Healthy Salted Caramel Apple Bars for #studentbloggers

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Thanks so much to everyone who has joined us for this #studentbloggers series. This is our final installment (for now, at least) as the school year revs into gear. See you guys on the other side, and don’t forget to check out all these incredibly TALENTED bloggers who have participated!

Grad Undergrad Student Bloggers Icon Small

(See our interviews from Week 1 and Week 2.)

QUESTION 1. Let’s be honest: how much time do you spend on schoolwork/research vs. the blog?

Ala: I treat school like a full-time job…and it is one! I still spend a good chunk of time every night blogging though (anywhere from 20-30 hours a week), and my friends think I’m crazy for doing it because I insist on having a social life as well. That leaves me with some scary number of hours of sleep…you can do the math.

Bec: Majority of the week is spent a) procrastinating and b) mentally and physically stopping the procrastination/procrastibaking c) attempting to smash out Uni work

Nicole: In all honestly – about 60 % research, 40 % blog (but I do spend almost my entire weekends and lots of evenings solely on blog work)

Shelley:  Schoolwork comes first 😉 I’ll blog when I have the time!

Zainab: I am ashamed to answer this just in case my PI sees this one day. But in a 24 hour day, I think 9 goes to schoolwork and the rest the blog. Just so much goes into blogging and being new at it, the learning curve is steep so it’s sucking lots of hours of my day. With research, I am very efficient at this point. I get to lab in the morning and can hammer out my experiments pretty quickly. I try to do most of all I need to do there (9-6.30pm) and most times once I leave lab, I leave it all there. Except if I am writing a paper, need to come up with new experiments etc.

QUESTION 2. Any last words of wisdom (your own or someone else’s) about how to balance university life with blogging and everything else?

Ala: After I had suffered two meltdowns during the school year, my friend reminded me that it’s okay to have panic attacks, and it’s okay to talk to people about them. Contrary to popular belief, you aren’t the only one who suffers from imposter syndrome, and almost everyone knows what it’s like to feel like they are the world’s biggest fraud. Embrace the uncertainty—because no progress can happen without it—and then make something awesome out of it!

Bec: Probsssss the best thang I’ve learnt is to keep the uni work and blogging separate. This means you can  really let loose when your in your putting together a post, and won’t get destracted (as much) when doing Uni work.

Nicole: Blogging is something I really enjoy, I’d gladly work on it full time if I ever had that opportunity! Since I love it so much the cooking and baking I get to do because of it acts as a fantastic stress relief after a long day in the lab or after writing my thesis. Having a hobby you really enjoy actually makes my postgrad life more productive.

Shelley: My advisor told me that her dissertation chair’s best advice to her: pick your most productive time of the day and really do good work in that 8hr block of time. Then don’t feel guilty about spending the rest of the day doing all the other stuff {like blogging!}

Zainab: Try not to spend all your free time on blogging. For most of us graduate students, it is secondary to our school so keep that in mind. The key to balancing this insane life is knowing that you will never be completely caught up in your blogging life. Once you come to accept that, you will NOT spend every single free time (which is already limited as grad students) on the blog.

As the school year kicks back into gear and the students begin to flock toward the busy lecture halls, I’ve decided to keep things simple and sweet around here. Our theme this week is “Procrastibaking,” i.e. the mastery of our student trade. Who doesn’t love an awesome, solid go-to procrastibaking recipe?

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The start of school means limited time–but what these sorry photos lack in luster (I took them the third time I made these bars and as I was running out the door to my potluck), they definitely make up for in taste, time efficiency, and health benefits! Let me break this down for you:

Vegan Shortbread Crust: I used my favorite vegan shortbread crust from these Pumpkin Pie Layer Cheesecake Bars, which means no slabs of butter–only olive oil!

Apple Pie Filling: I opted for using applesauce instead of butter, making this apple pie filling incredibly guilt-free with all of the same great taste!

Streusel Topping: No butter–are you noticing a theme here yet? Just oil and some solid streusel topping!

Salted Date Caramel: Without any refined sugar, this date caramel is basically your daily serving of (dried) fruit, except in awesome salted drizzly form. Yum!

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I made these bars for a vegan potluck and I kid you not–30 minutes, and they were all gone. Every last crumb and date caramel drizzly bit. I’ve made it two more times since, making it one of my most raved-about healthy recipes ever. Make this!

On a final note, since it IS the final grad student blogger series post–I am SO lucky to have met so many lovely student bloggers through this roundup. Seriously, you ladies are AMAZING. I can’t wait to keep up with all of you and see where your intelligent, inspirational post-school lives lead you!

And now, in true student fashion–I’m off to write an article instead of procrastinate on this blog post–goodness knows we did enough procrastibaking around here already 😉

Show our #gradstudentbloggers and #undergradstudentbloggers your support! Check out the whole list of featured Student Procrastibaking recipes now:

Crispy Gnocchi with Pork Tenderloin and Fava Beans via Bacon Egg Cheese(cake)

Brownie Dulce de Leche Cookie Sandwiches via Daisy and the Fox

Healthy Salted Caramel Apple Pie Bars via Wallflour Girl

PB Swirled Chocolate Ice Cream via Go Bake Yourself

Pink Moscato Panna Cotta with Pistachios via Blahnik Baker

Raspberry and Cardamon Brioche Buns via PicnicNZ

SAY WHAT? As a fun bonus to this roundup, we asked today’s student bloggers some fun, wacky questions about their (im)balanced school/blogger lives: read their answers now on our hostess’s blog, Wallflour Girl!

