Oreo bars a chocolatey treat

When I started looking for something to make for my next Tribune Cook article, my attention kept wandering in the direction of things involving pudding. Desserts. Parfaits. Cookies made with pudding. Fluffy fruit dips containing – you guessed it – pudding.

I almost settled on chocolate-chip pudding cookies, which sound fantastic, but I wasn’t in the mood to make cookie dough (mainly because one of my biggest vices is raw cookie dough, and now that I’m pregnant, I can’t risk the raw egg). I also wanted something that didn’t require turning on the oven in 100-degree weather.

One fateful morning while browsing a popular social media site, I came across a recipe someone had posted called Oreo Pudding Bars. My love of Oreos is nearly as strong as my love for raw cookie dough, and upon reading said recipe, I discovered that it contained many of my favorites: Oreos, pudding, cream cheese, Cool Whip and chocolate chips. The recipe really reminded me of a childhood favorite of mine – Pudding Parfait – which I shared in a previous Tribune Cooks article.

The recipe seemed quite easy and quick, with no oven required. It turned out to be a fantastic choice.

I don’t have much experience with using crumbs as a crust, so crushing up Oreos, saturating them with butter and pressing them into a pan was a revelation for me. This recipe was quite an exercise in restraint, as I had a large bowl full of crushed Oreos just begging to be eaten. When I added the butter, it became even more of a challenge not to just grab a cold glass of milk and a large spoon and go to town. However, I was able (reluctantly) to press the crumbs into the bottom of the pan and thus create the first layer of the Oreo Pudding Bars. That doesn’t mean I didn’t sample a crumb or two (it was buttery, chocolaty yummyness).

The next layer involved beating cream cheese with a bit of milk, sugar and Cool Whip. Since I learned from another recipe that beating cold cream cheese is impossibly messy, I didn’t take a shortcut this time and allowed it to soften for a while first. Much easier, I might add.

Having a large bowl filled with fluffy cream cheese and Cool Whip in front of me was just as tempting as the buttered Oreo crumbs, but at least I got to lick the mixers. I highly recommend it.

The pudding layer was quite easy, and not quite as tempting as the previous layers had been. Mind you, I still took a spoon to the bowl afterwards. You just don’t waste pudding.

The final layer, Cool Whip topped with a generous sprinkling of mini chocolate morsels, was the easiest, although I had to lick the spatula.

The result of the combined layers was extremely reminiscent of my Pudding Parfait (the top layer of which is comprised of Cool Whip and chocolate chips).

When I took the first bite, I had to remind my taste buds not to expect the taste of the parfait, but they quickly learned that this creation tastes quite different. It was a stronger Oreo flavor than I expected, and I didn’t taste much of the cream cheese, but mostly just Cool Whip and Oreos. I still think the dessert would go over well at family get-togethers and parties.

What I like the most about this type of recipe is its versatility. Want fewer calories? Use skim milk, Cool Whip lite, low-fat cream cheese and sugar-free pudding. If you like peanut butter, substitute Nutter Butters, vanilla pudding and peanut butter chips. If you want a hint of mint, use mint Oreos instead.

With this recipe, the possibilities are nearly endless. But whatever you do, make sure you lick the bowl.