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whole grain butterscotch bars

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I like to make a dessert recipe once a week. Not only does it make great blog fodder, but also I’ve found that most dessert recipes make enough for Babyface and I to nibble on all week-long. I don’t do days without dessert. That just isn’t right. And making a batch of something new each weekend gives us a nice sweet way to end dinner for days to come.

It’s such an insane concept to me. Because three or four years ago, if you would have stuck a pile of butterscotch bars in my kitchen and told me to ration them for a week, I would have laughed in your face. Desserts were meant to be binged upon, not eaten in moderation throughout the week, but plowed through in an afternoon with a nice cold glass of guilt on the side.

The fact that I am still eating these bars a week after I made them is not a commentary on their flavor—they are rockin’ good and totally worthy of a binge—but a testament to how far I’ve come to have a better relationship with food. The container of desserts that slowly gets emptied throughout the week is like my own little progress chart for my health journey.

I’m not always successful. I had a particularly unspectacular day on Monday and, after dinner, decided to bring the whole container of these over to the couch. Two or three were mindlessly eaten before I decided that this wasn’t a path I would like to go down. I wasn’t even particularly sad or upset. It more or less was just eating out of habit. It’s hard to overcome decades of the bingeing rationale. Some part of my brain still registers that sad/lonely/depressed/anxious=eating lots of yummies.

I have to be honest, I’m not sure I’ll ever fully be cured of my unhealthy, binge-eating ways. It was a part of who I was for such a long time. But I am proud of how far I’ve come. This may sound extreme, but I’ll always be in recovery. And it may sound strange, but keeping foods like this around the house are a perfect way to strengthen my resolve.

Alright, enough about me, let’s talk about these bars.

I love them because they are the perfect combo of decadence (butterscotch, yo!) and healthfulness (whole grains, yo!). They are sweet, rich and chewy with a crumbly, hearty grain layer. I’m a big fan of these bars. The only thing that would make them better? A drizzle of chocolate on top. I was fresh out of chocolate (I know, who am I?) but the next time, I promise you these will have a pretty chocolatey criss-cross on top.

I know a lot of you are already thinking about the holiday dessert table, and I think these would be a great addition. If you do that, I’d cut them into tiny, bite-sized squares to go right along with the squares of fudge and small cookies.

whole grain butterscotch bars

whole grain butterscotch bars

Yield: 24 bars
Prep Time: 10 minutes
Cook Time: 30 minutes
Total Time: 40 minutes

Adapted from Cooking Light

 

I made the mistake of baking these in a baking pan without parchment paper. Do as I say, not as I do. The butterscotch becomes caramelized and sticky after baking and can make pan clean-up a nightmare. Protect your pan (and your sanity) with a layer of parchment paper.

Ingredients

  • 6 tablespoons butter, melted
  • 1 cup packed brown sugar
  • 1 egg, lightly beaten
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 2 1/2 cups oats
  • 2 cups whole wheat flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1-14 ounce can fat-free sweetened condensed milk
  • 1 1/2 cups butterscotch chips

Instructions

  1. Preheat oven to 350°.
  2. Line a 13x9 baking dish with parchment paper, set aside.
  3. In a medium bowl, combine butter, sugar, egg and vanilla. Set aside.
  4. In a large bowl, combine oats, flour, salt, and baking soda.
  5. Pour butter mixture into oats mixture and stir until mixture is crumbly and evenly distributed (I found using my hands to "squish" it worked best).
  6. Remove 2/3 cups of oats mixture and set aside. Press remaining oat mixture into the prepared baking dish until forms a solid crust. Set aside.
  7. In a microwave safe bowl, combine sweetened condensed milk, butterscotch chips and a pinch of salt. Microwave on high for one minute or until butterscotch chips are melted. Stir well.
  8. Pour butterscotch mixture over oat crust and spread out evenly with a spatula. Sprinkle reserved oat mixture over top of butterscotch.
  9. Bake at 350° for 25-30 minutes or until topping is golden brown. Remove from oven, run a sharp knife along all edges of the pan and then set aside to cool completely. Slice into small squares when cool.

 

Can you keep your favorite foods around the house without bingeing on them? Have you always been that way?

Cassie is the founder and CEO of Wholefully. She's a home cook and wellness junkie with a love of all things healthy living. She lives on a small hobby farm in Southern Indiana with her husband, daughter, two dogs, two cats, and 15 chickens.

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26 Responses
  1. LOL! That’s what we do here as well! I bake once or twice a week for our dessertst. It’s my treat for the day and that way I have no problems saying no to cookies or sweets offered during the day. Of course, sometimes it’s impossible to stick to just one serving….. but then again…. it’s something homemade without all the chemical nasties that most shop bought goodies have.

    I’ll definitely give these bars a tray.

    1. Cassie

      Exactly! It’s much easier to skip the cookies and treats at work knowing there is a nice, “clean” homemade treat waiting at home for me.

