! These look incredible! Your pictures always make my mouth water! What a great recipe :)

    Reply

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    BigFatBaker — September 26, 2012 at 9:43 pm

    Sounds like an awesome breakfast – I’ll have to try these asap :)

    Reply

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    luvwhatyoudo — September 27, 2012 at 5:52 pm

    I love date bars…awesome idea to cover them in chocolate!!!

    Reply

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    Kath — September 29, 2012 at 6:45 am

    LOVE the look of these!!

    Reply

    • Averie @ Averie Cooks replied: — September 29th, 2012 at 9:30 am

      Thanks, Kath. When you’ve been posting about Emily’s date balls, I kept thinking, gosh I’d love Kath to see these. I just like making bars rather than balls because it’s so much faster and then you can slice into small cubes if desired. Chocolate of course optional, but recommended :)

      Reply

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    Shira — October 5, 2012 at 11:20 am

    Love the look of these!! Oats, cinnamon, chocolate, are the best!! I am really enjoying your recipes lately Averie, not that I haven’t always, but they seem to combine your old blogging style (the simple but strictly vegan recipes) and the newer trends towards delicious desserts. I’ve loved reading all of it, but This is perfect for me :) I would like to try a spin on these, I don’t have a food processor, but in the past I have just cooked the dates down with a bit of water and they become like a paste. I wonder if that combined with whole oats and PB would work out for these bars??

    Reply

    • Averie @ Averie Cooks replied: — October 5th, 2012 at 11:24 am

      It would probably work to do it that way. Probably, can’t guarantee of course. If you are going to do it that way, you may want to start with quick cooking oats. And not sure what your budget is but literally for $10 bucks you can find a used and likely perfectly UN-used! food proc at your local thrift store. Or Target for $29.99 for a bare bones model. Just a thought for you to make life sooooo much easier.

      I am trying with the recipes to get back to some level of where I was, with where I went. Not entirely raw/vegan/GF, but not sugar bombs, either. Somewhere in the middle. Thanks for noticing :)

      Reply

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    Ruth — October 7, 2012 at 2:45 pm

    Thanks so much for this recipe – simple, no-bake, really delicious and a big hit in my household! I love that they are not too much of a guilty pleasure either!

    Reply

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    Carissa — November 6, 2012 at 11:41 am

    This is next up on my to-make list. I’m wondering if they will freeze well, so I can have them on hand for when I’m in a pinch?

    Reply

    • Averie @ Averie Cooks replied: — November 6th, 2012 at 11:47 am

      Yes and they will keep for week(s) in an airtight container in the fridge. I wrap everything super tight in clingwrap, then put it in the fridge inside a little tupperware. I have stored them for 1 month that way – to each her own, but just sharing that has worked for me. Or just freeze them the same way!

      Reply

      • Carissa replied: — November 7th, 2012 at 10:40 am

        Perfect, thank you!

        Though, I just stumbled upon your Pumpkin Peanut Butter Oat Bars and may have to make those first. :)

        • Averie @ Averie Cooks replied: — November 7th, 2012 at 11:18 am

          the Pumpkin Peanut Butter Oat Bars are so good and EASY and people love them!

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    Erin | The Law Student's Wife — January 2, 2013 at 9:26 am

    So excited that you linked back to this recipe on your snickerdoodle bar post. I love using dates to create healthy, sticky treats, and these bars look fantastic. I’ve been trying to make more of my own granola bars and am collecting recipes. This one is a find!

    Reply

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