If you cringe when asked to be “treat mom” or to “bring the treats,” I know the feeling, even though I am currently kidless.  Almost everyone if off of something these days. Even kids! The school’s list of acceptable/unacceptable ingredients in homemade treats I see pinned to the fridge at my friends’ house leaves little but organic unicorn dust and non-GMO rainbows up for grabs.  And unfortunately, I’m fresh out of both.

One year we hosted a monthly dinner for our church small group.  A week before our first meal, three people reached out about their dietary restrictions with the clear assumption that accommodations would be made.  Between the 3 of them, that meant a gluten free, dairy free, and pescetarian/vegetarian menu.  Let me be clear.  If you have a legitimate allergy, I happily accommodate!  My brother-in-law has a severe peanut allergy and my uncle has life threatening fish and shellfish allergies – No problem!  But, assuming a large group will adjust to your preferences when you aren’t celiac or lactose-intolerant??  I was baffled.  Where was the “you get what you get and you don’t throw a fit” mantra of my youth?

My husband and I would joke about self imposed food restrictions being the new black.  I blamed the nutrition fads and would (secretly) roll my eyes when I overheard someone grilling a waiter about the menu.  Before you think I’m an insensitive, terrible person, please know that I have become the annoying person at whom I formerly rolled my eyes.  Allow me to explain…

I spent 16+ years of my life as a gymnast before an injury put an end to it.  The final injury was really just the straw that broke the camel’s back because my body had already taken quite a beating from the sport.  Too many hard landings.  Too many days taking tylenol.  Tylenol caused ulcers and pain.  I pushed it too far and after leaving the sport, was splitting my time between my university, the chiropractor, and the physical therapist.  Add in a lot more tylenol, herniated discs in my neck, a generous dose of premature arthritis and you have an accurate picture of my late teens and early 20s.  To make a really long story shorter, somewhere along the lines I began a yoga practice and was able to somewhat manage the pain joint and neck pain – somewhat being the operative word.  But the stomach pain was pretty much constant.  And, I thought it was normal.

Today, I still have my daily yoga practice and I love to run.  I’m not fast, but I love it.  So after some escalating joint pain and increasing inflammation, my doctor suggested some dietary experimentation…. And after some dabbling I am now able to manage my symptoms with diet!!  And that stomach pain?  Turns out it not normal to have stomach pain.  Even that has gone away!

Now I won’t say I eat perfectly and that I’m not going to dive into some pasta or indulge every now and again…And I certainly will never ask anyone to cater to my preferences, but now I know the implications certain foods have on my body and can better weigh the outcomes.

As a girl with a die-hard sweet tooth, I have been experimenting with desserts and treats that don’t include any of the problematic ingredients.  And I’m finding, there are more tasty options than I knew!

Including these bars…. which have a doughy base, a fudgy chocolate layer, and a salted “caramel” layer with a little streusel on top.  They are also no-bake, vegan, gluten-free, and can be made in under 30 minutes.  The magic combination of my no-trigger ingredients in a quick, easy, and delicious dessert???  Just don’t ask how many times I have made them over the past month… because it’s been a lot.

So next time you are on treat duty and fresh out of non-GMO rainbows, you can follow these steps:

  1.  Get annoyed, and then make these bars.
  2. Remember that hypocritical gal from Almost Properly, and then make these bars.
  3. Or, you can skip steps 1 & 2, and just make these bars.

I never say no to something fudgy, doughy, salty, and gooey in the best possible way.  Even people who aren’t sensitive to gluten, dairy, or refined sugar will enjoy them.  My eats-everything-under-the-sun family gobbled them riiiiight up.

Note: This recipe was from a no bake bar recipe from Meg at With Salt and Wit.  If you aren’t familiar with her site, she is awesome and you should get on that! 😉 

Salted Caramel Chocolate Coconut and Oat Bars

Prep Time: 20 minutes

Total Time: 2 hours, 20 minutes

Yield: 12-15 bars

Serving Size: 1 bar

Salted Caramel Chocolate Coconut and Oat Bars

    For oat base and topping:
  • 1 c. pitted medjool dates, packed
  • 1 1/4 c. rolled oats or gluten free oats
  • 1/4 c. dried unsweetened coconut flakes
  • 1 mashed banana (about 1/2 c. )
  • 2 tsp. vanilla extract
  • 1/2 tsp. cinnamon
  • 1/8 tsp. fine sea salt
  • For chocolate layer:
  • 1/4 c. coconut oil, melted
  • 1/2 c. unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1/4 c. maple syrup
  • 1/2 tsp. vanilla extract
  • pinch of fine sea salt
  • For caramel layer:
  • 1.5 tbsp. coconut oil, melted
  • 3 tbsp. raw unsalted almond butter, natural style
  • 2 tbsp. maple syrup
  • 1/4 tsp. vanilla extract
  • 3/8 tsp. fine sea salt
  • For topping:
  • Coarse sea salt or pink himalayan salt for sprinkling

Prep a loaf pan by lining it with parchment paper.

In a food processor, combine all ingredients for the oat base and topping.  Pulse to combine, scraping down sides as needed.  Then process until doughy, but not completely smooth.  

Press 3/4 of the mixture above into the base of loaf pan.  This will form the bottom layer of your bars so make sure it is an even layer.  Transfer loaf pan to freezer and place the remaining 1/4 of oat mixture in the refrigerator.  We will come back to it later.  

Rinse and dry food processor and combine all ingredients for chocolate layer.  Process until smooth.  Scrape down sides as needed.  Remove the loaf pan from the freezer and spread chocolate layer over the oat base to form an even layer then return loaf pan to the freezer until chocolate layer is set.  This usually only takes a few minutes.  

Again, rinse and dry food processor and combine all ingredients for the salted "caramel" layer.  Process until smooth.  Scrape down sides as needed.  Remove loaf pan from the freezer and spread the salted caramel layer over the chocolate layer to form an even layer.

Crumble the reserved oat mixture on top of the caramel layer and sprinkle with coarse sea salt or himalayan salt.  Transfer the loaf pan to the freezer for 15 minutes to set, then refrigerate for at least 2 hours before slicing into bars and serving.  


Total time includes chilling.