  2. Kelly

    I’ve been trying to lose weight and get healthy for 12 months. Progress has been limited due to my body deciding to completely break down the past 12 months as well. BUT what I’ve learned about myself while taking baby steps in the right direction is that for me binging isn’t about the food. I thought it was, I thought I was more prone to specific foods and I thought a binge meant I ate a lot. But as I started tracking my food and my calories, I became hyper sensitive to my binges. Every time I thought I had one with as you put it “a cold glass of guilt”, I dreaded logging my food intake. Every time I logged my food intake, I was still with in my calorie range for the day. It blew my mind. So for me, it doesn’t matter what food is in the house. I will emotionally binge on anything, and it doesn’t matter how much it is either. In the end it’s about completely losing control. Which said out loud, sounds way scarier than just binging when I have mashed potatoes (my favorite binge food) in the house. I am heartened to hear your assessment that you will always be in recovery. I’ve fought with myself about it a lot and have come to the same conclusion.

    1. Cassie

      There is definitely some appeal to the out-of-control part of bingeing. Sometimes I feel like my life is so regulated that it feels nice to break out, even if it’s in an unhealthy fashion. It’s the exact same mentality that found me binge drinking while in college to balance out the heavy courseload and internships.

      Thanks for the insight. Definitely gave me something to think about. 🙂

  3. Bravo! I just found your blog and I have to say that it’s truly refreshing how honest you are about your struggles. Nothing fake, but yet you remain positive. I love it.
    I don’t think it’s realistic to think you will always be in recovery: I know I will be. I struggled with all kinds of ED, bulimia & anorexia being the worst of them. But like you, I’m amazed at how far I’ve come. I bake every week & cook every night and am able to eat foods without guilt, restriction, bingeing or purging anymore. Of course there are days that are harder (like your Monday, I had the same Monday, though neither of them got ugly), but it’s all about progress, not perfection 🙂
    Anyhoo, I think I’ve blabbered enough. New regular reader! Thank you for sharing your story & beautiful recipes!
    Char

    1. Cassie

      Thanks so much Char! I love the “it’s all about progress, not perfection” sentiment. So perfect! Thanks so much for reading and commenting. 🙂

  4. I’ve struggled with this issue too. Although, it has gotten tons better over the years.

    Now, I’m more of a picker. I tend to make half recipes of sweets and desserts because otherwise they go to waste. I’ll have a piece or two when they are first made and then I tend to get over it and forget about them.

    I’m not sure if you mentioned it or not, but, are they a crunchy or chewy texture?

    1. Cassie

      Chewy! Definitely chewy. 🙂 They are a little crumbly on top, but the bottom crust and butterscotch meld together and become awesomely dense and chewy.

    1. Erika A

      I bet it would work fine. If you go gluten-free for the flour, try using either millet or almond flour. It will give you that “whole-grain” taste and texture.

  5. Cosmos

    I don’t keep my favorites in the house, and I agree with the poster that said binge eating isn’t about which food you eat, in a binge you’re willing to eat anything. THBS, I limit what food comes into the house, and I don’t make desserts for myself often.

    I bought two cute, little single serving pan plates this fall and I have made several individual servings of apple crisp — that’s been perfect for me!

  6. Erika A

    I am a recovering binge eater myself, having developed the emotional coping habit as a pre-teen (I’m now 30). I am able to cope with most things now without turning to food, but I do consider myself “in recovery”, since after enough stress or emotional upheaval, the behavior creeps back in, quietly.

    Sounds like you’re able to look at your own behaviors with honest compassion. That’s awesome. 🙂

    1. Cassie

      It’s a new thing for me. I never thought I had any sort of disordered eating until I really started examining when and why I eat in the past few months. I hope “recovery” is going well for you!

  7. Kim

    I realize that this is one of the ongoing themes of your blog, but wonder if you have ever written a post that included some of the specific steps you have taken to move away from bingeing and more towards healthful eating? I struggle with this so much and appreciate reading how others have dealt with it. (If you have written that post I’d love a link. If you haven’t, I’ll bet people would be interested.)

    Kim

    1. Kim

      Replying to my own comment… I do find your weight loss section to be very helpful, but I’m still interested in knowing how you “face down” a binge and keep the treats around for a week! 🙂

  8. Shannon

    These look wonderful! I just love oat bars with anything!

    It is definitely tricky taking more than one of ANYTHING with you to ‘nibble’ on! I take one thing out if I want to nibble and then if I want another I have to get up and walk to the kitchen and pick up another, and that has helped give my brain time to say “WHOA! Do you really need/want this?”

    That includes taking small bowls of chips or peanuts rather than the entire bag!

    But pizza? Um, I have to make tiny pizzas because if there is pizza in the house my stomach just keeps on and on about it : Shan-non, there’s PIZZA in here! Lots of veggies! Four pieces here! Yoooo Hoooo! And that’s my hardest thing to resist!

    1. Cassie

      I am definitely learning to leave the container in the kitchen and just bring ONE serving over to the couch/table/bed. My laziness helps me keep my portions in control. 😛 And I am the SAME way with pizza. We order take out pizza once a month and I just resolve to the fact that it is going to be a high calorie, high sodium, high fat day and enjoy my pizza. 🙂

  9. These look amazing and I can’t wait to give them a try. I am responsible for bringing deserts to Thanksgiving this year and I will possibly be making these so I can enjoy a clean treat that day 🙂

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