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Pretzel Cookie Bars (Gluten-Free, Vegan)

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I shared a favorite cookie recipe on my Facebook page recently; my whole family is crazy for my pretzel cookie bars, so I thought people might want to add them to their holiday baking repertoire.

The bars are so tasty, in fact, that I couldn’t resist revisiting them myself. I never tend to leave well enough alone, so I racked my brain trying to think of ways I could make them even better. Enter Steviva, my new favorite natural sweetener! Not only was I able to cut the calories and carbs, but I used it to make my own condensed coconut milk. The result? The same delicious, decadent flavor both lightened up and now gluten AND vegan.

I got to try Steviva Blend as a participant in the brand’s blogger recipe challenge. The granular sweetener is a combination of erythritol and stevia, and can be substituted in just about any recipe in which you’d use regular white sugar. The blend has a zero glycemic index, and is easy to digest (unlike many sugar alcohol products on the market. Added bonus? It’s sweeter than cane sugar so you can use less.

Canned condensed milk is used in layer bars like these as it both adds sweetness and helps bind the ingredients together. Did you know that traditional canned condensed milk contains 22g of sugar in just 2 tbs.? Yikes. Making your own is honestly not difficult, and using Stevivia allowed me to totally cut the sugar and greatly lower the calories.

To ensure these bars are allergy-friendly, look for gluten-free pretzels such as Snyder’s or Glutino which are also dairy-free. For chocolate I always recommend the Enjoy Life brand. If you’re nut-free, you could easily just omit the pecans or substitute flaked coconut for the nuts.

While everyone says that calories around the holidays don’t count, it’s easy to get weighed down with the seemingly endless array of treats. Try out this recipe and no one will believe it’s way healthier and lighter than it tastes!

Further Food Nutritionist Commentary:

Coconut milk is a great alternative to dairy milk for people who are intolerant or are looking to reduce or stop dairy consumption. It is high in MCT fats which can help increase metabolic function and also reduce belly fat. It has also been linked to reducing "the bad" (LDL) cholesterol. Plus, it can even help reduce inflammation.

By Camryn Goldstein
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Pretzel Cookie Bars (Gluten-Free, Vegan)

  • Prep Time:45 minutes
  • Cook Time:30 minutes
  • Servings: 18

Ingredients

condensed milk:
1 can full-fat coconut milk
1/4 cup Steviva blend

bars:
5 cups gluten-free pretzels, divided
2 tablespoons Steviva blend
1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons Earth Balance dairy-free butter or coconut oil, melted
1/2 cup dairy-free chocolate chunks or chips
1/2 cup nuts of choice (I used pecans)

Instructions

  1. Preheat oven to 350. Place a piece of parchment in a 9×13 baking pan, allowing an inch to hang over each end.
  2. To make condensed milk, bring the coconut milk and Steviva to a boil in a small pot over medium heat. Once it reaches a boil, lower the heat and allow to reduce for about 45 minutes. Stir occasionally to check thickness; it should reduce by about half. Remove from the heat to cool. The mixture will thicken a bit more while cooling.
  3. While the milk is reducing, put 4 1/2 cups of the pretzels in a food processor. Pulse into crumbs. Add 2 tbs. Stevia and melted Earth Balance or coconut oil to the food processor. Run again until the mixture is combined.
  4. Press crumb mixture into the prepared baking pan, making sure to pack it down well.
  5. Pour condensed milk over the crust. Press remaining pretzels (I like to break my into pieces), nuts and chocolate into the milk.
  6. Bake for 30 minutes or until the milk is set and crust is golden. Allow to cool for at least 30 minutes before lifting ends of parchment to remove from the baking dish. Cut into bars. Best kept chilled.
Preheat oven to 350. Place a piece of parchment in a 9×13 baking pan, allowing an inch to hang over each end. To make condensed milk, bring the coconut milk and Steviva to a boil in a small pot over medium heat. Once it reaches a boil, lower the heat and allow to reduce for about 45 minutes. Stir occasionally to check thickness; it should reduce by about half. Remove from the heat to cool. The mixture will thicken a bit more while cooling. While the milk is reducing, put 4 1/2 cups of the pretzels in a food processor. Pulse into crumbs. Add 2 tbs. Stevia and melted Earth Balance or coconut oil to the food processor. Run again until the mixture is combined. Press crumb mixture into the prepared baking pan, making sure to pack it down well. Pour condensed milk over the crust. Press remaining pretzels (I like to break my into pieces), nuts and chocolate into the milk. Bake for 30 minutes or until the milk is set and crust is golden. Allow to cool for at least 30 minutes before lifting ends of parchment to remove from the baking dish. Cut into bars. Best kept chilled.

Nutrition Information

Per Serving: Calories: 180; Total Fat: 15 g; Saturated Fat: 8 g; Monounsaturated Fat: 3 g; Polyunsaturated Fat: 2 g; Cholesterol: 0 mg; Sodium: 181 mg; Potassium: 33 mg; Carbohydrate: 13 g; Fiber: 1 g; Sugar: 5 g; Protein: 1 g

Nutrition Bonus:

Vitamin C: 0%; Vitamin A: 0%; Iron: 3%; Calcium: 1%

Our Chocolate Collagen Peptides are a smarter way to indulge! Learn more here.

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