After I made these delicious Date Carmelitas, I was feeling a bit sorry for myself. I am allergic to oats, so of course I didn’t get to try any of the carmelitas for myself – I simply observed my family and friends devour them. I knew they were delicious. So, this got me thinking…what could I use to replace the oats? Ah! Of course! Quinoa flakes to the rescue! I got right to work and started modifying my own recipe to make it allergy-friendly for yours truly! The result? WOW! Incredibly flaky crust with a perfectly fudgy middle and nice textural crunch on top from the pecans. The flavors were spot on. My husband tried one of these and said they were better than my original carmelita recipe that he had swooned over the day before – well, I would say that is a successful recipe modification!
Growing up, my Mom always made some oatmeal fudge nut bars for special occasions. Oh how I loved these bars! Of course they included tons of butter, sugar, eggs, sweetened condensed milk, etc. – which will add to a host of health problems, but they sure tasted divine! Guess what? These bars rival my Mom’s bars now! YAY! I can now enjoy the flavors with healthier ingredients. My kids will have fond memories of this healthy dessert AND I will feel good about not giving them diabetes, a heart attack, or stroke! Add this dessert to your Valentine’s repertoire – it is true love!
1 cup date caramel
1/2 cup applesauce
1/4 cup coconut oil, melted*
1/4 cup date sugar
1/2 cup coconut sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 cup gluten-free flour
1 cup quinoa flakes
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon sea salt
1 cup chocolate chips (I like Enjoy Life brand)*
1/2 cup chopped pecans, optional
*For a no-fat version: use 1/4 cup applesauce instead of coconut oil and mix in 1/2 cup cocoa powder with the date caramel instead of using chocolate chips.
Line a 9×9-inch square baking pan with parchment paper. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. In a large bowl, combine applesauce and coconut oil. Mix well. Add in the sugars and vanilla and mix well. Add in the flour, quinoa flakes, baking soda, and salt. Mix until well combined. Pat 2/3 of quinoa mixture into bottom of pan. Bake for 10 minutes. Remove pan from oven and sprinkle chocolate chips over crust. Pour date caramel over chocolate chips and smooth out with a spatula. The chocolate chips and date caramel will melt together like a “fudge”. Crumble the remaining quinoa mixture over the chocolate chip/caramel layer. Return to the oven and bake for 15-20 minutes until the edges are lightly browned. Remove from the oven and cool completely in the pan before placing the pan in the refrigerator to get it nice and cold (about 1 hour). Remove the bars from the pan by lifting out the parchment and cutting into squares. Enjoy!