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July 18, 2016

oatmeal berry bars (vegan; can be gluten-free).

Looking for the perfect breakfast item or healthy summer dessert? These berry oatmeal bars can serve as both. There is zero fat (no oil, butter, or eggs), but enough ingredients to keep these bars extremely moist and also satisfyingly delicious.

These bars are actually sort of like baked oatmeal bars - I've never made baked oatmeal, because I always thought it would be really dry and flavorless. But when you put 3 cups of rolled oats into bar form with a jammy fresh berry layer - totally different.

I will say - these bars aren't very crunchy. Even the top (which I top with some oil or melted ghee/butter sometimes) doesn't get that crunchy. This is because there is literally no fat in the oatmeal mixture - it's held together by the grace of applesauce! Or plain pumpkin puree, should you be brave enough to try that (I have - and although the oats turn orange, it's really good! And probably healthier than applesauce).

I used a combination of chopped fresh strawberries and frozen blackberries. I never use frozen fruits/veggies, but frozen berries worked perfectly in this case. I didn't even chop the blackberries - just mashed them in the pan, with the back of my wooden spoon.

The banana is added for sweetness - don't worry, I never get any banana flavor. The berries are all I ever taste or notice. In fact, every time I make this recipe, I forget I even need a banana. However, you can use a lot less sugar if you use a very ripe banana.

Oatmeal Berry Bars
slightly adapted from here. You can use any kinds of berries! 

Berry Filling
  • 1 cup fresh strawberries, washed and chopped
  • 1 cup blackberries or blueberries, washed
  • 1 ripe banana (perfect for that banana that's completely darkened)
  • 1/4 cup maple syrup, honey, or brown sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1/2 Tablespoon cornstarch
  • OPTIONAL: 1 Tablespoon flax 
Oatmeal portion
  • 3 cups oats (rolled or quick-cooking, doesn't matter)
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1.5 teaspoons (or 1/2 Tablespoon) baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 3/4 cup applesauce, or pumpkin puree (oats will be orange tinted)
  • 1/4 cup maple syrup, honey, or brown sugar
  • 1/4 cup + 2 Tablespoons almond milk
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • OPTIONAL: 1-2 Tablespoons oil, melted butter or ghee
  1. Berry Filling: Chop banana finely. Chop berries roughly. Add berries, banana, and 1/4 cup maple syrup to a saucepan. Heat till it starts boiling, and then turn off heat. Stir in cornstarch and vanilla.
  2. Oatmeal portion: Grind 2.5 cups of oats in a food processor until it becomes oat flour - this should happen pretty quickly. Mix oat flour, remaining 1/2 cup of oats, cinnamon, baking powder, and salt in a bowl. Set aside.
  3. In a large bowl, mix applesauce, maple syrup/honey, milk, and vanilla. Add oil if using.
  4. Add dry ingredients to wet mixture. Stir until combined. Transfer 2/3 of the batter into a greased 8 inch square pan. Glass pans work best. Spread berry mixture over this. Clump remaining oat mixture with hands and place over the berry filling.
  5. Bake for about 30 minutes at 375 degrees F. The top oat layer should feel slightly toasted. Cool for about 30 minutes before slicing. They also taste very good cold. (If like me, you can't wait and must try it 10 mins after removing from oven, just be wary of the hot sugar from the berry filling!)

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