Weekend Baking: Earth Day Sunflower Seed Bars

It’s Earth Day. More than 40 years ago, a senator from Wisconsin, shaken by witnessing a tragic oil spill off the Pacific Coast and outraged by the lack of concern for such events in Washington, organized a 70’s –style “teach-in and celebration” to raise awareness of environmental issues and to engage the public in concern and action around preserving the Earth. That action gave birth to the first Earth Day in 1970. Last year, what was once a grassroots effort was observed by 500 million people in 175 countries worldwide. Earth Day is quite a testament to the power of ordinary folks, just like us, who are interested and concerned with the changes that are happening in the natural world around us.

This tradition of celebrating awareness of the environment is even more important today than it was 40 years ago. Fragile natural systems are in peril, and more information is being made available every day about the changing patterns of weather and the decline of native plant, animal and insect populations.

This Earth Day, I’m doing my small part toward helping the efforts of the Great Sunflower Project, an organized effort to help the declining bumble bee population by giving them more sunflowers, which they are wildly attracted to. Bumble bees are major pollinators for many of our agricultural crops in the United States.

I’ve made Sunflower Seed Bars to share with friends today. Each chewy bar, topped with a generous sprinkling of roasted and salted sunflower nuts, will be accompanied by a packet of sunflower seeds.  I’ll be inviting each recipient of this little treat to plant sunflowers in their garden, at their business or their school, or to simply toss them into a ditch.

The recipe for these Earth Day bars comes from my friend Sarah. She brought a pan of her homemade bars to my house one day last week. My house was the drop point for food a bunch of my friends were gathering to offer to our friend who just lost her husband to cancer.

Sarah brought the bars over in a Doughmakers cake pan, just out of the oven and still warm. The bars smelled wonderful and looked so tempting with chocolate and caramel swirled over the top. I wished there was some way I could get a taste.

So, knowing how easy it is to scratch the pebbled texture of a Doughmakers pan if a sharp knife is used on it, and knowing that many people are unfamiliar with Doughmakers bakeware — I did Sarah a big favor. I allowed the bars to cool, then slid the pan into the refrigerator to chill. Then, I used my plastic cheese knife to cut the bars. This would allow me to return Sarah’s cake pan without a scratch. And, it would allow me a chance to have a taste. Hee, hee.

I cut one chewy edge from a short side of the bars. I ate the whole narrow strip of oatmeal crust, melted caramel and chocolate. I wanted more, but it just wouldn’t be right. Sigh.

Sarah was willing to share her recipe.

I took a hunk of homemade caramel that I made at Christmas time from the freezer, defrosted the rock hard mass in the microwave oven and weighed out 14 ounces.

In no time, I had my own pan of Sunflower Seed Bars. Before patting the oatmeal mixture into the pan to form the crust, I lined the pan with aluminum foil, allowing the edges to come up over the sides of the pan. Once the baked bars were chilled, I used the foil as handles to pull the bars out of the pan for easier cutting. First, though, I carefully removed all four sides with a sharp knife. After all, I wanted the bars to look pretty and perfectly square.

I ate  most of those thin strips immediately. I am telling you, it’s hard to stop eating these things.

What a decadent way to celebrate Earth Day!

Earth Day Sunflower Seed Bars

  • 3/4 c. soft butter
  • 1 c. oatmeal
  • 1 c. flour
  • 3/4 c. brown sugar
  • 1 t. baking soda

Mix together and put in a greased 9×13 pan and bake 325 degrees for 10 minutes. While crust is cooling, melt 30 – 40 caramels (1 (14-ounce) bag, wrappers removed) with 1/4 c. milk  – pour over crust.

Top with sunflower seeds (1/2 cup) and chocolate chips (I used 1/2 cup peanut butter chips and 3/4 cup chocolate chips).

Bake 10 – 15 minutes.

Let cool then refrigerate!



2 thoughts on “Weekend Baking: Earth Day Sunflower Seed Bars

  1. Those look yummy! Thanks for sharing. Have you ever tried using those little caramel balls – no need to unwrap anything and I’ve been pleased with the end result when using them in bars. Anything to save some time & fuss :)

    • Sounds like a great idea, Ann. I know my daughter-in-law has used those little caramel pellets, but I haven’t tried them. This time I used up some of my homemade caramel. Next time, I’ll give your tip a try. Thanks!

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