No need for added sugar when it comes to the luscious caramel swirls in these fresh-baked bars! Sweet apples paired with a delicious date based caramel sauce makes for the most decadent tasting autumnal treat. Oil-free, gluten-free, and with an option to make them vegan, your family and friends will love this healthy apple season delight.
Last week I put a call out on my Facebook page! I asked for YOUR help to decide what recipe to share on the blog this week. I love getting your insights and feedback and I was happy to see that a lot of people responded.
I included only a small sampling (if you can believe it!) of the recipes I have stockpiled for sharing on the blog but even so I couldn’t decide what to post first! So I thought, “why not ask the people who will be reading?!”. Of course!
Overwhelmingly, the Caramel Apple Swirl Bars won out! Thinking about it now, I shouldn’t be surprised. It IS apple season after all and I would hate to have to wait all the way till NEXT fall to share these tasty bars with you.
If I had to pick one fruit as my favorite (and please don’t ask me to!), I would most likely pick apples. Mostly because I feel like I could cheat and get away with choosing them as a general category instead of one specific type. 😉
There are so many different varieties out there and I am a fan of many. Top picks include: fuji, crispin, pink lady, macintosh (but ONLY fresh picked…at the store they are always too mushy for me!), honeycrisp, jazz, snapdragon, empire, and green dragon (which are SO HARD to come by!). As you can see, I don’t discriminate. My one rule? They have to be crunchy! No soft, mealy apples for me, please!
Other than fresh apples, I love the taste and scent of apples in general. I have apple candles, apple air fresheners, caramel apple lotion, and spiced baked apple tea! There is just something so delightful about the smell and taste of apples in my opinion. And I guess growing up in NY, I’ve been sort of spoiled with good access to them.
But that’s where this recipe comes in! Whether you live in an apple rich area or a barren apple-less wasteland, you can make these bars and escape to a fall oasis of apple-y goodness. It uses apple sauce instead of actual apples so anyone can make it no matter where they are (as long as you have access to a grocery store of course!).
The apple and cinnamon flavor of these bars are highlighted by the sweet streams of date-based caramel sauce swirled throughout. That’s right! Caramel without any added sugars. Thick, delicious, and creamy all on its own.
- ½ cup old fashioned oats, ground into flour
- ½ cup vanilla whey protein powder (to make vegan, use more oat flour and add sweetener to taste)
- ½ tsp baking powder
- ½ tsp baking soda
- 1 tsp apple pie spice
- ¼ cup apple sauce
- ½ cup unsweetened almond milk
- ½ tsp vanilla
- 3 large medjool dates, chopped
- 2 tbsp unsweetened apple butter
- ¼ cup hot water
- Preheat oven to 350. In a large bowl, combine flour, whey, baking powder, baking soda, apple pie spice, vanilla, apple sauce, and almond milk. Pour into a well greased 9x9 baking dish. Set aside.
- In a food processor, blend together dates, water, and apple butter until smooth.
- Spoon dollops of the date mixture into the batter and swirl around with a knife tip.
- Bake for 25 minutes.
- Remove from oven and let cool before slicing into 9 bars.
These bars can easily be made vegan by swapping out the protein powder for a vegan protein powder for more oat flour. Also, feel free to add things like walnuts, chopped pecans, or even…PEANUT BUTTER CHIPS. 🙂 I did this when I made a second batch a few weeks back and went to heaven. Specifically, they were Reese’s Peanut Butter Chips. Granted, they won’t be as ‘healthy’ as the original recipe…but when is apple, peanut butter, and caramel ever a bad combination?
Whether you make these to keep around for healthy snacks, as an on-the-go breakfast option, or a tasty treat to serve your family or bring to your next holiday gathering…these bars are perfect. I’ve made about 5 batches since the originals and every time I fall more in love. Speaking of which, I just finished up my stash! Time to head to the kitchen.
Looking for some other seasonal treats? Check out these favorites from the Healthy Helper kitchen…
Any recipes you’d like to see on the blog sooner rather than later?
What’s your favorite seasonal flavor?
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