Sunday, October 12, 2008

Vegan MoFo Day 12: Caramel Apple Oatmeal Bars

Yes, I know I'm not doing too well with the whole concept of a lazy food blog. I've had a surprisingly large amount of time to be not lazy this week, despite being insanely busy. There are just so many wonderful things to eat at this time of year! Eee!

Something wonderful that showed up in our CSA this week is a bunch of apples from a neighboring farm. I don't eat apples plain very often, because I have to chop them up first. (If I bite into them directly, the hard skin cuts my gums open and I bleed all over the place. Yes, my mouth is really that wussy.) Chopping them up entails effort, and effort directly opposes my laziness campaign. So, yeah, I don't eat them plain very often.

But I do love to bake with them. Once I've decided I'm going to bake, I've already made a commitment to being less than 100% lazy for the day, so I may as well go ahead and do things like chop apples. This evening I was struck by a minor bolt of inspiration, and figured out exactly how I wanted to combine the leftover vegan caramels (which I'd been too lazy to wrap and had put in the freezer, which somehow caused them to sort of melt (in the freezer?!) and coagulate into one gigantic caramel) with the apples for an awesome fall delight.

The resulting recipe for Apple Caramel Oatmeal Bars (which appears at the end of the post) is certainly not health food by any means, but it's better than a lot of baked goods by merit of all that fiber. So much fiber! My digestive system is thanking me already. My mouth is thanking me too, by the way... these things are AWESOME. They turned out a little more crumbly than I wanted (though they're not fully cooled yet, so who knows) so I'm eating them with a fork instead of my bare hands. Oh well, I'll cope.

Today I didn't just eat junk food, by the way. I actually got out of bed and made a tofu scramble that totally ruled. Won't go into recipe-like details about it, but I will list the contents: extra firm tofu (crumbled), paquillo peppers (broiled for ten minutes, but not peeled), tomatoes, shallots, lots and lots of fresh basil, a little bit of fresh thyme, and a bit of salt and pepper. Easy, uncomplicated, and DELICIOUS.

Okay, back to baked goods. Here's that recipe. I came up with it on the fly. Like I said, the crust part is a little more crumbly than anticipated-- it's not falling all over itself crumbly, but it's also not hold this bar with your hands solid. Not sure how to fix that, but I don't know if I'd bother trying-- it is SO delicious as is, and the texture feels perfect in my mouth.

Caramel Apple Oatmeal Bars
makes 16 bars

1c steel cut oats
1c whole wheat flour (light colored or otherwise)
1/2c dark brown sugar
1/2c Earth Balance or other vegan margarine
3 medium sized apples, chopped into very small pieces
1/2 recipe of my vegan caramel from Day 4, or an equivalent amount of vegan caramels from another recipe (1.5-2 cs of caramel)

1. Preheat the oven to 375. Line a 9x9 square pan with parchment paper. (Or grease it, whatever you're into.)
2. Mix the oats, flour, and sugar together in a bowl.
3. Cut the Earth Balance into the oat/flour/sugar mixture using two knives or more advanced tools if you've got 'em.
4. Once there are no longer huge chunks of Earth Balance in your oats/etc mixture, dump the bowl into the square pan. Using your bare and hopefully clean hands, press the dough into pan so that it forms one even and unbroken layer.
5. Pop the pan into the preheated oven for 15 minutes.
6. Meanwhile, in a small sauce pan, heat the caramels over very low heat (we're talking mark 2, max) while stirring frequently, until you've got pot of melted caramel goo.
7. When the crust is finished baking, take it out (DON'T turn the oven off!) and spread a layer of apple chunks on top of it.
8. Pour the caramel over the apples and crust. Try to distribute it evenly, but don't worry if there are some naked patches... the caramel will run all around as it bakes anyway, you're fine.
9. Put the whole thing back in the oven and bake at 375 (as before) for 30 minutes.
10. Let it cool for at least half an hour* before trying to eat it. After it's cooled, cut it into bars and eat. You may need a fork.

Tastes surprisingly good with beer. (Really, who knew?) I ate two within minutes after they finished cooling, and then I had to put the rest away because seriously, even though I know my blood sugar will kill me if I eat these all, I could probably knock back a LOT of them before I went. SO GOOD. It's breaking my heart to realize that I don't know where my camera cable is, so I can't show you pictures of these things yet.

*I let mine cool for half an hour, then put it in the freezer for ten minutes to speed up the process, and it was still very very warm and gooey... delicious, sure, but it made it a little harder to cut.

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