Christmas Dessert- No Bake Oatmeal Chocolate Squares

Christmas was a bit weird this year…no snow, no decorations, no school Christmas concerts. No build up of any kind really.

We finished school on the 14th of December and December 25th crept up and all the sudden it was Christmas.

I was lying on a beach on Christmas Eve….

Being away from family and friends, we knew, would mean a very different Christmas for us, and we were ok with that. What we didn’t expect was to meet people who have become our family abroad. People who we share so many experiences with and who we can celebrate holidays with and have that little taste of home.

What I have enjoyed even more is seeing how those who are not from Canada/USA process some of our traditions. For example, when you want to watch A Muppet’s Christmas Carol with your Middle Eastern and French friends and they stare at your blankly and say “What is a…muppet?” You realize that not everyone celebrates the same way.

Our wonderful friends Darren and Leanne offered to host Christmas dinner a few days after we all arrived home from traveling. We had all the traditional things- turkey, stuffing, mashed potatoes, veggies. It was great!

I was in charge of dessert- our friend Hassan calls me “the sweet woman” because I make good sweets. Thanks Hassan- I like to think I do a pretty good job.

I wanted something easy to make and serve (since we all have only 6 sets of dishes in our school issued houses) and something that could use up the boat load of oatmeal that I bought for a recipe that only required 1 cup. (Got to free up space in my micro-kitchen you know)

I found this recipe on Pinterest and immediately knew it was the one.

No Bake Oatmeal Chocolate Squares

Chocolate- good, Peanut butter-good, butter- good, oats- really good!

Its a no bake recipe, but you will still need your stove to cook the base. Really this recipe could not have been easier!

I measured out 2 cups of butter and 1 cup of brown sugar and put it in a pot on my stove.

No Bake Oatmeal Chocolate Squares

Now let’s just take a moment and talk about the amount of butter I have bought since I moved to the UAE. I can’t even count the number of sticks…I buy multiples of butter every time I go to the grocery store. What am I making? I never bought butter at home….

But I digress.

I let the butter and sugar melt together and then added in 2 tsp of vanilla and 6 cups of rolled oats and mixed and cooked it for 2-3 minutes. I read that the longer you cook it, the harder the base will get. So if you want a soft, chewy base, undercook it. If you want a crisp base, cook it maybe a minute or two longer.

No Bake Oatmeal Chocolate Squares

I spread half the oat layer into a parchment paper lined 9×13 pan and pressed it firmly down.

No Bake Oatmeal Chocolate Squares

Next, I measured 2 cups of chocolate chips and 1 cup of peanut butter into a microwave safe bowl and melted that together in short 10 second bursts stirring in between so that I didn’t scald or seize the chocolate.

No Bake Oatmeal Chocolate Squares

When that is all deliciously gooey, pour it over the first layer and spread evenly.

No Bake Oatmeal Chocolate Squares

Take the rest of the oat layer and spread it on top of the chocolate layer. I did not leave enough oat layer to totally cover the top so mine looked a little more like a crumble topping rather than a oatmeal bar top.

No Bake Oatmeal Chocolate Squares

I let this sit in my fridge for a few hours to firm up before I cut into squares.

No Bake Oatmeal Chocolate Squares

The Verdict- These are delicious and chocolaty and buttery. In fact, the next time I make these I think I would cut back the butter to 1.5 cups rather than the full 2 because they were REALLY buttery….but all in all they were a hit and I would totally make them again if I needed a quick, easy to serve dessert.

Winter Break Trip- The Seychelles

There are a few perks to working and living in Abu Dhabi.

  1. The weather is consistently beautiful each and every day- no snow, no ice, no bitter winds that make your face hurt. Just sun, sun and more sun. Sometimes there is a cloud or two and you think “maybe it will rain…” but then it doesn’t.
  2. The winter break is long- like 3 weeks long. Read- lots of time to travel and explore if you can find the right deals
  3. Travel to what felt like far of distant lands is now only a short direct flight away.

As we tried to decide where to go on our inaugural trip from Abu Dhabi we thought of places that we might not venture to from home. Sri Lanka, Thailand, Maldives and of course the Seychelles were a few we were throwing around (with many others of course, because really, the world is our oyster!)

Seychelles
Beau Vallon Beach

After finding the right trip, we packed our bags and headed to the airport for a short 4 hour direct flight to Mahe, Seychelles for a glorious 5 days of beaches, ocean and exploring.

