Chocolate Oatmeal Coconut Bars



Though Rome is always beautiful at any time of the year, it is at its very best in the Spring, just before temperatures climb into the 90s (and higher -- and a.c is scarce here) and the city is inundated with tourists. In the Spring, the azaleas at the Spanish steps are in full bloom, the weather is warm enough for a night time stroll around St. Peter's, and best of all, it is ideal picnic weather.

With the arrival of Spring there's nothing I look forward to more than heading over to one of Rome's many parks (in particular Villa Borghese and the Giardino degli Aranci, which has a beautiful view of the city) with friends to relax, enjoy the sun, and have a picnic lunch. We usually make sandwiches or pick up pizza al taglio (by the slice) and I supply the dessert. These chocolate coconut oatmeal bars are perfect for a picnic as they are portable and easy to eat, not to mention super delicious (the most important factor of course). They are nice and chewy thanks to the oatmeal  and full of different flavors thanks to the sweetness of the coconut, the bitterness of the chocolate, and the tartness of the cranberries. If you're not a fan of cranberries you can leave them out or substitute walnuts or pecans, or even white chocolate if you'd like, or mix and match the mix in ingredients as you'd like. Use your imagination, and enjoy!

CHOCOLATE OATMEAL COCONUT BARS

Ingredients:

1 cup flour
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
8 tablespoons (1 stick) unsalted butter, softened
1 cup light brown sugar
1 egg
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
3/4 cup old fashioned rolled oats (not quick cooking)
1/2 cup semisweet chocolate chips
1/2 cup shredded sweetened coconut
1/2 cup dried cranberries (optional -- if you choose not to include these, you can just up the amounts of chocolate and coconut)

Directions:

Grease a 9 inch rectangular pan and set aside. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. In a medium sized bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. In a large bowl, beat the butter with the brown sugar using electric beaters (or a standing mixer if you have one). Add the egg and mix until it is fully incorporated. Add the vanilla and mix well. Next, stir the dry ingredients in to the butter and sugar mixture until well combined. Stir in the oatmeal, coconut, chocolate, and dried cranberries if using. Spread the batter in the prepared and sprinkle more chocolate chips on top if you want. Bake for 30-35 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into the center of the bars comes out clean. Makes 12 bars. 








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