Whether you’re baking a batch of goodies for a holiday cookie swap or making something special for Santa, these Lightened-Up 7 Layer Bars should hit the spot. For a decadent dessert, they’re made with some pretty healthy, plant-forward ingredients: whole grain oats, walnuts, dried cranberries, and chickpeas, and each bar has just 170 calories.
The bottom layer of the bars starts with chickpeas, a nutritious ingredient that I sometimes use as a fat replacer in desserts. If you’re trying to add more pulses to your diet, chickpeas make it easy.
Gooey, decadent 7 Layer Bars are a classic cookie swap treat. This recipe is still pretty decadent, but it’s a whole lot lower in fat, sugar, and calories than the original.
Have you ever used beans in a dessert recipe?
7 Layer Bars are typically made with 2 cups of chocolate and butterscotch chips, sweetened condensed milk, nuts, lots of shredded coconut, and a crust of graham cracker crumbs with melted butter or margarine, so they’re typically high in fat, saturated fat, and calories. For this recipe fix, I slimmed ’em down and boosted the nutrition with a bottom layer made of oats, chickpeas, ground flaxseed, just 2 tablespoons of butter, and 2 tablespoons of EVOO. In a million years, you would never know there were beans in the crust! I cut back on the chocolate chips and coconut and used dried cranberries.
I kept the sweetened condensed milk (though I switched to the low-fat version) because, well, they wouldn’t really be Seven Layer Bars without it.
One of these bars has 170 calories and 2.5 grams of saturated fat. Not bad for a sweet holiday dessert and a lot better than traditional 7 Layer Bars with 200 calories and 7 grams of saturated fat.
- Serves: 30
- Serving size: (1 bar),
- Calories: 170,
- Fat: 7.6g,
- Saturated fat: 2.5g,
- Carbohydrates: 22.5g,
- Sugar: 12.4g,
- Sodium: 60mg,
- Fiber: 3.2g,
- Protein: 4.7g,
- 1½ cups gluten-free old-fashioned oats
- 1 cup walnuts, coarsely chopped
- 1 cup chickpeas, drained and rinsed
- ¼ cup ground flaxseed
- 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
- ½ teaspoon kosher salt
- ¾ cup mini semi-sweet chocolate chips
- 1 cup dried cranberries or raisins
- ¾ cup unsweetened shredded coconut
- One 14-ounce can low-fat sweetened condensed milk
- Preheat the oven to 350°F. Grease a 9 x 13-inch baking pan with butter or nonstick cooking spray and set aside.
- Spread the oats evenly on a baking sheet and bake until lightly browned, 8 to 10 minutes. Stir occasionally to ensure even browning. Remove and set aside. Place the walnuts on the same baking sheet and bake, stirring occasionally, until lightly browned and fragrant, 3 to 5 minutes. (Keep a watchful eye on the nuts so they don't burn!) Remove and set aside.
- Place the toasted oats in the bowl of a food processor and process for 10 seconds. Add the chickpeas, flaxseed, butter, olive oil, and salt and pulse until well combined. Press the mixture into the bottom of the prepared pan, and smooth down evenly with your fingers or palms to form a bottom crust.
- Top evenly with the chocolate chips, cranberries, walnuts, and coconut. Pour the condensed milk evenly over the layers.
- Bake 22 to 25 minutes, or until the coconut is golden brown. Cool on a wire rack and cut into thirty 1¾ x 2-inch bars. Best if stored in the refrigerator.
Tell me about your favorite better-for-you cookie swap treats.