Although the number of dessert recipes I’ve posted might suggest otherwise, I’m not a sweets addict. I do love baking, and for sure, I appreciate decadent treats. But since I only eat them on occasion, I’ve made an interesting connection. When your taste buds (and entire body) become accustomed to less sugar in your diet, they are more sensitive to sweet things. Dessert tastes that much better when you haven’t been snacking on candy and sugar-laced snacks all day. And the first bite is always the best. Sink your teeth into a silky rich slice of chocolate pie or a crisp warm cookie. It’s terrific.
But you’ll notice, that with each bite, that sweet slice of cake becomes a little less tantalizing. It’s hard to stop after just a small portion of something scrumptious, but the more you eat, the less you savor and appreciate it. Your tongue still graves that shock of sweetness but your body is often saying, “enough”! I’m still learning my lesson that taking a second slice, even though it seems so appealing, will never leave me as satisfied as stopping after the first.
The same principle applies if you’re eating loads of sugar every day– you become desensitized to it. You need more to get your fill. Your body starts expecting those jolts of sugar and you can become dependent on it- almost like a drug. And it doesn’t taste near as rewarding as it should. (We actually give sugar boluses to babies/children in the hospital before painful procedures as a method of analgesia. Sounds an awful lot like a drug to me!) Reducing sugar in your diet is not to be done cold turkey. Like any addiction, it takes time to rid yourself of the effects of over-sweeting. Another benefit of less sugar in your system is that all of a sudden real healthy food tastes much better!
So why am I dissing the effects of sugar on your system right before sharing with you another sweet treat? Because my point is NOT that sugar is bad all around, but rather that it should be saved for special occasions. For a finish to a family dinner or to celebrate at holiday. Not on your cereal every morning, packed in your lunch box every weekday, or in your lap in front of the TV every night. If sweets become a habit they lose their novelty and harm your body. And instead of buying bags or boxes of packaged processed sweets- try making them at home. Most baking only requires that you can follow a recipe. The result will be a dessert that you made, with real ingredients, and that you can feel much better about indulging in!
This is the treat that I made last week with Dustin in mind. Turns out, I thought they were devilishly delicious as well! They’re full of sugar (so go easy) but they’re also full of fiber (from the oatmeal) and protein (from the peanuts). The oatmeal layer is soft and chewy and the contrast of salty peanuts and sweet fudgy chocolate is sensational!
Peanutty Chocolate Oatmeal Cookie Bars
2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. ground cinnamon
2 sticks (8 oz.) unsalted butter, room temperature
2 cups packed brown sugar
2 large eggs
2 tsp. pure vanilla extract
3 cups old-fashioned (rolled) oats
1 cup roasted salted peanuts, coarsely chopped
14-oz. can sweetened condensed milk
2 cups (12 oz.) semi-sweet chocolate chips
2 Tbsp. unsalted butter
1/4 tsp. salt
1 tsp. pure vanilla extract
1 cup raisins (optional, I omitted)
1/2 cup roasted salted peanuts, coarsely chopped
1. Preheat oven to 350 F. Lightly grease a 9×13 baking dish.
2. To make the oatmeal layer, in a medium bowl, whisk together flour, baking soda, salt, and cinnamon. In a large bowl, beat the butter with an electric mixer on medium speed until soft and creamy. Add the brown sugar and beat for 2 minutes. Add the eggs, one at a time, beating for a minute after each addition. Add the vanilla and beat until light and fluffy. Reduce the speed to low and slowly add the dry ingredients, mixing until just combined. Stir in the oats and peanuts on low or by hand. Set aside 2 cups of the mixture. Press the remaining into the bottom of the prepared baking dish.
3. To make the chocolate layer, set a heat-proof bowl over a saucepan filled with simmering water (make sure the bottom of the bowl doesn’t touch the water). Combine the chocolate chips, sweetened condensed milk, butter, and salt in the bowl, and stir occasionally until melted. Remove from the heat and stir in the vanilla, peanuts, and raisins (if using). Pour the warm chocolate mixture over the oatmeal crust. Scatter chunks of the remaining oatmeal mixture over the top.
4. Bake in preheated oven for 20-30 minutes, until the top is golden brown and the chocolate layer appears dull and is starting to pull away from the sides of the pan. Cool for 2 hours on a baking rack. Run a dull knife around the sides of the pan to loosen and invert the pan onto a baking sheet or cutting board. Turn right side up and refrigerate 1 hour before slicing.
NOTE: These bars can be enjoyed warm, but I believe, taste best at room temperature. They do need to cool completely before slicing. They’ll keep best in the refrigerator or freezer.
Makes a 9×13 pan (about 32 bars).
(Adapted from Confectiona’s Realm)