~ Peanut Butter-Banana-Oat & Tropical Trail Mix Bars ~
Hot fun in the Summertime. As a fan of peanut butter and banana sandwiches (no honey please, just smash a banana into some crunchy peanut butter and slather it between two slices of my Wonder bread or toast), when I decided to intervene in the world of recipes for peanut butter and banana bar cookies, I already knew my version was going to be loaded with one of my favorite snacks: sweet and savory tropical trail mix (my favorite brand is a mix of dried coconut, mango, papaya and pineapple, raisins, banana chips, brazil nuts, cashews and peanuts). Oh yum.
If you're looking for an easy dessert to make for a Summer brunch, take to the next picnic or barbecue, serve at a Fall tailgate, or brownbag to work or school any other time of year, this is it. In a cakey-brownie-esque sort of way, these are moist and chewy, only full of tropical flavors instead of chocolate. I'd love to tout them as healthy -- I suppose in some oaty-grain fruit-and-nut-land sort of way they are, so, if that convinces you to give this recipe a try, I can live with that -- but, I'll just proclaim them to be a healthier option to other treats found at a bakery or coffeeshop.
1 cup old-fashioned rolled oats
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon sea salt
1/2 cup salted butter, at room temperature, very soft (1 stick)
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup lightly-packed light-brown sugar
2 teaspoons each: pure banana and vanilla extract
2 large, 7 1/2-8-ounce bananas, smashed with a fork, about 1 1/2 cups smashed bananas
1/2 cup peanut butter, crunchy or smooth, your choice
2 cups tropical trail mix (dried coconut, mango, papaya and pineapple, raisins, banana chips, brazil nuts, cashews and peanuts), your favorite brand
~ Step 1. Cut a piece of parchment paper to fit the bottom of an 8" x 8" square baking pan -- preferably one with a removable bottom. Insert bottom of pan into pan and spray the bottom of the pan with no-stick cooking spray.
Insert parchment and spray top of parchment and inside of pan with cooking spray too. Set aside.
~Step 2. In a medium bowl, stir together the flour, oats, baking powder and salt. In a 2-cup measuring container, mash the bananas with a fork -- there will be about 1 1/2 cups. Stir the extracts into the smashed bananas, then, add and stir in the peanut butter -- there will be about 2 cups banana-peanut butter mixture. Set aside.
~Step 3. In a large bowl, starting on low and working your way up to high speed of hand-held electric mixer, cream the butter, sugars and egg together, while scraping down the sides of bowl with a large rubber spatula. Lower mixer speed and fold in the banana-peanut butter mixture.
~Step 5. Transfer mixture to prepared pan then use the spatula to spread it evenly into the sides. Bake on center rack of preheated 350° oven, 30-35 minutes, or until lightly and nicely browned, puffed up through to the center, and, a cake tester inserted into the middle in several spots comes out clean. Remove from oven and cool, in pan on a wire rack, for 30-45 minutes prior to removing sides from pan. Cool completely, 3-4 hours or overnight, prior to slicing into squares and serving.
Cool completely prior to slicing into 2" squares & serving:
Special Equipment List: 8" x 8" baking pan w/removable bottom; parchment paper; spoon; 2-cup measuring container; fork; hand-held electric mixer; large rubber spatula; wire cooling rack
Cook's Note: Congo squares were/are a WWII era chocolate-chip-laced pan-cookie marketed by the Nestlé corporation to compete with Hershey's Tropical Bar cookies back in 1942. My recipe for ~ Tropical Fruit, Nut and Chocolate-Chip Congo Bars ~ is full of the history surrounding these bar cookies, and, it's loaded with Congo flavors that Tarzan and King Kong would love: candied papaya, mango and ginger, chewy flaked coconut, crunchy macadamias and a trio of Nestlé's own milk-, semi-sweet- and white- chocolate chips. Feel free to create your own Congo combo.
"We are all in this food world together." ~ Melanie Preschutti
(Recipe, Commentary and Photos courtesy of Melanie's Kitchen/Copyright 2018)