whole-grain fruit bars

Wow, it’s been a long time.  Way back to August, right after school started.  What happened to September and October?  That’s a very good question.  I’m not sure about September, but October was fondly dubbed “The Month of Lisa,” by my family.  It was my birthday month.  A BIG birthday month, and my peeps surprised me with a long weekend in southern Utah in St. George and Zion National Park.  My oldest niece lives in Utah and she drove down to spend the weekend with us.  So grateful for her and for my husband and daughter.  They made it a really fun birthday.

If that wasn’t enough, I took a week and headed back to our house in Michigan…by myself!  It was a week of work, for the most part, gardening, doing some weatherizing projects before closing up the house for winter, and knocking around with some great friends enjoying the fall color, good food, wine, etc.  It finally culminated in a birthday celebration I shared with the son of some friends of ours who shares the same birthday.  He was game to do a combined party, so they came for dinner, cake, ice cream, and a quiet evening where he turned 10, and I turned…well…let’s just say it was a BIG birthday.

So, before I head off to the post office to mail my AARP membership application (ha ha), I thought I’d at least share a recipe.  These are really delicious fruit bars, perfect for lunch snacks, after school treats, or with a cup of coffee in the morning.  Unlike my last attempt at a granola-type bar (which I ended up using as crushed granola over yogurt), they held together really well.  They’re still flaky because of the crumble crust (and I probably could have pressed the top layer a little more firmly), but didn’t fall apart when eaten.

They’re not too sweet and I used Smucker’s Simply Fruit fruit spread, which has no added sugar, unlike typical preserves or jam.  Whole wheat flour and whole rolled oats keep them in the realm of “minimally processed.”  Will definitely make these again.  Enjoy!!

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Whole Grain Fruit Bars (recipe courtesy Two Peas And Their Pod)

Ingredients:

  • 1 1/2 c whole wheat flour
  • 1 1/2 c rolled oats (not instant)
  • 1/2 c brown sugar
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 3/4 c cold, unsalted butter
  • 2 Tbsp ice-cold water
  • 3/4 c fruit preserves or jam (your choice, I used strawberry)
  • 9×13 baking pan
  • parchment paper

Directions:

  1. Pre-heat oven to 350° F.
  2. Combine first four ingredients (in food processor or mixing bowl) and mix well, making sure brown sugar doesn’t have any lumps. (If using food processor, pulse for about 30 seconds.
  3. With pastry blender or two knives, cut in cold, unsalted butter and ice-cold water until dough just holds together.
  4. Line 9×13 baking pan with parchment paper and spray with non-stick cooking spray.  Dividing dough in about half, press half firmly into bottom of pan.
  5. Spread jam or fruit preserves evenly over pressed dough.
  6. Sprinkle remaining dough over top of jam, pressing down very gently.
  7. Bake for 45 minutes or until golden brown.
  8. Cool completely before cutting.

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applesauce chocolate chip bars

This is an easy recipe to throw together, has relatively low quantities of added sugar, and gave me that first hint of fall baking.  The combination of cinnamon and nutmeg just had that “it’s not going to be summer forever” effect on me.  These bars serve well as a healthier after-school snack or lunchbox treat, or with a warm cup of coffee on a cool fall morning (winter, if you live in the desert).  Kat gave them two thumb’s up so that’s a win in the Mom Column, if you ask me.  I thought, given this recipe’s decidedly autumn-ish undertones, you could easily substitute raisins for the chocolate chips and they’d be just as tasty.  Enjoy!

applesauce chocolate chip bars

Ingredients:

  •  1/4 cup unsalted butter, softened
  • 1/2 cup light brown sugar
  • 1 large egg (may use 1/4 cup egg substitute instead)
  • 1/3 cup unsweetened applesauce
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon, divided
  • 3/4 teaspoon sugar
  • 3/4 cup flour
  • Scant 1/4 teaspoon baking soda
  • Scant 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
  • 1/3 cup semisweet chocolate chips
  • 2 tablespoons coarsely chopped walnuts or nuts of your choice (optional)

Directions:

Pre-heat the oven to 325°.

Lightly grease an 8-by-8-inch baking pan with nonstick cooking oil spray, or line the bottom of the pan with parchment paper, leaving an overhang on 2 sides for easy release after baking.Combine the shortening, brown sugar and egg in a mixing bowl until well incorporated, then add the applesauce and mix well.

Combine 1/4 teaspoon of the cinnamon and the 3/4 teaspoon of sugar in a small bowl and set aside.  Combine flour, baking soda,, salt, the remaining 1/4 teaspoon of cinnamon and the nutmeg, mixing well.   Fold flour mixture into the combined butter/sugar/egg.  Add chocolate chips (and nuts, if you choose), stirring to mix well.  Pour the batter in the prepared pan and sprinkle evenly with the cinnamon-sugar mixture.  Bake for 35 to 40 minutes, until browned or a toothpick comes out clean. 

Transfer the pan to a wire rack to cool, then run a knife around the edges and cut into bars.  If you like, wrap each bar individually and freeze, then pop a single-serving in to your kids’ lunchboxes.  It’ll be thawed and ready to enjoy by lunchtime.

old fashioned soft pumpkin cookies

You didn’t think I could give up on pumpkin recipes that easily, did you?  It’s still fall, after all, and I’m taking every advantage to bake things with pumpkin in them before our gorgeous fall/winter desert days slip away.  They’re sort of fleeting; although, as I write this, it’s a chilly (50°), blustery morning and I packed Kat off to school with her winter coat and a pair of gloves.  Perfect pumpkin weather.

We had Thanksgiving last week with some friends and one of my contributions to dinner was a traditional pumpkin pie.  I had about a cup of pumpkin left over and didn’t want it to go to waste.  Since I’m a fanatic about putting homemade baked goods in Kat’s lunchbox, I asked her to help me find a recipe for some pumpkin cookies.  Believe me, that’s no small task.  And all of them looked delicious.

She settled on this one (I think mostly because of the powdered sugar glaze), and they were hand’s down the best choice.  Although the baking portion was time-consuming (15 to 18 minutes per tray), the cookies bake up cakey and soft, and are simply delicious: a perfect treat for lunch boxes, with a cup of coffee, or, better yet…leave a few for Santa!  He’ll be eternally grateful.  The glazing was a fun activity for Kat, too.  I gave her a spoon, some simple instructions, and she had a blast flinging frosting over the cookie tops.  You could also dip the cookies in the glaze if you’re not up for the clean-up of drizzling.  Enjoy!

Old Fashioned Soft Pumpkin Cookies
 
Ingredients:

  • 2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
  • 1/2 cup butter (1 stick), softened
  • 1 cup pumpkin puree (fresh or canned)
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • Glaze (recipe follows)

 

 Directions:

 PREHEAT oven to 350° F. Grease baking sheets.

COMBINE flour, baking soda, baking powder, cinnamon, nutmeg and salt in medium mixing bowl. Beat sugar and butter in large mixing bowl until well blended. Beat in pumpkin, egg and vanilla extract until smooth. Gradually beat in flour mixture. Drop by rounded tablespoon onto prepared baking sheets.

BAKE for 15 to 18 minutes or until edges are firm. Cool on baking sheets for 2 minutes; remove to wire racks to cool completely. Drizzle Glaze over cookies.

FOR GLAZE:
COMBINE
2 cups sifted powdered sugar, 3 tablespoons milk, 1 tablespoon melted butter and 1 teaspoon vanilla extract in small bowl until smooth.