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~ Peanut Butter-Banana-Oat & Tropical Trail Mix Bars ~

IMG_0856Hot 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.

IMG_0855They are 'da bomb of peanut butter & banana bars. 

IMG_07961 1/2  cups unbleached, all-purpose flour

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 

6a0120a8551282970b01b8d1eea553970c 6a0120a8551282970b01b8d1eea553970c~ 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.

IMG_0807 IMG_0807 IMG_0807 IMG_0807 IMG_0807 IMG_0807~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.

IMG_0812 IMG_0814 IMG_0814 IMG_0814~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.

IMG_0826 IMG_0826 IMG_0826 IMG_0826~Step 4.  Remove the mixer.  Using the rubber spatula, alternating the dry flour-oat mixture with the trail mix, fold the two mixtures into the wet mixture, in two increments each (half then half).

IMG_0836 IMG_0836 IMG_0836 IMG_0836~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:

IMG_0861Peanut Butter-Banana-Oat & Tropical Trail Mix Bars:  16, 2"-square bar cookies.

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

6a0120a8551282970b01bb09087c56970dCook'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)


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