First-dates, Cards, and Oatmeal-Lemon Creme Bars

You’ll remember these beauties from this post:

I told you then that I smelt a tutorial, and though it’s not Tuesday, I’m bringing you a “how to” with “How to impress your family and friends with a delicious dessert, sans blood, sweat, and tears.

Woo! That was a mouthful.

Cooking is one of those métiers I forget how much I like, until I am actually doing it. Then I burn something, and it all comes back to me. Oh, yes . . . that’s right; I’m not all that good at it; however, pastries, desserts, baked dessert of any kind are my specialty. So, I leave the extraordinary culinary feats to Mr. Michael Olsen, and I, wielding a rubber spatula and lots and lots of amiable butter, handle the dessert. And you know what? I’m good with that.

Last weekend, we had a fun event. I suppose I should back up a bit. So, a couple months back, our friends, Aaron and Tiana (yes, just like the Princess.), invited us over to Aaron’s parent’s house for his birthday. And, after getting to know his parents, I got those familiar little flutters in my stomach. I just knew; mparents were gonna love ’em! Does that ever happen to you? You meet someone and think “so and so would just love this person!”. In fact, wasn’t it only a month or so ago that I matched up Rich (brainsnorts) and Michael (The Blissful Adventurer)? I must say, it turned out better than expected. Well, I guess that depends on your perspective. A lit match and gunpowder — those two are trouble! If writing doesn’t pan out, I’m thinking of soliciting my uncanny gift and expert services to the mass public. What do you think?

So, with all the jubilation of a jewish mother planning her only son’s Bar Mitzvah, I rubbed my palms together, and began dreaming (scheming) up a perfect first-date. Good thing all parties were up for a party. Not more than a few weeks later, we convened down at my parent’s house in Dana Point, and folks, let me tell you . . . it was a hit! And it’s all thanks to my oatmeal-lemon creme bars. 🙂 That’s not true. But they didn’t hurt the festivities, either.

We ate pizza. We drank expensive wine. We played cards. We laughed. And we drank expensive wine. Oh, did I already mention that? Well, there was a lot of wine. If any of you out there are winos, I think you’ll probably understand. It’s not a passion I’ve espoused, being one who has not developed a taste for tannic beverages, but I get it. I contented myself with a nice, cold beer, and was happy as a breaded chicken-strip (I don’t like clams).

Before we move on to the recipe, I have to ask: any of you heard of the card-game “Oh, Hell” ? Since the age of 5, my family and I routinely played this after the dishes were washed and stomachs were full. Talk about a wonderfully frustrating game. It’s a little poker, a little strategy, and a lot of luck. Explaining the ins and outs of this game is an entirely new post, one I just don’t have the energy for right now. I’m sure Google offers instructions, however, if you’re interested.

I went home last Saturday night with aching sides and throbbing cheeks. I honestly can’t remember the last time I laughed for four hours straight. It was like being one-tenth of verbal ping-pong match, everybody feeding off everybody else’s zingers. It went on like that all. night. long. My parents have these friends that, honestly, I’ve fallen in love with. Lenny and Ellen. Lenny’s a dry-humored Asian, Ellen’s an adorably, but painfully honest Mexican. The mix is sublime. Sometimes God just makes really cool people, you know? You’re drawn to something about them; maybe you don’t even know what it is, but you don’t care because they are just that awesome. That’s Lenny and Ellen. So, the ten of us gathered around the table and partook in something exceptional: life.

I highly recommend it.

So, if you want a guaranteed good-time, skip the 1-800 numbers, and give these oatmeal-lemon creme bars bars a try! They’re even first-date proof.

I snatched up this recipe from Maria, over at She has plenty of other delicious recipes to try, so stop on by when you have a moment.


1/2 cup cold butter
1 pouch (1 lb 1.5 oz) Betty Crocker® oatmeal cookie mix
1 egg
1 can (14 oz) sweetened condensed milk (not evaporated)
2 teaspoons lemon zest
1/4 cup lemon juice (about 2 lemons)

1) Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

2) Spray the bottom and sides of an 8-inch square pan with non stick spray.

3) In a large bowl cut the cold butter into the cookie mix with a fork or pastry blender.

4) Stir in the egg until the mixture is crumbly.

. . . Pretty lemons.

