Andreae Prozesky breaks out the super mega awesome fruit bars.
I know that I’ve been churning out a lot of wholesome-snackey-bakedgoody recipes these days. I’ve got a couple reasons.
First, it’s getting colder out there, and that just makes me want to bake nicely spiced, warm-you-through cakes and cookies and bars and such. Change of seasons and all that. I live in a virtually un-heat-able old house, and having the oven on means that at least one room feels cozy.
Second, I have a school-age youngster, and if I send her off to school with some store-bought snack full of high-fructose corn syrup and artificial flavour, she’ll be totally wired from recess until dismissal, and it’ll be one of those “bad listening days” where I have to give her a talking-to about her behaviour, knowing all the while that it’s my own stupid fault for sending her to school with the chocolate-dipped, marshmallow-studded granola bar in the first place. Hardly seems right to discipline a five-year-old when I’m the one who’s supplied the ammo for her kindergartenly defiance. As a result, I’ve been inventing snacks that she can take with her and that she’ll actually enjoy. I’m pretty sure that the window of time during which she believes me when I say that homemade is better than store-bought is swiftly closing, and I’m trying to get as much good snacking in as I can before the grocery-aisle fights begin.
On top of it all, I’m in new-mom mode, and I need to snack endlessly, packing as many nutrients into my snacks as I can. Anything that can be eaten with one hand earns bonus points in my book. When my first child was born, I was totally unprepared for the non-stop snacking (who knew that breastfeeding would make a gal so hungry?), and I spent my days hovering over the toaster oven, waiting for fish sticks to emerge so that I could eat them, one-handed, with a baby in my left arm and a look of unmet nutritional neediness on my face. Sad times that I’d just as soon not repeat.
You can conjure up plenty of excuses for reaching for a dodgy, pre-packaged “power bar”: being a mom, being a little kid, biking to class, hiking through the local autumn foliage (there’s nothing lovelier than blueberry bushes gone red), shopping for boots, putting up your storm windows, walking uphill, simply being awake… But a quick glance at the ingredients of those bars will reveal that any burst of power you might feel will be followed by a crash as the sugar wears off and the soy derivatives have their way with you. Those bars are not going to help you get through the long, busy day.
No, what you need now is something full of fruit for fast-acting energy, whole grains to keep you chugging along without falling off an emotional cliff, a bit of honey for minerals, and, if children are meant to be enticed, a handful of sweet somethings scattered through. I usually make these with apple butter, after I made a ton of it from local apples last year. Applesauce is easier to come by though, and even the unsweetened kind is plenty sweet, if you ask me.
The raisins and apricots in this recipe could be swapped for any other dried fruit. Chopped dried apples and figs would be lovely, or you could use dates or prunes (which, you may have noticed, are often called “dried plums” these days, I guess because “prune” has some kind of unpleasant connotation). You could glam them up with dried cherries if you like, or go festive with some dried cranberries. If you wanted to add some flaked almonds, that would be lovely too. In fact, you might as well replace the flour altogether and use ground almonds instead. The resulting bars would be a little denser and less cakey—more like the power bars you can get in the store.
The only reason I held back on the nuts is because they’re banned in a lot of schools due to allergies, and when I was developing the recipe I wasn’t sure if my daughter would be allowed to bring nutty foods to school or not. Coconut is a member of the palm family and is unrelated to tree nuts, so it’s generally considered safe even for kids with tree nut allergies.
You’ll see that I’ve included carob chips in the recipe. I would never expect carob to stand in for chocolate. Decent chocolate is perfectly good for you, and I think it’s awful to ask carob to try to be something it’s not. In this case, though, carob’s subtle, earthy spiciness complements the cinnamon and fruit deliciously. I’ve made these with sort of trashy-ish butterscotch-flavoured chips, too, and they’re pretty yummy. Not the most nutritionally sound, mind you, but then again, a bit of trashiness won’t do too much damage when it’s wrapped in whole grains and fruit.
Applesauce fruit bars
½ cup large flake (sometimes called “old-fashioned”) oatmeal
½ cup rye flakes (I got mine at the Bulk Barn)
½ cup milk
¼ cup canola oil
¼ cup honey
2 eggs, beaten
½ cup unsweetened applesauce
½ cup whole wheat or whole spelt flour
2 tablespoons ground flax
¼ cup raisins
¼ cup chopped dried apricots
¼ cup unsweetened shredded coconut
¼ cup carob chips
1 teaspoon cinnamon
½ teaspoon baking soda
Line a 9-inch square pan with parchment paper. Preheat oven to 350F.
Combine oats and rye with milk and let sit a moment. In a small bowl, mix oil, honey, eggs, and applesauce, and add to oat mixture. In a large bowl, combine everything else (flour through baking soda). Add this mixture to the wet ingredients and fold until thoroughly mixed.
Pour batter into prepared pan and bake about 25 minutes, until a cake tester comes out clean. Remove slab o’bars from pan and cool on a rack. Slice and enjoy.
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