Cookies,  Other,  Recipes

Gary’s Date and Oatmeal Bars

Date and Oatmeal Bars may be the first recipe I ever got from Gary Isaacson, who passed away two years ago next week. A born chef, he was fluent in all cuisines. Yeast loved him as much as everyone else did, and he put the “art” in artisan breads. I hope to post more of his recipephanies, and I invite his friends and family to send me their favorites along with any Gary stories that go along with them.


I was in the slow checkout line at Publix a few years back when the woman ahead of me put three boxes of Betty Crocker’s date bar mix onto the stopped conveyor belt. Like a first responder, I knew I had to talk her down from the ledge. “Have I got a recipe for you!” I said, yenta-style. She still bought the mixes, but wrote down her address so I could send her this recipephany. It was a good thing, too, because the company discontinued the mix (maybe because she stopped buying it).

I first had these when Gary served them for dessert at his and Laurie’s home. I remember going back repeatedly for stray oaty crumbles when I thought no one was looking. As someone who had depended solely on Solo date filling, I was delighted to taste this luscious homemade alternative. A sparkle of fresh lemon juice cut the sticky sweetness of the dates, and there was that surprise of walnuts in the smooth filling.

I begged for the recipe, telling Gary I had to make these for my date-addicted Dad, but of course, I wanted them for myself, too. Fortunately, Gary, ever generous and fun, enjoyed sharing, teaching, and cheering his friends on, so he wasted no time in getting me the recipe on a card embossed with his initials. Pretty cool.

Gary’s Date and Oatmeal Bars

  • About 1 lb. pitted dates, cut up
  • 1 cup water or more
  • 3 TBS lemon juice
  • 1/2 cup broken walnuts
  • 1 1/2 cup flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 3/4 cup margarine or butter
  • 1 cup brown sugar (I use 1 cup sugar and about 2 tablespoons molasses)
  • 2 cups old fashioned oats (can use more)
  1. Combine dates and water in saucepan. Bring to a boil and simmer on low heat about 10 minutes, stirring frequently. Add more water if it gets too thick, especially if you use chopped dates that have been rolled in oat flour. Cool. Stir in lemon juice and walnuts.
  2. Cream butter and sugar and beat ‘till fluffy. Stir in flour, baking soda and salt. Add oats and stir.
  3. Press 2/3 of oat mixture into a 9×12 greased pan. Spread the date mixture over it. Top with remaining oat mixture and pat.
  4. Bake at 375° for 30-35 minutes. (Look at it at 25 minutes – with my convection oven, it takes generally less than 30 minutes.)
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  • Raegan

    update: Mom says she can’t wait for me to try it first so she’ll have to make it herself! I guess we can never have too many date bars.

  • Raegan

    these came up in conversation today when Mom was talking about how much she loves dates. Andrew mentioned this recipe and we’re very glad to find it here! looks fantastic! I think I’ll have to try it at home first and make sure I know what I’m doing before making a batch for Mom. of course, we’ll have to have your version someday as well. I <3 recipephany!

  • Angele Piche

    I did Gary’s date & Oathmeal Bars

    It was a success
    Everybody LOVE it
    Laurie told me it was very similar to Gary’s receipe
    Even dough I put less butter because of my diet of” the moment ”
    It was delicious!
    Thank you for sharing

    Ps Gary has a chocolate cake receipe that it sooo delicious
    Let’s try to find it

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