5) Press half of the dough into the bottom of the greased pan and bake it in the oven for 15 minutes. (I forgot to take a picture of this step; my apologies.)

6) In a small bowl mix the sweetened condensed milk, lemon zest, and lemon juice until thick and combined.

7) Spread lemon mixture over baked crust and evenly crumble remaining dough on the top.

8) Bake another 25 minutes or until the top is golden brown. Let cool and refrigerate for 30 minutes or until set.

9) Cut into bars and store in the refrigerator.

10) Serve ’em up with a smile!

Have a blessed day, everyone!

Condensed Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Spray the bottom and sides of an 8-inch square pan with non stick spray.
  2. In a large bowl cut the cold butter into the cookie mix with a fork or pastry blender.
  3. Stir in the egg until the mixture is crumbly.
  4. Press half of the dough into the bottom of the greased pan and bake it in the oven for 15 minutes.
  5. In a small bowl mix the sweetened condensed milk, lemon zest, and lemon juice until thick and combined.
  6. Spread lemon mixture over baked crust and evenly crumble remaining dough on the top.
  7. Bake another 25 minutes or until the top is golden brown. Let cool and refrigerate for 30 minutes or until set. Cut into bars and store in the refrigerator.
Up for a challenge?
Try this from scratch version! I myself have not tried this version, but it is from The Pioneer Woman, so it has to be good!
From Scratch Ingredients:
1 1/3 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 cup butter, slightly softened
1 cup brown sugar, lightly packed
1 cup oats
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees and lightly grease a 8×11 pan.
  2. In a large bowl mix the butter and brown sugar until they are well combined.
  3. In a separate bowl sift together flour, salt, and baking powder.
  4. Add oats and dry ingredients to the butter mixture and mix to combine.
  5. Press half of the oat mixture into pan. In a small bowl mix together sweetened condensed milk, lemon juice, and lemon zest. Spread evenly on top of the oat mixture in the pan. Top with the remaining oat mixture.
  6. Bake for 20 to 25 minutes or until the top is golden brown. Let cool and refrigerate for 30 minutes or until set. Cut into bars and store in the refrigerator.

55 thoughts on “First-dates, Cards, and Oatmeal-Lemon Creme Bars

    • LOL! Of course it’s possible! Let me know how yours turn out, please! Ooo and take pictures. Yours would be much nicer than mine, Ninali. 🙂

      How’s the move going? Or is that this weekend?

      • Day two of moving today…Should be all done and out by tonight then just some minor cleaning up and we are out…then to unpack and adjust to life again 😉 Thanks for thinking of me Cara 😉

      • You’re almost done! And once you are, you should celebrate with pizza! 🙂 You’ll be adjusted in no time, Ninali. Life acclimates us pretty quickly.

        Have a wonderful rest of your weekend,

  1. Looks yummy, I think my husband (and kiddies) would love them. I’m not too sure how much of them the kids will get to enjoy, but I’m gonna round up the ingredients and give them a go. Thanks Cara.

    • Haha! I don’t blame you for being greedy with them, Tahlitha. Maybe you can make a mommy and daddy batch, and a smaller batch for the youngins. 🙂

      Let me know which way you decide to make them and how they turn out!

    • Aren’t lemons simply the best? I can eat nearly anything lemon! And they make lovely decoration, too!

      Thank you for stopping by, and thank you for the kind accolade! Heading over to your blog now. 🙂


  2. I’m smiling a great big smile right now! Love your post, love your recipe and love your picture! What a beautiful lady you are… Inside and out. 🙂 hugs to you friend!

  3. I would eat these till I was in a coma! I love lemon and I particularly love creamy-lemony stuff. Yum, I could use one now with a cappuccino 🙂
    Great post and photos. I am telling you, you are ready for prime time with that chef and treat shot!

    • Ooo, me too, Michael, me too . . . Lemon anything is my weakness. I’ve resorted to sniffing Glade aerosol cans in a desperate moment.

      Oh, a cappuccino and one of these would be sublime. Do you have a CPK (California Pizza Kitchen) near you? They have the most amazing dessert — not lemon, though — that goes great with a cappuccino, or so my mother tells me. I am not much of a strong coffee drinker. Anyhow, it’s called Butter Cake. LOL. Yup.

