Cranberry Yogurt Oat Bars

12 Days of Cookies
– Day 8 –

I’ve been on a big oat bar kick lately. I think I like them because they can often double as a quick breakfast or afternoon snack if they’re not overly sweet. This is one such recipe, and I definitely found myself snacking on this on my way to work. It doesn’t have the sugary sweet, crisp oat crust like some of the other bars I’ve posted. Instead, the crust is soft and chewy which I enjoy because it gives it much more of a breakfast granola bar taste. I also feel like I’m once again stretching it a bit to consider this a “cookie,” but I think it could be considered a bar cookie. ;-)

You’ll likely already have a good majority of the ingredients on hand, so that’s always a plus! You could easily substitute dried cherries or probably any other dried fruit and have good results. I’m already coming up with other flavor combos in my head, so I might try this with some other dried fruits and re-post at a later point in time. :) If you do experiment with other fruit, try to find the highest quality dried fruit with as little added sugar as possible. Ideally a visit to Whole Foods or some natural market would be ideal, but I know we don’t always have that kind of disposable income. I know I don’t!

These are a very easy bar to assemble. The oat crust is quickly thrown together and mixed by hand, and then the majority of the mixture is pressed into the bottom of a pan. I used the same bowl to mix together the filling, the remaining crust is crumbled on top and then it’s baked for about 45 minutes or until the edges or golden.

I tried these about an hour after they’d cooled down and, to be honest, wasn’t impressed. The flavor was kind of lacking and I was just expecting a lot more, but I threw them in the fridge and decided I’d give them a go the next day. I was amazed how different they tasted on the 2nd day and after having been refrigerated all night. Considering the fact that these contain yogurt, I personally think it’s best they’re stored in the fridge anyway. I took them to work and had multiple compliments from coworkers. One guy actually said it was his favorite item so far, and I’ve brought in a lot of different things to sample!

If you happen to try these with any other fruit, let me know how they turn out! I’ll very likely do these again in a few weeks, so be on the lookout for another post or at least an update to this one.

Cranberry Yogurt Oat Bars

Cranberry Yogurt Oat Bars
Adapted from Cooking Light
Yield: 20 bars

Crust:
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/2 cups quick-cooking oats
2/3 cup packed brown sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
3/4 teaspoon cinnamon
1 stick butter, melted
6 Tablespoons orange juice

Filling:
1 10-ounce package dried cranberries (I used Craisins)
1 1/2 cups Greek yogurt
1 cup granulated sugar
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 orange, zested (see note)
2 egg whites, lightly beaten

1. Preheat oven to 325 degrees F (163 degrees C). Line a 13×9 pan with parchment paper, allowing it to hang over 2 sides. Spray well with cooking spray.

2. In a medium bowl, combine the flour, oats, brown sugar, salt, baking soda and cinnamon. Drizzle the butter and juice on top, and stir until mixture is well coated. Reserve 1 cup of the mixture and press the remaining mixture into the bottom of the prepared pan. Bake the crust for 10 minutes and then remove to cool.

3. In the same bowl that you made the crust, whisk together all ingredients except the cranberries. Fold in the cranberries and pour the filling on top of the cooled crust. Crumble the reserved crust mixture on top and bake for 40-50 minutes, or until the edges are golden brown.

4. Cool the bars completely on a rack before cutting them. Bars are best served cold, plus they’re easier to cut when cold. Store in the refrigerator in an airtight container for up to 4 days.


Cook’s Notes

Two oranges will yield enough juice (and then some) for this recipe, but you’ll only need the zest from one orange. Be sure to zest the orange before cutting it to extract the juice. :)

Pumpkin Cream Cheese Bars with Streusel Topping

12 Days of Cookies
– Day 4 –

One of my favorite things to eat around the holidays (and even year-round) is pumpkin. It’s so versatile and can be used in baked goods, breads, soups, etc. One of the things I love to pair with pumpkin is cream cheese. Refer to my Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Mini Cakes or Pumpkin Cinnamon Rolls with Orange Cream Cheese Icing as prime examples. Clearly I love that combo since this is now the 3rd time I’m posting those flavors together. ;-)

Another blogger I love following is Christy over at The Girl Who Ate Everything. First of all, what a genius name. haha! I definitely could apply that blog title to myself as I’ll eat nearly everything, except mushrooms. I’m sorry, I know I’m a chef and I should like them, but I don’t. I’ve tried and I just don’t.

Anyway… I had an extra cup of pumpkin puree and a block of cream cheese, so I browsed some of my favorite blogs and that’s when I ran across this recipe on Christy’s blog. I immediately knew it was what I wanted. I mean, how can you resist these?

