Christmas Traditions

Sunday, January 2, 2011


One of the best parts of the holidays is spending time with family and friends.  And between Christmas and New Years', we were lucky to spend a couple of days at the cottage of our friends, the Jay family.

After living in China for three years, the Jays were back in Cincinnati for all of twelve months before moving to Switzerland.  With all this traveling, you’d think we’d lose touch with each other.  But we see them at least three times a year, on their visits to Canada in the summer and at Christmas.  And each time, our girls and theirs pick up their friendship as if they’d never been apart.

This trip was full of traditions, as we went tobogganing, sang Christmas carols and made stone soup over a campfire.  And we enjoyed our first annual tournament of Tailgate Toss – a tournament won by Andrew and me!  This victory owed much more to Andrew’s good hand-eye coordination than my, uh, good sportsmanship.

Chocolate Oatmeal Almost-Candy Bars were the perfect squares to take along to the Jays’.  There’s nothing pretentious about them; they’re full of great things like chocolate and peanuts with an oatmeal base.  They were as fun to eat as they were to bake.

This recipe comes courtesy of Dorie Greenspan’s wonderful cookbook, Baking: From my home to yours.  A wonderful Christmas was made even better because my sister bought me my very own copy. Thanks, Gwen!

Chocolate Oatmeal Almost-Candy Bars
(from Dorie Greenspan’s Baking: From my home to yours)

For the oatmeal layer

2 ½ cups all-purpose flour
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp salt
½ tsp ground cinnamon
2 sticks (1 cup) unsalted butter, at room temperature
2 cups packed brown sugar
2 large eggs
2 tsp pure vanilla extract
3 cups old-fashioned oats (not instant)
1 cup salted peanuts, coarsely chopped

For the chocolate layer
1-14 oz can sweetened condensed milk
2 cups semisweet chocolate chips
2 Tbsp unsalted butter
¼ tsp salt
1 tsp pure vanilla extract
1 cup raisins (I didn’t use these, due to family preferences)
¾ cup coarsely chopped peanuts, preferably salted

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees and butter a 9 x 13 inch baking pan.

To make the oatmeal layer:

Whisk together the flour, baking soda, salt and cinnamon.  In a separate bowl, beat the butter on medium speed until it is soft and creamy.  Add the brown sugar and beat for 2 minutes, then add the eggs one at a time, beating for a minute after each egg is added.  Beat in the vanilla. The mixture should be light and fluffy.  Add the dry ingredients and stir to mix, then stir in the oats and chopped peanuts.

Divide the mixture into two bowls, setting aside 1 ½ to 2 cups of it until later.  Turn the remaining dough into the buttered pan, evenly pressing it down.  Set aside while you prepare the next layer.

To make the chocolate layer:

Set a heatproof bowl over a saucepan of simmering water.  Put the condensed milk, chocolate chips, butter and salt in the bowl and stir occasionally until the milk is warm and the chocolate and butter are melted.  Remove the bowl from the heat and stir in the vanilla and peanuts (and raisins, if you’re using them).

Pour the warm chocolate over the oatmeal crust, then scatter the remaining oatmeal mixture over the top.  Don’t try to spread it, and don’t worry about getting the topping even.

Bake for 25 to 30 minutes.  Transfer the baking pan to a rack and cool for about two hours.

Run a blunt knife between the edges of the cake and the pan, and carefully turn it out onto a rack.  Turn right side up and refrigerate for at least 1 hour before cutting.  Cut into 32 rectangles and serve.


42 comments:

My Little Space said...

Beth, sounds like you had so much fun & good times with your dear friend. It is priceless! I'm glad you wasted nothing of it. Happy New Year to you & your family. May all the good things coming to you. And thanks for sharing the lovely recipe.
Blessings, Kristy

Quay Po Cooks said...

Beth,
Thank you for sharing your good times with us. Happy New Year to you and your family. Wish you lots of happiness and peace.

Rita said...

Love reading your post; thank you. Tempting recipe. Wishing you all the best for 2011.

Monet said...

Isn't it wonderful when you can connect with old and faraway friends. It seems as if no time has passed! These oatmeal bars look heavenly. I love all the ingredients (chocolate, peanuts, oats...yum!) Thank you for sharing...and for all your sweet words on my blog. I feel blessed to know you!

Valerie said...

What a perfect dessert to add to your Christmas tradition!

I'm so glad that you have a copy of Dorie's book! I know you are going to love it. Happy Baking in the coming year(s)!

katerina said...

It is great to reconnect with old friends and I am sure you had a lot to talk about. These are perfect welcome treats for your friends.

Megan said...

Stone soup over as campfire sounds like such fun. We have friends with a bonfire pit and we go over quite often. I'm gonna recommend we have stone soup. First I need to Google it. LOL
These bars look wonderful. I'm ashamed to admit that I got Dorie's book for Christmas about 2 years ago and thats when the Tuesday with Dorie group began. So I haven't really used the book to much. But I see everyone delicious Dorie creations and I kick myself in the butt for not going to that book much. These bars are one of those times! ;) They look absolutly delicious!

Happy New Year! :)

Claudia said...

Can't go wrong with Dorie. And can never go wrong creating and upholding traditions that bring joy.

Tasha said...

Your time spent with friends sounds wonderful. I'm going to have to look up stone soup, because I'm quite curious. As for the bars, I've seen this recipe on many blogs, and everytime I think they sound so good with the combo of oats, peanuts and chocolate. I'm actually going to bookmark it this time!