      Ha! Yeah, well, I suppose if I don’t get any bites after mentioning you and Rich, or the successful parental date, I may just look into it. 🙂 Really, it’s Michael who could open the restaurant. If I wasn’t married to him, I would be viridian with envy!

      Have a wonderful weekend!

  4. Cara you are hilarious! … and a great matchmaker, I might add. 🙂 Thank you for the glimpse into your weekend festivities. I could picture it perfectly and I know you had a great time with your family and friends.

    Those lemon bars look so yummy and I have a bag of lemon’s in the fridge with their name on it. Since I don’t have the cookie mix I think I’ll try the from scratch version. Wish me luck!

    Have a wonderful weekend!

    • Lori,

      My heart just adores you! It’s like you have Cara-vision and always say just the thing that leaves me grinning. 😀

      With these cooking posts, I am hesitant to write anything else, because I’m sure most people just skip to the bottom, glance at the recipe, and be gone. I am so glad you enjoyed the whole post and could laugh at my scheming ways. 🙂

      You are bold, my friend! The word “scratch” terrifies me! But being from the south — and Texas, especially — I have no doubt you’re up for this challenge. if you have time, take a picture and let me know how they turned out.

      Happy weekend to you, my sweet friend! ❤

  5. I can’t decide, Cara, which part of this delicious post has tickled me more: matchmaking new friends for your parents, or lemon cream oatmeal bars – but in the end it has to go to your VIRIDIAN WITH ENVY to Michael:) Oh how I loved that:)

    • Mere . . . somehow I knew you would like that. 🙂

      What can I say? I like my Artsy with a little Fartsy.

      Hope you are having lovely weather wayyy over yonder. Happy day to you!

      • Funny – Viridian with Envy has been popping back into my head all day and I’ve been trying to hear how it would sound with a California accent:0 No matter which accent I put to it, it’s still puurfect …

    • YAY! If I can entice a cook to try a recipe, I know I’ve done something well. 🙂

      Yes! You definitely should. The game in itself is hilariously nightmarish. And I would;t have it any other way of course. Just make sure there is excellent food and all should be okay. LOL.

  6. Sounds wonderful, from the Oatmeal-lemon bars to the card game (which I know well, but we had to call it “Oh Heck” because my parents would not allow the other word in our house.) They did allow beer, when we were of age, however, so all was not lost. And the best part of a night like that is the laughing.

    • Oh, that is too funny! Oh Heck is much more appropriate, I suppose, but really when you get “those” hands, it’s the other word you can’t help but think! Good for your parents; mine were a bit liberal with language; a habit, luckily, I was able to break in maturity — that and a taser-gun. Just teasin’! The laughing . . . doesn’t get any better than the laughing, you are certainly right about that! Thanks for stopping by, Judy!

      Have a lovely Sunday!

  7. Nothing I like better than getting together with friends and laughing all night long! Sounds like you guys had a great time. Love the Jewish mom reference! Made me smile.

    I think my mom made something similar, it sounds delicious! I think I need to try this. My family has such a sweet tooth. They would love it!

    A writer, a photographer, and a pasty chef!!!! All wrapped up in one cute package…CARA! Your husband is one lucky man!

    I have to ask about your photos.They’ve got such an interesting feel. How did you do that?

    Well, I’m off to work, only 5 weeks left til summer vacation and I can’t wait!!!
    Have a good week!

    • Beth,

      So many lovely compliments in one tidy comment. There is nothing like bringing someone laughter, joy, or nostalgia through the word. I will simply say, “Thank you!” and move on, lest my ego tempt to me narcissism.

      The effect I use to enhance the photos is ridiculously easy; I use Instagram! ~ Before hand, though, I like to play around with the light — both natural and artificial — and the angles. Once I have the shot, I grab my trusty iPhone and do my thing! 🙂

      Yay Summer Vacation!! 5 weeks and counting!

      Same to you, my friend,

    • This is what I like to call a “U-turn” compliment. This means I received it, and thank you, and now I send it back your way in order for you to feel all that warm kindness.


  8. These sound yummy. I like to cook, but I’m not the best baker. Recently, however, I’ve discovered the oven timer is my friend and it’s built into the appliance for a reason. So now things are turning out much better!

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