Wholesome peanut butter oat bars studded with chocolate chunks and raisins. Perfect for an afternoon snack!
I go back to work in less than three weeks, which is kind of a hard thing to wrap my head around.
Thanks to the extremely generous Swedish parental leave system, I’ve been off work for a little over a year already, and when I go back it’ll have been 13 months total. Honestly, this year has been such a gift. It feels that way in particular since some of my closest friends had babies soon after I did, so we’ve spent a wonderful portion of our maternity leaves together, but also because I know that women in other countries are not afforded the same luxury of extended time off with their babies. Frankly, it’s bullshit to even refer to maternity leave as a luxury, because the daily work of caring for tiny humans is anything but luxurious, but when I read about women looking for nannies for their newborns or pumping breast milk in their offices and shlepping it home to feed their babies, I know we’ve got it good. And it’s sad really, when the WHO recommends exclusive breastfeeding for the first six months, that six months isn’t a minimum baseline for maternity leave around the world.
We stopped with nursing a couple of weeks ago, right at the 11 month mark. I just stopped offering the breast and Niko didn’t seemed at all bothered by it. In fact, when I offered him a bottle of formula one night just to see what would happen, I got the impression he thought it was the sophisticated and grownup thing to do; he just grabbed the bottle and gulped it down. I had a few moments of doubt where I wondered if I had weaned him too quickly, and when I took a look on some message boards to see what other people had done I was bombarded with guilt-laden “breast is best!” messaging. Sheesh! Even for weaning at 11 months!
And here’s the thing nobody ever told me: you can enjoy breastfeeding for months and months on end, and then one day a switch can flip and you might friggen hate it. That’s what happened to me. The last month was a struggle but I knew the end was near, and when he took that first bottle of formula I felt nothing but sweet relief that it was over. But then, three days after our last nursing session, my little boy had his first bad fever. Riddled with mom guilt and at a loss for anything else to do, I offered him the breast. It is no small exaggeration when I tell you that it took every shred of willpower I have to get through nursing that last time, breathing so deeply it was almost yelling, clenching my fists, and desperately wanting to throw my baby, my sick baby off of me the entire time. My milk never came back after that, so my body must have known it was the last hurrah. That’s it, we’re done, and we both seem happy with it.
It’s a bit ironic to be talking about how glad I am to be done with nursing and then offering up this, my favourite healthy treat to take to new moms. My sister just had a baby, a sweet little boy we’ve all been waiting to meet for a long, long time. Niko and I flew to London to help out for a few days when he’d first arrived, with a batch of these peanut butter oat bars packed between a pile of hand-me-down newborn clothes and my retired nursing tops. They travelled surprisingly well, and went straight into her freezer, squirrelled away for nursing snacks on the days she’d be home alone.
These bars are great for so many reasons. First, they’re dead easy to make. I made them a number of times for new moms when I was a new mom myself and was squeezing them into the pan during fleeting moments of quiet. All you need is about 5-10 minutes of hands on time, and a short list of ingredients that you’ve probably already got on hand. Secondly, they fall onto the healthy side of the treat line with wholesome ingredients like oats, peanut butter, and whole wheat flour. For this particular batch I used some coconut sugar that I’d had in my cupboard for longer than I care to admit, but I’ve often made them with just regular old brown sugar and I wouldn’t say I noticed a significant difference in either taste or texture. They are barely, barely sweet, but, studded with chunks of dark chocolate and raisins, you get a pop of sweetness in every bite that is just the right amount.
And hey, you don’t have to be a new mom to enjoy these! I’ve got a batch I have in my freezer that I’ve cut into little squares, and I like them as an afternoon snack with a cup of milky tea. They’re resilient enough to be thrown into a backpack or lunch bag, or into your carry on luggage if wherever you’re going is peanut-friendly. On that note – probably you could make them with a different nut or seed butter, but I haven’t tried it so I can’t say for sure how they’d work out. If you try it, please let us know in the comments!
Oats are rich in indigestible carbohydrates called beta-glutens which help to lower blood cholesterol levels. Oats are also host to a number of phenolic compounds which have antioxidant properties. Due to the high levels of those beta-glucans, oats are also helpful in stabilizing blood sugar. In fact, eating oats in the morning may help keep your blood sugar stable throughout the entire day. Oats are also a good source of dietary fiber and protein. Look for gluten-free oats if you’re celiac or have another gluten sensitivity. Peanuts, consumed in moderation, are a good source of energy and protein. They are a good source of vitamin E, and are rich in several B vitamin complexes.
One year ago: No Bake Granola Bars
Two years ago: Make-And-Freeze Breakfast Bars
Three years ago: Meze Bowl
Four years ago: Beluga Lentil Salad with Halloumi Croutons
Five years ago: Lemony Roasted Broccoli with Tempeh and Quinoa
Six years ago: Carrot Ginger Muffins
- ½ cup coconut sugar or light brown sugar
- 1 cup natural peanut butter (creamy and chunky are both fine)
- 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
- 1 cup whole wheat flour
- 1 cup rolled oats
- 1 teaspoon baking soda
- ¼ teaspoon salt
- ½ cup milk (whole, almond, soy, whatever you like)
- 100g 70% dark chocolate chopped into chunks (about ½ cup of small chunks)
- ½ cup raisins
- extra dark chocolate for drizzling (totally optional, but pretty!)
- Preheat your oven to 180°C / 350°F.
- Line a 9x9 baking dish with parchment paper.
- With an stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, or a hand-held electric mixer, mix the brown sugar and peanut butter on medium speed until until well combined, about 3 minutes. Add the vanilla.
- Add in the flour, oats, salt, and baking soda. The dough will be very thick and clumpy, but it should hold together if you squeeze a handful of it.
- Slowly add the milk in a steady stream, mixing until a clumpy dough forms.
- Fold in chocolate chunks and raisins, using your hands to knead everything together.
- Press the dough into the prepared baking dish - wet hands are helpful here
- Bake for about 17-20 minutes until the bars are lightly golden on top and set.
- Allow to cool completely and cut into squares.
Recipe adapted from Sally’s Baking Addiction