December-March is typically the rainy season (and summer as it is in the southern hemisphere) bringing humid, warm temperatures and (obviously) a great deal of rain. We were lucky to have only one real day filled with rain and one gloriously sunny day where we were able to soak up the sun (and a good sunburn in the process). The rest of our trip was peppered with clouds and the odd shower but nothing that would keep us from the beach and exploring the islands of Mahe, Praslin and La Digue.

Seychelles
Feeding the many tortoises that live on the islands

We stayed in Beau Vallon directly on the Beau Vallon beach, one of the most popular beaches on the island. In the dry season, this bay is perfect for diving and snorkeling because the waters are calm and clear. Since it was the rainy season, the water was too rough to snorkel, but it was still warm, turquoise blue and a treat to lay by and enjoy. The little town site surrounding the beach was filled with shops, restaurants and grocery stores. It was the perfect place to stay and explore on foot (since renting a car seemed a bit dangerous as they drive on the left side of the road!) We walked in to the town a few times to pick up various treats from the shops and visit the local market in the evening for dinner.

Seychelles
Our walk into Anse D’Argent

Half way through our trip we decided to take a tour of two neighboring islands- Praslin and La Digue. The tour started with an hour ferry ride from Mahe to Praslin on the Cat Coco ferry. Now I’m not a big boat person…I feel nauseous often when riding boats even when the water isn’t rough and  feel the after effects of the waves for days to come. Needless to say, I was feeling quite worried about the ride and had my gravol ginger close at hand to help stay off any nausea I might encounter.

Well I could have never anticipated the trip we would have…but I’ll tell you it was quite possibly the worst boat ride I have ever been on.

When you see the crew wearing rubber gloves carrying “discomfort bags” in their back pockets and just watching for people who are showing the telltale signs of seasickness (pale, sweating, generally looking like they might die), you know its going to be rough. Actually I should have clued in when I watched locals get on the ferry, grab a bag or two and find a spot to sit.

Well, I felt a little discomfort on that first ride….and I utilized a discomfort bag to get me through the trip. But I felt better knowing I wasn’t the only one. And that Andrew, with his sturdy sea legs, felt the effects of the ride as well.

I’ve never been happier to get off a boat.

Only to get on another one to La Digue 10 minutes after. Thankfully that ride was much smoother and only 15 minutes long.

Seychelles
La Digue

La Digue is a small island Northeast of Mahe. With a population of only 3000 people, La Digue’s main form of transportation is bicycle and small transport trucks. You can cycle the whole thing in less than a day (being only 5 km long and 3 km wide)

We visited a coconut and vanilla plantation and spent some time on Anse Source D’Argent where the Granite rocks dot the beautiful white sand beaches. It’s such a beautiful contrast against the clear blue ocean.

Seychelles
Anse D’Argent

After La Digue, we made our way by ferry back to Praslin.

We enjoyed a beautiful creole buffet at a seaside restaurant, drove some of the island and had a chance to visit Vallee De Mai nature reserve, a World UNESCO heritage site where the famous Coco De Mer tree grows.

Seychelles
Vallee De Mai

This tree (with its gigantic and odd shaped nuts) only grows here in  Praslin….it thrives in the granitic soil and, though it has been attempted, this plant does not grow anywhere else. One tree takes over 30 years to mature and the nut takes another 7-10 years once the tree has been pollinated.

Seychelles

We were also lucky enough to spot 3 black parrots while on our walk. (there are only 520-900 of them on the island and they are quite shy)

Seychelles

We finished our day at another picture perfect beach.

Seychelles
Anse Lazio

The Seychelles are not high on the budget-friendly list of destinations, but we found a few ways to keep the costs down.

  1. Find a hotel that includes breakfast or find a self-catering hotel/apartment.
  2. Stay in a more tourist-friendly area. It will allow you to walk to destinations close by as taxis are very expensive to use and give you more options than just your hotel to eat at.
  3. Find local restaurants and grocery stores to eat and shop at. We found the food at hotels was expensive and bland…the food at the local restaurants and at the farmers market was much better and a significantly better value.

Seychelles

Our Seychelles trip was a beautiful mix of exploring and relaxing. We enjoyed every minute and look forward to the next adventure we take!