Friday, December 18, 2015

Oatmeal Caramelitas for Cook the Books....

I love my Cook the Books club.  It encourages me to read books that I otherwise wouldn't.  I get stuck in a rut, reading the same authors and genre of books.  I think we all tend to do that.  Joining book clubs is a great way to get yourself out of that rut, and if you like to cook then the Cook the Books Club is made for you!

This month's selection, A Place at the Table by Susan Rebecca White, was chosen by Debra of Eliot's Eats.  You can read Debra's invitation post and learn how to join us by going to the Cook the Books page.  Everyone is welcome to join in.  All you need to do is read the book, make a dish inspired by the book and write a blog post about it.  Easy peasy and we would love to have you in our club.T

I decided on my recipe very early in the story that takes place during the 1970's.  One of the main character's, Bobby, and two of his friends are playing a game during which they start talking about Oatmeal Caramelitas.  Bobby tells them " They're good.  Buttery and a little salty with chocolate chips and a layer of gooey caramel.  You're really missing out if you've never had one."  

I was instantly transported back to my childhood.  I had forgotten all about these ooey, gooey, scrumptious bars that my Mom used to make until I read that sentence.  Now, this book is filled with food of all sorts, as the main characters are all cooks, but my mind was made up from the instant I was reminded about these cookie bars.

Before I share the recipe, that I found on, let me share with you my feelings about this novel.  This novel starts off in the deep south in the year 1929 when hatred and prejudice against people of color was still rampant and both blacks and whites were fearful of the other.  During this time period we meet Alice whose brother was sent away from her to the north by his family who feared for his safety because of his outspoken nature.

We then fast forward to the 1970's and meet Bobby who befriends a black girl but this friendship is cut short when Bobby's brother calls her by a terrible slang word that she overhears.  Bobby's father is a Baptist minister and his mother is the epitome of a southern belle.  When their worst fears are confirmed and they learn that Bobby is homosexual they begin talking about sending him out to a psychiatric facility to cure this problem.  Bobby flees to his MeeMaw who loves unconditionally as she feels God has commanded.  MeeMaw's dying gift to Bobby is cash for him  to go start his life over in New York City.  

Bobby becomes a cook in a restaurant that was founded by Alice and her friend Gus and the story begins to intertwine their lives.  Enter Amelia, who is in the middle of divorce and feels her world crumbling around her.  All of these people whose lives intermingle and combine showing us that the world is not all black and white but gray and sometimes....during the best times.....very colorful.

One of the things that made me love this book, and there were many, was that each of the main characters found peace through cooking.  I too, find peace through cooking and run to the comfort of my kitchen during times of sorrow, troubles and stress.

So back to the recipe:

Start with a layer of oatmeal, flour and butter crumble.
Bake for a few minutes before adding the other layers.

Add a layer of Bittersweet Chocolate Chips.

Followed by a layer of chopped walnuts.

Drizzle the caramel layer over all and then add another layer of the crumble.

Bake until golden brown.
Let cool completely and then refrigerate before cutting into bars.

This is an extremely rich and decadent dessert.
It brought back sweet memories.
One of those memories is of coconut.
I think Mom must have added a layer of coconut to hers.
I am definitely adding it to mine the next time I make these scrumptious bars.

Oatmeal Caramelitas
slightly adapted from Pillsbury

2 c. flour
2 c. old fashioned oats
1 1/2 c. packed brown sugar
1 t. baking soda
pinch of salt
1 1/4 c. butter, room temperature
1 c. caramel ice cream topping
3 T. flour
1 (6 oz) pkg 60% cocoa bittersweet chips
1/2 c. walnuts, chopped

Combine flour, oats, sugar, soda, salt and butter in the large bowl of a stand mixer, fitted with the paddle attachment, and mix at low speed until crumbly.  Press 3 cups of the crumb mixture into the bottom of a 9"x 13"pan that has been treated with baking spray.   Place into a preheated 350* oven for 10 minutes.

While the crust bakes, whisk the caramel with the 3 T. of flour in a small bowl.  Remove the crust from the oven and sprinkle evenly with the chocolate and nuts.  Drizzle the caramel over all the layers and then sprinkle with the remaining crumb mixture.  Bake for another 20-25 minutes, until golden brown.  Cool completely on a rack before refrigerating until filling is set.  Print Recipe


  1. Oh my gosh this recipe sounds like one of those I would cut into bars and proceed to eat the whole pan myself. The book sounds like a wonderful read!

    1. I know Paula. I had to get them out of the house. I sent some home with a friend and took the remainder to our Advent concert yesterday. I enjoyed the book. A friend of mine who read it, not so much...she didn't care for the characters and the lifestyles they lived.

  2. I ended up liking the book quite a bit--definitely the 'peace in cooking' themes and food descriptions were a big part of it. I had thought about making the caramelitas (before I *needed* the chocolate mousse) because the description sounded so yummy. ;-) They definitely look rich and decadent and seeing your version of them is making my mouth water.

    I saw your comment about getting missed in the roundup Wendy and alerted Debra so she can add you in.

    1. Thanks Deb....I sent my email very early so I'm sure she just had forgotten.

  3. I've never had caramelitas before, but I sure want to now! Great recipe, Wendy!

  4. This sounds like a great treat to share with a group of friends. My plan.

  5. I remember the scene you describe and was wondering what the dish was: thanks to you now I know :)

  6. I love oatmeal and chocolate chip combos so this sounds great!


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