Julie said...

So wonderful that despite all of the travels you've remained friends, such a special friendship.

These oat bars look delicious!!!

Dishesdone said...

That's a very special friendship that stands the test of travel and time! SO nice!

And those bars look amazing!
Happy New Year!

Jeanne said...

It sure is interesting how some friendships can span distance and time. It sounds like you had a wonderful holiday season. These bars are calling my name, what with all that chocolatey cinnamony oatmeal goodness!

jillbert said...

How wonderful that you have the book now! These bars are one of my all-time favorite Dorie recipes. I really love them!

Belinda said...

Great to meet you! I can't believe you got to go tobogganing! I've never been, but I'd love to go. Hope you have a wonderful 2011!

skfletcher said...

It was great spending New Year"s Day dinner with your family.Thank you so much for helping me produce dessert of Crepe Suzette (spookette) Pretty sure it's not going to make this blog! Any tips from your followers on how to reduce fresh orange juice?

Beth said...

And we loved having dinner with you -- I'm still waiting for you to start your own blog! The meal was delicious, and I did very little other than offer moral support. The crepes were awesome!

Chow and Chatter said...

wow great brownies and lovely tradition wow they are well traveled

Rebecca

Medeia Sharif said...

Those look delicious.

I love reconnecting with friends. I hope to do that some more.

Amanda Borenstadt said...

Oh wow, my tummy was literally growling as I read the recipe. LOL I'm making those for sure!!!

Amie Kaufman said...

Oh, these sound delicious, and I think even my horrible oven could manage this. I'm on the new years healthy eating bandwagon, but perhaps I could ingulge in just a small treat...

Kristen said...

We call those "revel bars" in my family. They don't last long once they come out of the oven, that's for sure. It sounds like you had a lot of fun reconnecting with your friends. Staying in touch is so important!

Barbara said...

Sounds like you have a wonderful time with your friends and are able to keep up the friendship even though everyone is moving and traveling.

Dorie's recipe is divine! But then, anything with condensed milk is a winner! :)

Sweet And Crumby said...

YUM! Nothing says share it with friends more than chocolate oatmeal bar from Dorie! Wish I could reach in and take a bite.

Faith said...

Don't those look delicious? They are adorable! What can someone ask for more than a great company, relaxing time and a wonderful healthy choclate oatmeal bars?

Have a great week ahead Beth!

5 Star Foodie said...

Sounds like a wonderful time with your friends. Those bars look so scrumptious!

Emily said...

I love how great it is meeting up with old friends you don't get to see very often :) That's my favorite part of the holidays!

Megan@foodalution.com said...

Great to meet with you on our blogs! I love sisters... and they do have a way of making everything better! What a nice gift - the bars look heavenly... and I can't believe I haven't been to your blog before! - megan

Tracy said...

These look so delicious! Sounds like you had a wonderful Christmas!

comfortablydomestic.com said...

How wonderful that you are able to maintain your friendship on such a regular basis. You can't go wrong with bringing cookies with chocolate and oatmeal in them.

Jennie Bailey said...

Oh these look absolutely DIVINE!! The stone soup over a campfire sounds intriguing. I've never done that before and we camp a lot! I'm going to google for ideas. Happy New Year!

Gourmande in the said...

Tobogganing, singing Christmas carols and making stone soup over a campfire sounds like such a fun way to celebrate the holiday! I've never tried these bars before, but I'm sure they are divine as are all the recipes in Dorie's baking book.

allieksmith said...

Yuuuum! What a delicious way to start the new year :)

julie said...

I have a friend exactly like that. We met 10 years ago while our husbands were in business school. We only lived in the same city for that year and have been long distance ever since. We still manage to see each other a few times a year and our kids have a blast together every time we see them.

Your bars look perfect. If it has chocolate, I'm there. :)

Janet Johnson said...

Yumm! I have a similar recipe, and they are so good. I can't make them very often or I'd get fat, fat, fat, but boy I enjoy them when I do. :)

Mary said...

I love meeting up with old friends, and you pick up where you left off, without missing a beat. Sounds like you had a good holiday, and will be doing lots more Dorie-inspired baking this year. I loved these when I made them, and may have to revisit them now, but first I need to recover from the excesses of the season!
:)

LDH said...

Good times with dear friends are very special!

I made this recipe this past year as part of Tuesdays with Dorie and really loved it. Maybe one of my favorite! Sure seems better than some of the delicacies featured in your last post! :) The ingredients in the bars don't crawl or slither about!

Indie.Tea said...

It seems that you had a lovely holiday indeed. And what a perfect gift - I need a copy of it myself. I love Dorie's "Perfect Party Cake" - such a wonderful and adaptable recipe!
I wish you a wonderful and happy 2011.

Candy Girl said...

I made these bars a few months back and they are amazing! My daughter has been begging me to make them again.

Sophie said...

MMMMMMM,..these bars look so delectable, Beth!

A Happy & fun 2011 for you & your family & lots of joy & good food!

Sue said...

Sounds like these bars have a little bit of everything...a crowd pleaser! A perfect treat to share with those you love:)

Kayte said...

Such fun to hear about good friends...we have friends like that, too, that no matter how far they are, when we are together, it is like we saw them the day before when actually it's been months or sometimes years! Connections are made for life!

lapetitepancake said...

Those bars look melt-in-your-mouthy. Awesome.
Tobagganing always scared the crap out of me, but it was exhilarating at the same time!

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