These Fully Loaded Bars have an oat shortbread crust topped with peanut butter caramel, pretzels, chocolate chips, and roasted peanuts. They’re irresistible!
There’s something inherently comforting about food blogging, and the food blogging community. It’s a group of people – all completely dissimilar, coming from every country, background, religion, race, financial background – who all share one simple thing: the love of food.
While most Americans share that same love of food, food bloggers are the people who love to share that love. They are the people who want to share the flavors of their families, and their backgrounds, and the recipes they create in their kitchens, with the world. We, food bloggers, are some of the few people who will make our families suffer for a half hour as the tantalizing dish we made is ready to eat – but we need to photograph it to get the perfect picture to share with our readers. It’s a labor, but it’s also a labor of love, and with food blogging, if you don’t love what you do – it shows.
It’s not a job for most bloggers. Very few people make a full time living off of it. Sure, we get perks like free products and can be paid if we work hard at it, but mostly, food bloggers do it because they love it.
I love food blogging because of every aspect of it. When I started, it was for the baking. I could care less about the photography – a quick look at my first post shows you that much. The writing was fun, as I’d always enjoyed writing, but I never would have thought I’d come to share as much of my life with the world through this blog as I have. I came to love the writing and the photography – getting better over time I hope – but truly, it was the community that surprised me. They’re an inspiring group.
Whether the food blogging community knows someone or not, it seems they are always willing to help. Yesterday, December 17th, a blogger day of silence was held in memory of the Newtown victims. A small act, but one far spread enough to show the residents of Newtown they are being prayed for. Stephanie Au of Life Tastes Like Food hosted a holiday auction to benefit a friend of hers suffering from Leukemia, and raised $3,000. It’s the things these people do that are inspiring, that make me want to be a better person.
Our world seems to be crumbling down around us with tragedy but it’s nice to know I have such a strong, supportive community who is always willing to lend a helping hand to those in need. Even though I don’t need it now, I know it will be there if I do.
The interconnectedness is incredible as well – Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram all connect the community, allowing everyone to share photos, thoughts, and questions. On Instagram the other night, I posted a picture of these bars still in the pan. Someone wanted the recipe, so I was able to email it to her, right then, instead of her having to wait until I posted it here (Hope you liked them, Annette!). It’s amazing how social media has allowed this community to develop!
As for these bars, well, they are fully loaded. They have a rich, crumbly oat shortbread crust. Caramels are melted down with a touch of heavy cream before creamy peanut butter is stirred in, and then they’re topped with crumbled pretzels, roasted peanuts, and semi-sweet chocolate chips. They’re salty, sweet, rich, and delicious. They’re also super versatile If peanut butter isn’t your thing, leave it out. Don’t like peanuts? Use a different kind of nut. Have some spare toffee bits, white chocolate chips, or peanut butter chips? Throw them on! These bars can handle anything. They’re also pretty – perfect for your holiday cookie platter! :) I hope you enjoy these treats!
- ¾ cup packed brown sugar
- ¾ cup salted butter, softened (add ½ teaspoon salt if using unsalted)
- 1 egg
- 1½ cups all-purpose flour
- 1 cup old-fashioned or quick-cooking oats
- 1 bag (11 oz.) caramel bits (I used Kraft)
- ¼ cup heavy cream
- ½ cup smooth peanut butter
- 1 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips
- ¾ cup roasted peanuts
- ½ cup broken pretzels
- Heat oven to 350°F. Grease 13x9-inch pan with cooking spray. In a large bowl, beat brown sugar, butter, and egg with an electric mixer on medium speed, or mix with a spoon. Stir in flour and oats. Spread evenly in the pan (helps to use your hands - just wet them to prevent sticking).
- Bake 15 to 20 minutes or until light golden brown. Meanwhile, in a 1-quart saucepan, heat caramels and heavy cream over low heat, stirring occasionally, until caramels are fully melted. Stir in peanut butter.
- Pour caramel mixture evenly over the crust. Sprinkle on chocolate chips, peanuts, and pretzels. Press toppings into the caramel slightly, and cool until chocolate is set. Cut into 24 bars. Enjoy!