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See Recipe Below
When my husband asked me to make this treat up for our annual church picnic last weekend I knew instantly that I wanted to share the recipe on our blog. What I have been unsure of is what story I wanted to share. Finally two thoughts came to mind. A quick lesson on the diet I am following and the origins of this recipe for my family.
All of the recipes I have shared so far on our blog have been gluten free. Why? The no brainier is that I have been following the FODMAPS diet and one of the requirements of that diet is to go gluten free, at least at first. So yes the recipes I am sharing are of meals or treats that I can currently eat. I feel it is important to share recipes that I use regularly and not something I tried maybe once just for my blog. Each recipe I share is meaningful to me for a variety of reasons from knowing what it is like to struggle with a diet to having a recipe that has been passed down for several generations. I am in no way telling anyone else how to run their life and what they should eat. I do hope that the recipes I share help others struggle less with the diet that they might not want to be on or even find a yummy treat to share with their family.
I do want readers to understand one very important thing: A lot of what we already eat on a daily basis is already gluten free, from oatmeal with blueberries and walnuts to steak and potatoes.
So when I hear that my diet is denying me of much needed nutrients I just have to chuckle. It’s a hard diet to follow but more because I am someone of French and Italian decent who loves her pasta and bread. So cutting out gluten is hard but it won’t kill me. I still get to eat carbs just not wheat based carbs and that might not be permanent. As far as I know I do not have Celiac disease. I had to eliminate a lot of different food items on the FODMAPS diet that are hard on the digestive system. I get to slowly add these food items back into my diet to see what does and does not work for me but that doesn’t mean I have stopped eating veggies and fruit.
As for that origin story…
Anyone who has gone to college and lived on the meal plan offered understands the difficulties of finding a balanced meal. That doesn’t mean the food service doesn’t try but it is hard to find something everyone likes. We all come from different backgrounds with very different likes and dislikes.
What I witnessed as successes was the steak night for us meat eaters (until the grade of meat declined), the cereal bar was always a staple and in my last year the quesadilla bar where we got to make our own quesadilla’s that were hot and fresh as opposed to being room temp and dried out. I found that even when the food service tried to be consistent that items varied from week to week. One week a very yummy mushroom soup would be replaced by a very salty version the following week. The pasta was generally mushy and I am more an al dente pasta eater. The salad bar always had the basics but I am not a salad person, well not a “basic” salad person. Overall the food service was hit or miss for me. Mostly miss.
The one item that always seemed to be a great hit was the rare day when the dessert bar had O’Henry Bars. Sometimes it was advertised on the weekly menu and sometimes it wasn’t. On days where it was advertised, if you forgot all you had to do was see the students lined up all ready for the food hall doors to open. Students would first make sure to get the yummy treat before their main course. On the days where it wasn’t advertised you knew by the students leaving the food hall with disposable plates piled high with this confection.
It always amused me to see fellow student’s hording their favorite treats. One would thing the food service would get the clue and fix that treat more often but no. It was like they saved it up for the last day of that block (term) or when they knew one subject had a particularly hard test coming up, essentially something to cheer the students up with.
When that final day came and I graduated college the one food item I would come to crave and miss the most were those O’Henry Bars. My husband and I would talk about somehow getting that recipe but never did anything about it other then looking it up on the internet. The recipes we saw never sounded quite right. Then one day when swapping favorite recipes with a friend I found an O’Henry Bar recipe that sounded very familiar to the basic treat we loved so much.
The recipe I had found had some negative comments from the flavor was off to the bars never really set quite right. It took four or five tries making the recipe before finding a combination that worked well for us from taste to how the bars set. A lot of cooking is like that though. One tried and true recipe for me may be wrong for someone else. Some of that is varying tastes but also cooking styles. I am one of those people who can “wing” some recipes while my dad always stuck to following a recipe word for word.
The recipe below is similar enough to what our memory holds of those famous yummy treats from our college days. Much like those days back in college, my husband looks forward to when I bake up this treat and he still hates to share it.
Gluten Free O’Henry Bars
2/3 cup margarine (or butter)
1 cup brown sugar
4 ¼ quick cooking oats
½ cup of light corn syrup
1 tablespoon of molasses
3 teaspoons of vanilla
1/8 to ¼ teaspoon of salt
1- 12 ounce package of chocolate chips
2/3 cup of peanut butter
Pre-heat oven to 375°. Grease a 9×13” baking pan and set aside.
Cream the margarine and sugar. Add the oats, corn syrup, molasses, vanilla and salt. Stir together until oats are completely covered. Press oat mixture firmly into the greased pan.
Bake for 12 to 15 minutes until the top of the oats are golden. While the oats are still hot take a butter knife and gently fold the top edges of the baked oat bars slightly back. This will help release the bars from the pan when you are ready to cut them and serve them later.
Let the baked oats cool about 10 to 15 minutes before beginning the next step.
Put the chocolate chips and peanut butter in a microwave safe bowl. Heat for a minute, and then stir. If the chocolate chips are not completely melted return to the microwave for an additional minute. Stir to make sure all the chocolate chips are thoroughly melted and mixed with the peanut butter. Spread the melted topping over the cooling baked oats.
Let the entire pan of oats and chocolate air dry for fifteen minutes before scoring the bars into the desired serving size. Let the bars completely cool an additional fifteen to twenty minutes before serving. If you are in a rush put the pan in the refrigerator for five to ten minutes before scoring then an additional five to ten before serving. If try to serve this dessert up right after it is assembled you will have a hot gooey mess.