My maternal grandma passed away nearly two years ago now, but some of her recipes live on, particularly her desserts.
A full-blooded German, my grandmother spent the majority of her life in a small town in Minnesota, where she lived on a large farm with my grandpa and their five children, four girls and one boy. She came from a wealthy family and often felt a bit cheated in life with my grandfather, as the house they all grew up in lacked certain amenities, namely, a bathroom.
I’ve heard many a story about how they all had to go outside in the freezing Minnesota winters to either bathe or use the toilet, much to everyone’s chagrin.
These days, the farm has gotten a makeover and is maintained by my mom’s brother, indoor bathroom and all!
It was always fun for me to travel back to the farm because it was such a contrast to my suburban upbringing. It is some hundred acres big, leaving much room for running, berry-picking, and creek-dwelling. My cousins and I used to go down to the creek to splash around and collect pretty stones. Our trips gave me some of my happiest memories as a kid.
As I wrote, my grandma was known for her delicious, cavity-inducing desserts, particularly, her seven-layer bars. This was one of my mom’s favorite treats, and I have had it in mind to re-create this dessert for some time now. With all of the sugar in the original recipe, however, I had previously thought it was going to be next to impossible, given the list of foods typically added, including graham crackers, chocolate chips, butterscotch chips, walnuts, condensed milk, and sweetened coconut flakes. Eep! I think I would literally become comatose from all of that sugar!
Once I figured out the condensed milk, however, everything else just kind of fell into place. Granted, these are quite a bit ‘healthified’ in contrast to the original, but everyone here is really enjoying them, so I hope my mom (and you all if you try them) will too!
Healthy Seven-Layer Bars (Nut-Free Option)
- 3/4 c. oat flour
- 1/4 t. sea salt
- 1/2 t. cinnamon
- 2 T. olive or melted coconut oil
- 1 t. maple syrup
- 1/2 t. vanilla
- 1-3 T. cold water as needed
- -chopped dark or unsweetened chocolate about 3-4 tablespoons
- -raisins or dried apricots about 2 tablespoons
- -walnuts or pumpkin seeds about 2 tablespoons
- -one batch of my condensed milk recipe see link in Notes
- -grated unsweetened coconut (3-4 tablespoons)
- Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.
- Mix the ingredients together for the crust, adding water until the mix is moistened, but not sticky.
- Press the crust into a 7 x 5 inch baking dish.
- Pre-bake the crust for 9 minutes.
- Let the crust cool a bit, then top it with: chopped chocolate, dried fruit, nuts or seeds, and grated coconut.
- Pour the condensed milk over the top as the last step.
- Bake for 15-20 minutes until the coconut is lightly golden.
- Cool the bars.
- Cut and serve!
This is the set of glass baking dishes I love (the three-cup container is the one I use here).
The prep time for these is based on already having the condensed milk made.
Amounts for the toppings are fairly subjective, as it is to your taste. I like to load up on the chocolate (I use a mix of chopped 73% dark and unsweetened chocolates) and then add smaller amounts of each ascending layer.
What treat would you like to ‘healthify’?