These fantastic potluck bars come from Patrice Hurd of Bemidji, Minnesota. She won the grand prize in our 2012 Best of the Midwest® Recipe Contest. Patrice says they're a twist on her grandmother’s cracker bars. They cut beautifully and brim with salty-sweet-nutty-chocolately flavor.
These rich bar cookies star among the sweets at Stafford's Bay View Inn in Petoskey, Michigan. Mix and match among your favorite treats for some of the layers to create a dessert that's just right for your family.
Connie Seigel bakes these bars to take to a Wisconsin library where Karen Grochowski organizes the packing and shipping of these and other cookies. They're sent to soldiers overseas who yearn for a taste of home.
These bars, from Judy Reynolds of Bloomington, Indiana, won the grand prize of $10,000 in Midwest Living's first Best of the Midwest cook-off. Judy started with a Hoosier staple--popcorn--and stirred together these sweet-salty snack bars. Homemade caramel sauce helps makes them a standout.
These bar cookies combine four winning flavors: peanut butter, maple, butterscotch and chocolate. The easy recipe, from a Wabash, Indiana, reader, makes about 6 pounds of bar candy. We suggest freezing the bars and thawing them out as needed.
Maple Nutty Candy 
Anyone who loves lemon chess pie will enjoy these bite-size bars (left). This recipe for Luscious Lemon Bars comes from Palmer's Deli and Market in Urbandale, Iowa. These are both sweet and tart. The moist bars are topped with powdered sugar.
Lemon Curd Bars offer a different twist, using lemon curd for a creamy, tangy flavor. This recipe comes from Little Traveler in Geneva, Illinois, which imports its lemon curd from England.
Graham crackers form the base for this bar cookie with layers of marshmallows, brown sugar, almonds and coconut. "I've made these cookies since 1984," says Georgine Simmonds of Genesee, Michigan. "They're one of my family's favorites."
Caramel Heavenlies 
These gooey bite-size treats feature a creamy mixture of chocolate pieces, butterscotch pieces and peanut butter over a cooked oatmeal-brown sugar layer. The recipe is from a Madison, Wisconsin, reader, who likes to take the bar cookies to potluck gatherings.
Candy Bar Cookies 
Chocolate and peanut butter naturally complement each other in these three bar cookie recipes. The Eagle Ridge Inn and Resort near Galena, Illinois, combines the flavors to make the candylike Hallelujah bars (left).
A Wisconsin reader sent us the recipe for Peanut Butter Fingers, which have rolled oats in addition to peanut butter and semisweet chocolate pieces. They're a great sweet ending to entrees and salads on a potluck table.
Merry Marshmallow Bars come from a Decorah, Iowa, reader, who combines semisweet chocolate, peanut butter and marshmallows for an easy-to-fix bar cookie that kids love.
This recipe for Danish Pastry Apple Bars comes from an Indiana teacher who discovered these treats in a student's lunch box years ago. The student's family was happy to share the recipe; the results taste almost like apple pie.
After-School Apple Bars has a similar origin: A Michigan reader began making these when her son brought the recipe home from school. His third-grade teacher owned an orchard, and the class made this recipe after a bountiful apple harvest.
Frosted Apple-Pie Bars comes from a South Dakota reader who includes apples, sugar, cornflakes and spices in her filling.
Hopkins, Minnesota, calls itself America's Raspberry Capital and hosts an annual Raspberry Festival -- including a cooking contest. One entry was this recipe for Raspberry Cheesecake Bars, which combines layers of cheesecake and raspberry filling in an almond crust.
Chocolate, nuts, coconut and more fill our easy-to-make bar cookies. Mixed dried fruit bits and candy-coated milk chocolate pieces are among the layers that make this bar cookie distinctive.
Stir together just 6 ingredients for this easy-to-make treat. Peanuts top a rich layer of butter, marshmallows, peanut butter-flavored pieces, sweetened condensed milk, and peanut butter.
Cooks in the Midwest's Red River Valley learned early to take advantage of rhubarb. The tangy, celerylike ingredient grows well in a region where strawberries seldom thrive. This recipe comes from RBJ's Restaurant in Crookston, Minnesota.
Rhubarb Bars 
When Midwest Living® asked readers to send in their favorite chocolate recipes, we received hundreds. The six winners included Brownie Bombs from a West Carrollton, Ohio, reader who tops her brownies with a cheesecake layer and then more chocolate batter.
Our Black-and-Tan Bars also combine cheesecake and chocolate, with a chocolate base and a swirled cheesecake-chocolate top.
Brownie Bombs recipe 
Cake or bar cookie? Some recipes can be both. At her deli in Urbandale, Iowa, Carol Palmer prepares her mothers carrot-cake recipe in a sheet instead of layers. Then, she slathers the bars with everyone's favorite: cream cheese frosting. Cut into bars to serve.
Carrot-Zucchini Bars also taste like a moist cake but come in snack-bar size. The vegetables add fiber, and cranberries give the recipe a tangy edge. You can substitute raisins for the cranberries if you prefer.
The Cream Cheese-Carrot Bar recipe is a lower-fat version of the traditional carrot cake. It substitutes applesauce for part of the oil and uses egg product or egg whites to lower cholesterol.
Carrot-Cake Bars 
Carrot-Zucchini Bars 
Cream Cheese-Carrot Bars 
Fruit fillings complement the sweetness of other bar cookie ingredients. Blueberry-Almond Bars was a grand champion award recipe at the Marshall County Fair's annual Blueberry Bake-A-Rama in Plymouth, Indiana. Lori Van Der Weele combined blueberries, butter, white baking pieces and almonds for this winner.
Blueberry-Almond Bars