Chocolate & Caramel Layered Shortbread Bars

Last weekend, in the company of my two sisters, brother in law, and three of our cousins, I ran my fifth half marathon through the streets of San Francisco.

After running my first in 2011 with my dad and two sisters, the energy and excitement got the best of me and I signed up immediately for another a couple of weeks later, then went on to run another in 2012 with the whole family, and in 2013 ran the same one with my lovely older sister, then again a week ago. 
They are exhilarating,.
I look forward to training season each year. The weeks of training leading up to the event are like a craving that only grows until it is satiated on the day of the event.
Every year that day comes and goes so quickly, it's fleeting. And every year the motivation, perseverance, endurance, and pride extracted from the ever-present energy of the event leave me wanting to continue, to keep going, to not let it be over.

Having the opportunity to participate in these events with such inspiring people is one of my favorite things, and a big part of why I look forward to it year after year.
The excitement, rush, and proud feeling of accomplishment were just as amazing this year as they were four years ago.

During the last couple of weeks of training season, I made these chocolate covered, creamy caramel layered, almond meal shortbread bars, and they were amazing.
With just a handful of simple ingredients, these bars are better than candy. I will be making them twice for Friday's festivities, once for a potluck and again for celebrating with family - the more the merrier, especially when it comes to good food and great company. 
I'm very much looking forward to Halloween falling on a Friday this year, it means more time to celebrate the fall season with family and friends.

Chocolate and Caramel Layered Shortbread Bars - Twix
makes a 9x5 loaf pan

-1 cup almond meal
-1/4 cup arrowroot starch
-2 Tablespoons coconut oil
-2 Tablespoons pure maple syrup

-1/3 cup coconut cream
-2 Tablespoons coconut oil
-2 Tablespoons pure maple syrup
-1/4 cup coconut sugar
-1 teaspoon vanilla

-1/2 cup chocolate chips
-1 teaspoon coconut oil

1. Preheat oven to 350F and line a loaf pan with parchment paper.
2. Combine all crust ingredients in a mixing bowl and press evenly into lined pan. Bake in preheated oven for 20-25 minutes. Allow to cool. 
3. Heat ingredients for caramel in saucepan over medium heat. Allow to come to a boil and reduce heat to low. Stirring frequently, simmer caramel for 15-20 minutes until it starts to thicken. Remove from heat and cool for 15-20 minutes. Once cooled, pour over crust, spread evenly and refrigerate. 
4. Melt together chocolate and coconut oil. Spread evenly over chilled caramel layer. Refrigerate until chocolate layer has set, 10-15 minutes. Cut into narrow bars and serve.

store in the refrigerator.
adapted from this recipe by My Purple Spoon
optional substitutions...
-almond meal: cashew meal
-arrowroot starch: tapioca starch, potato starch
-coconut oil: dairy free butter
-coconut oil: dairy free butter, coconut butter
-coconut sugar: turbinado sugar, raw sugar
-coconut oil: dairy free butter

Mangia! Mangia!