Pumpkin Cream Cheese Bars

Admittedly, they’re definitely more a cake than a cookie, but I really like how they’re served in bar-form and so we’re going to consider these a bar cookie… even though it’s cake. Just go with it, people. :)

Once again, this is a very simple recipe. You cream together the ingredients for the cheesecake and set aside. The pumpkin cake is then mixed by hand and the two mixtures are swirled together. Christy suggests sprinkling chopped pecans on the top of the bars before baking. I decided to put a streusel topping instead because I just love that taste and texture. If you don’t want to mess with streusel topping, you can just do nuts. If you don’t want/like nuts, leave them both off and I guarantee you these will still taste amazing! They’re super moist, have a very nice spice flavor and will surely please a crowd. Enjoy!

Pumpkin Cream Cheese Bars with Streusel Topping
Adapted from The Girl Who Ate Everything
Yield: 16-20 bars

Filling:
1 (8-oz.) package cream cheese, softened
1/4 cup sugar
1 egg
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

Batter:
1 cup canned pumpkin puree
1 cup sugar
1 egg
1/3 cup vegetable oil
1 cup all-purpose flour
1 1/2 teaspoons pumpkin pie spice (see note)
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt

Streusel Topping:
1/2 cup brown sugar
3 Tablespoons all-purpose flour
2 Tablespoons oats (quick or old-fashioned)
2 Tablespoons butter, cold and cubed
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees F (218 degrees C). Spray and line a 9×13 pan with parchment paper. Set aside.

2. Using a mixer, cream together the cream cheese, sugar, egg and vanilla until smooth; set aside.

3. In a medium mixing bowl, combine the pumpkin, sugar, egg and oil; whisk together until well combined. Stir in the flour, pumpkin pie spice, baking powder, baking soda and salt.

4. Spread half the pumpkin batter in the bottom of the pan. Drop spoonfuls of the cream cheese mixture on top of that. Drop the remaining pumpkin mixture by spoonfuls on top of that. Using a skewer, chopstick or something of that nature, swirl the ingredients together. My method of swirling is simply running a skewer in large “S” formation from one end to the other. Rotate the pan 90 degrees and do the same again.

5. Combine the ingredients for the streusel topping using a pastry cutter or your fingers. Sprinkle it on top of the bars.

6. Bake in the preheated oven for 25-30 minutes, rotating halfway through baking, or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. You do not want the cheesecake layer getting too much color, so be sure not to over bake.

7. Cool completely before cutting into bars. Store in the refrigerator for up to 3-4 days.


Cook’s Notes

If you do not have pumpkin pie spice and are like me and have a cupboard full of many other random spices, you can make your own. For this recipe you’ll need the following:

3/4 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon ginger
1/8 teaspoon allspice

Apple Crisp Bars

I subscribe to a lot of food-related blogs, websites and various other “Recipe of the Day”-type subscriptions. The other day I received an email for these apple crisp bars and I just knew I needed to make them! First of all, they contain apples, and there’s nothing more that I want this time of year than warm apple pie. Secondly, the Raspberry Oat Bars were such a success and so I was anxious to try another similar bar recipe for comparison’s sake.

Apple Crisp Bars

These bars are a nice improvement from the raspberry bars in that they stay crisp longer. The topping does get a little soggy after one day, but the base stays nice and crispy like a Nature Valley granola bar. Even after 2 days the base was crispy and firm.

The best part about these is you can make them in one bowl. Other than removing some of the topping for the top, it’s all prepared in the pan itself. The original recipe did not say to toss the apples in a bowl with the sugar, cinnamon and lemon. It actually says to just sprinkle it over the apples in the pan. I wanted to ensure they were coated, though, so that’s why I recommend everything is tossed together in a bowl. If you really want to dirty up as few dishes as possible, though, just layer and sprinkle. :)

The bars are awesome warm, room temp, cold or even with a nice dollop of whipped cream or, dare I say, vanilla ice cream. :) Enjoy!

Apple Crisp Bars
Adapted from “One Bowl Baking” by Yvonne Ruperti
Yield: 12-16 bars

3 cups old-fashioned oats
1 3/4 cups whole-wheat pastry flour (See note)
1 1/2 cups packed light-brown sugar
2 teaspoons cinnamon
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
2 1/4 sticks (9 oz.) unsalted butter, melted
2 pounds Granny Smith apples, peeled, cored, halved and thinly sliced
1 Tablespoon granulated sugar
1 Tablespoon fresh lemon juice (from about 1/2 lemon)

1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees F (218 degrees C) and line a 13×9 inch pan with parchment paper.