The #gradstudentblogger and #undergradstudentblogger series showcases the lives and talent of insanely busy food bloggers from across all stages of their higher education pathway. Thank you for joining us in our final edition!

Healthy Salted Caramel Apple Bars for #studentbloggers

Healthy Salted Caramel Apple Bars for #studentbloggers

Possibly the most raved-about vegan recipe on my blog: these went in a flash! A vegan shortbread crust, applesauce-based pie filling, butter-free streusel, and date caramel makes this a guilt-free treat for all!


For the vegan shortbread crust:

  • 3 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 3/4 cups powdered sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 cup soy milk (or other dairy-free milk)
  • 1 cup olive oil

For the apple pie filling:

  • 2 tablespoons unsweetened applesauce
  • 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • 2 tablespoons white sugar
  • 2 tablespoons brown sugar
  • 2 small apples (or 1 large apple), peeled cored and sliced thinly

For the streusel topping:

  • 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup quick-cooking oats
  • 2 tablespoons brown sugar
  • 1/4 cup chopped nuts

For the date caramel:

  • 20 dates
  • 6 tablespoons soy or coconut milk
  • 1/2 teaspoon coarse sea salt


For the vegan shortbread crust:

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Lightly grease a 9x9-inch baking pan and set aside.
  2. Combine all ingredients in a large mixing bowl until it forms the texture of wet sand. Press evenly into the bottom of prepared pan.
  3. Bake for 12 minutes, until lightly golden. Remove from oven and set on stovetop while you prepare the fillings.

For the apple pie filling:

  1. In a medium bowl, stir together applesauce, flour, and both sugars. Toss apple slices until coated evenly in filling. Place apple slices evenly on top of pre-baked crust.

For the streusel topping:

  1. Combine all ingredients until it forms a paste. Break up the paste as best as you can with your hands and sprinkle in clumps over apple filling.

For assembly:

  1. Bake the entire layered bar in preheated oven for an additional 20 minutes, until streusel has begun to crisp up. Remove from oven and drizzle with date caramel (instructions below) before cutting into squares.

For the date caramel:

  1. In a food processor, blend dates until they form a thick paste. Add milk of your choice and sea salt; continue grinding until mixture reaches a thinnish drizzling consistency. Drizzle over cooled bars.


13 Replies to “Healthy Salted Caramel Apple Bars for #studentbloggers”

  1. wait these bars have a shortbread crust?? And real apples?? SOLD!!! 😀

    1. Yes, I love ’em too! ahhh good luck with school–one more week over here! The doomsday approaches…

  2. Oh wow, Ala!! Would you be so kind as to send some of these my way? These are wonderful! Apple and caramel are a match made in heaven and I love what you’ve done here to make these healthy 🙂 Great effort! I had a blast working on the grad student blogger series, it was so wonderful to met such a great group of like-minded bloggers 🙂

    p.s. I am so jealous you guys get holidays!!! Totally not fair… we have nothing like that here. I get 2 weeks over Christmas and that’s it for the year.

    1. haha! Nicole, if we lived on the same land mass, you bet I would! I totally dug through about half a batch just by myself! It has been AWESOME to meet you–and it’s going to be awesome having other student bloggers around to catch up and commiserate with. But WHAT–how do you guys only get two weeks?! Is that an NZ thing or…?? I’m so sorry D: no summer (er, winter)??

  3. These definitely don’t look healthy!!! You go, girl, for lightening up these babies! I’ve loved your series…you have a lovely group of student blogger friends 🙂

    1. I am totally in awe of these girls. And seriously, made these three times and nobody could tell they were healthy. I feel like this deserves a #SkinnyTip or something! <3

  4. Oh my gosh girl, I’m totally dying over these amazing looking bars! They have everything I love – a shortbread crust, apple pie filling, streusel topping, salted caramel and they’re vegan? Heck yes, I’ll take four – two for each hand please 🙂

    1. I just laughed really loud at that image–that’s just the way I’d have it, too! I knew we were friends for a reason 😀

  5. These bars were absolutely brilliant! I am SO in… please send a care package? 😉
    Thanks again for hosting this blogger link up series it was SO much fun! Glad to be in touch with you all 🙂

    Choc Chip Uru

    1. haha! I know, I totally want care packages from all you lovely ladies as well. Thanks for pitching in–I’m so glad we found each other so I can stalk you allll the time now 😀

  6. ooh, there’s some great advice here! I’m new to this whole blog world, and didn’t realize there were a bunch of grad student food bloggers out there! how do I hang out with you lovely ladies?

    PS. I will be procrastinating making this apple pie bar tonight. The apples on my desk (my awesome farmer’s market gives student discounts!) are just calling me.

    1. ermigosh, hi Myriam! That’s so sweet that you’ve found my blog and the rest of us. We don’t really “hang out”–we just sort of do it 🙂 you should definitely say hi to all the other lovely bloggers though, they really are fantastic! And of course, I’m sure I’ll be seeing you around here and then that’ll be our hanging out. Cannnnnnnot wait to check out your blog and learn more from a fellow grad blogger! Whoohoo for us! Have an awesome week, gal, and let’s stick together, eh?

  7. This dessert looks so yummy! I do not know how you do that your food not only taste delicious but also look stunning!

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