2. In the baking pan, combine the oats, flour, brown sugar, 1 1/2 teaspoons of cinnamon, salt and baking soda. Add the butter and stir until combined. Remove 2 cups of the crumbs from the pan and set aside. Firmly press the remaining mixture into the bottom of the pan.

3. In a medium bowl, toss the apple slices with the 1 Tablespoon sugar, lemon juice and remaining 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon. Spread the apples on top of the crust and sprinkle the reserved oat mixture on top.

4. Cover the pan tightly with foil and bake for 30 minutes to begin softening the apples. Remove the foil and bake for 20 minutes longer, or until the oat topping is golden and the apples are completely tender. Cool on a wire rack and then cut into bars.


Cook’s Notes

I did not have whole-wheat pastry flour on hand, so I just used all-purpose flour and they turned out great.

Raspberry Oat Bars

I was apparently on a Smitten Kitchen kick last weekend as I made yet another recipe from her blog. This recipe actually comes from the cookbook Baked: New Frontiers in Baking. I’ve had that cookbook in my amazon wishlist for at least 3 years, and this week I decided to finally purchase it. You see, I have easily 4+ dozen cookbooks and this is after selling a dozen or so back to Half Price Books 2 months ago!

I love my cookbooks. I’m not a big collector of items (although some would beg to differ that I like to collect shoes), but cookbooks are definitely an item I like to collect. I’m just so bad about actually utilizing them! I’ll flip through the book immediately upon purchasing it, drool all over the pages and make mental notes of all the things I want to make. Sadly, the book then makes its way to my bookshelf (which is now packed to its maximum capacity), and it rarely gets looked at again. :-( This also applies to my Bon Appétit and Food & Wine magazines. *sigh*

I blame this partly on the fact that the web is jam-packed full of great recipes (a lot of which are pulled from said cookbooks/magazines), so the advent of food blogs has kind of taken some of the work out for me. I can rely on fellow food bloggers to try the recipes first, report back to me (and millions of other people) and then I can decide if I really want to try that recipe.

Regardless, I’ve decided I’m going to make it one of my personal goals to not allow this to happen and to actually use my cookbooks as frequently as possible. A shocking and new concept, I know. A lot of it stems from my 2013 resolution to de-clutter my mind and my home. I figure it’s kinda silly to have all these objects in my house if I’m not really using them. So while they look all pretty and fancy on my bookshelf (and make me look like a pro in the kitchen), they’re really just taking up room. Ok, enough about that. Let’s move on to the yummy recipe.

My local Sprouts store had berries on sale 3/$5, so I knew I needed to take advantage of that sale! I quickly snatched up some raspberries and got to work on making these:

Raspberry Breakfast Bars

Yes, I assure you, they taste as good as they look!! The base crust is similar to a Nature Valley Granola Bar, except it’s not so hard that it cuts the roof of your mouth (am I the only one with that problem?). The filling is tart and bursting with berry flavor. Overall, it’s the perfect symbiosis of sweet and sour with a touch of cinnamon (i.e. Heaven).

Now, I would never lead you all astray and so I’ll be honest with you – these bars got really soggy on me the 2nd day. :-( Not at all what I was expecting!! Upon reading through the reviews at Smitten Kitchen, it appears many others had the same issue. I’m betting even more did as well and they either didn’t care or posted their comments on day 1 when the bars were still crisp. Either way, I loved the flavor of these so much that I’m still going to post the recipe, and I promise you all before summer’s end that I will do another test batch with some tweaks to see if I can lengthen the shelf life of these wonderfully perfect bars.

Raspberry Oat Bars
Adapted from Smitten Kitchen and Baked: New Frontiers in Baking

Yields: 30 bars (or more/less depending on the size you cut them)

Crust and Crumb:
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 cup firmly packed dark brown sugar*
1 1/4 cups rolled oats*
3/4 teaspoon salt
3/4 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
3/4 cup (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, cut into 1-inch pieces

Raspberry Filling:
1/4 cup firmly packed dark brown sugar
1 tablespoon grated lemon zest
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour*
1 pound raspberries, fresh or frozen
1/4 cup fresh lemon juice
2 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted and cooled

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (176 degrees C). Grease a 9×13 inch pan and line with parchment paper, allowing the parchment to overhang on the sides to assist with later removal.

2. Combine the flour, brown sugar, oats, salt, baking powder, baking soda and cinnamon in a food processor. Pulse in short bursts until combined. Add the cold butter and pulse until loose crumbs form. Reserve 1 1/2 cups of the mixture and set aside.

3. Put the rest of the mixture into the prepared pan and press down to form an even layer. Be sure to completely cover the pan from side to side. Bake the crust until golden brown, 12 to 15 minutes. Transfer to a wire rack and let cool.

4. Place raspberries, sugar, lemon zest, cinnamon and flour in a bowl and toss gently to coat the berries. (Note: Immediately toss together or else the flour might form little “dough balls.”)

5. Spread the raspberry filling on top of the cooled crust and sprinkle the reserved crust mixture evenly on top of the filling. Bake for 35-45 minutes, rotating the pan every 15 minutes, until the top is golden brown and the filling starts to bubble around the edges. (Note: This took closer to 60 mins for me.) Transfer to a wire rack to cool. Be sure bars have cooled completely before cutting. The bars can be stored in the refrigerator in an airtight container for up to two days. (See note above in my intro about the shelf life.)


Cook’s Notes

1. I don’t use dark brown sugar often as it can produce a darker-colored product than I desire, but in this recipe I highly recommend using it! If you prefer light and don’t want to purchase a whole bag of dark brown sugar, you can just add a few teaspoons of molasses to get the same flavor.

2. I used quick oats for the crust/crumb, but next time I’m going to try old-fashioned to see if that helps.

3. I plan on substituting 2 Tablespoons of cornstarch for flour in the filling. Cornstarch stabilizes better and absorbs moisture better than flour.

Peach Blueberry Crumb Bars

So I’m admittedly a bit of a food blog stalker. I have a few sites that I have to look at almost daily because they continue to inspire me, both with their tasty recipes and their beautiful photographs. One such site is Smitten Kitchen. Deb is amazing. She doesn’t know I feel this way, but I have a secret girl-crush on her. Her style of cooking very closely resembles that of mine. It can range from something fresh and healthy to something downright full of fat, calories and awesomeness.

What I really love about her style, though, is that she’s very seasonal with her recipes. She utilizes what is fresh and often available at the local farmer’s market. If you haven’t seen her page yet (which would shock me), go check it out immediately! Trust me, you’ll become obsessed like I did a few years ago. P.S. You can also check out her book on amazon.com.

As a quick side note, you can always click on my pictures to see the full-size versions at my flickr account. I kinda plan on using flickr, along with my instagram account (username: remotecontrolproof), as previews for what’s to come on the blog. (*hint, hint*)

Now it’s time for this…

Peach Blueberry Crumb Bars

Oh yes… You’re going to love them.

Peach Blueberry Crumb Bars
Peach Blueberry Crumb Bars

^^ Crumb mixture before and after.

Peach Blueberry Crumb Bars

Peaches and blueberries seriously have to be one of my most favorite flavor combinations ever.

Peach Blueberry Crumb Bars

Peach Blueberry Crumb Bars
Adapted from Smitten Kitchen’s recipe for Blueberry Crumb Bars, which is apparently adapted from here.

Yields: 30 bars (or more/less depending on the size you cut them)

Crumb Mixture:
1 cup white sugar
3 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 sticks cold unsalted butter, cubed
1 egg, lightly beaten

Filling:
3 cups peaches, chopped (I leave the skin on)
1 cup blueberries (preferably fresh)
1/4 cup white sugar
1/4 cup dark brown sugar
4 teaspoons cornstarch
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
Zest and juice of half an orange

1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees F (190 degrees C). Grease a 9×13 inch pan and line with parchment paper.

2. In a medium bowl, combine the sugar, flour, baking powder and salt. Using a fork, pastry cutter or your fingers, cut in the cold butter and egg until the mixture is crumbly and resembles a coarse meal. Pat half of the mixture into the prepared pan and set the other half aside for the topping.

3. In another bowl, add the peaches and blueberries. Sprinkle the sugars, cornstarch, cinnamon, orange zest and orange juice on top. Gently fold to coat the fruit. Sprinkle the fruit mixture evenly over the crust, and crumble the remaining dough on top of the fruit.

4. Bake in preheated oven for 45-55 minutes or until top is lightly golden brown. Cool completely and then cut into your desired bar size.

Cook’s Notes

These bars got a little soft the next day which wasn’t exactly a bad thing, but on Deb’s site there were a few recommendations that you might try if you really want these to stay more crisp. I personally didn’t mind the softness at all. They were just as tasty the second day, if not more, than they were the first day. Again, I personally didn’t mind it all, and besides, the juices are the best part!

1. Increase cornstarch to 5-6 teaspoons; or

2. Drain the liquid from the fruit before putting on the crust; or

3. Use fresh blueberries. If you’re using frozen, some people suggested thawing them out first and draining off the liquid.