Green Pepper and Sausage Hash Browns

FullSizeRender-2Sometimes you just gotta keep it simple. Like doctoring up a package of Simply Potatoes plain shredded hash browns with a couple vegetables, and some meat, and calling it a done! My friend Marylee put me onto this brunch or brinner (breakfast for dinner…) side dish, and we love it for a quick after-church-on-Sunday meal with some cheesy scrambled eggs and fruit. You can use half a Kielbasa sausage ring, or a couple links of Andouille—anything will do, as long as it’s meaty and chock full of flavor. Just make sure you grab your biggest skillet or griddle to give the potatoes a chance to brown up nice and crispy. The more surface area, the better!

Serves 4-6

2 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 large yellow onion, chopped
1 green pepper, chopped
1 (20-ounce) package Simply Potatoes shredded hash browns
½ of a Kielbasa sausage ring, chopped into bite-sized pieces

Heat oil on high in large skillet or griddle. Add onion, and cook until translucent. Add green peppers, and sauté and stir for a minute. Add hash browns, let sit to brown for a bit, then use large spatula to flip sections of browned potatoes over, and stir until most of potatoes are golden. Add in sausage, and continue to cook and stir until potatoes are desired crispiness. Serve.

Strawberry Rhubarb Oat Bars

The sweet-tart combo of strawberries and rhubarb is to die for, in my humble opinion. And since my rhubarb is threatening to take over the world this spring, I’m trying to find new and creative ways to use it up. When I saw a recipe on Better Homes & Garden’s website for bars using my favorite fruit duo, I said, “I’m in!” Then once I started perusing the recipe, I realized 1) the pan/batch was waaaaaaay too small to serve my family or co-workers, and 2) it looked strikingly similar to my blueberry breakfast bars previously posted! (Which DOES make a large enough batch to serve my family or co-workers…)

So I kinda combined my blueberry bar recipe with the BH&G recipe, and I think we’ve got us a winner here, people! Rhubarb is a little more finicky fruit than the berries, though. So it took a little trial and error to get it simmered the right length of time, and make sure the sugar ratio was on point. Now I’ve done all the heavy lifting for you. All you have to do is bake up a batch!

Makes 15 bars

2 cups old-fashioned rolled oats
1½ cups all-purpose flour*
¾ cup firmly-packed dark brown sugar
½ teaspoon baking soda
½ teaspoon cinnamon
¼ teaspoon salt
¾ cup butter, melted
3 cups chopped rhubarb
1 cup granulated sugar
¼ cup water
½ teaspoon ground ginger
3 cups sliced fresh strawberries
1 tablespoon cornstarch
1 tablespoon water

Preheat oven to 350° Fahrenheit. Grease an 11″x17″ pan with butter and set aside. In large bowl, combine oats, flour, brown sugar, baking soda, cinnamon, and salt. Stir to combine. Add melted butter and stir until all of oat mixture is combined with butter. Reserve 1 cup of the mixture and set aside. Press remaining oat mixture in bottom of prepared baking dish. Bake for 10 minutes. Remove from oven.

While crust is baking, combine rhubarb, granulated sugar, water, and ginger in large saucepan and heat on high. Once mixture starts to boil, turn to medium and simmer for 8-10 minutes, stirring occasionally. Rhubarb should start breaking up, and it should thicken up. Add strawberries and return heat to high. Once it starts to boil again, turn down to medium and simmer for 3-5 minutes. In small bowl or cup, combine cornstarch and water. Drizzle in to rhubarb and strawberries and stir until mixture thickens up a bit. Pour on top of baked crust and sprinkle with reserved oat crumbs. Bake for additional 30** minutes. Let cool completely before cutting into bars.

*NOTE: I’ve started using Costco’s Ultragrain flour, which is a non-GMO flour and may be tolerable to those who are sensitive to gluten. But it’s not for those with celiac disease!

**Next time I make these, I may try baking these 40 minutes once crust is topped with fruit. Rhubarb seems to require a longer baking time than berries, peaches, pears, etc. I was concerned about the top burning if I did them longer than 30 minutes, but I think they would have been fine.

Hot Cross Buns

FullSizeRender“One a penny, two a penny, hot cross buns…” If that nursery rhyme song is your only exposure to these Easter treats, you may want to try kneading up a batch and see what everyone was singing about back in the 18th Century. This recipe isn’t quite so ancient—it came from Better Homes & Gardens New Cookbook, circa 1996.

The buns are marked with a cross as a symbol of Christ’s crucifixion, and the spices represent His embalming at burial. And as with anything with a religious bent, there’s a long, controversial history with these treats which were traditionally eaten on Good Friday to signify the end of Lent. Queen Elizabeth I, being a total killjoy, banned the sale of hot cross buns expect on Good Friday or Christmas, with punishments for ignoring her decree. Not exactly sure why they were banned…

There are other stories circulating, but they all kind of make you wonder what the fuss is about. These buns were good, but not to die for. (No Easter pun intended!)  I had trouble finding the candied diced orange peel, and ended up “shopping” in my friend Karin’s kitchen when it wasn’t in any of my area grocery stores. She had some buried in her freezer from Christmas. I wouldn’t bother hunting so extensively for this ingredient again, as it makes the bread a bit bitter. 

So why was I so desperate to make these? My sister Susan wanted to serve them for her book club babes since hot cross buns were mentioned in their selection this month. But when she looked up a recipe and saw that scary word “yeast” she called to see if I’d make them. Handy to have a food-blogging sister looking for excuses to try new recipes, isn’t it! (But yeast dough really shouldn’t be so scary, people…) I may have accidentally put a cup too much flour in these, because they were the stiffest little buns (insert joke here) I have ever made. I think the baked dough is supposed to be more light and fluffy. I may try them again, because the sweet bread with spices and currants held promise for being a pleasant pastry.

Makes 20-24 buns

4 to 4½ cups all-purpose flour
2½ active dry yeast
¾ teaspoon ground cinnamon
¼ teaspoon ground nutmeg
Dash ground cloves
¾ cup milk
½ cup butter
1/3 cup granulated sugar
½ teaspoon salt
3 eggs (room temperature—and yes you need to do this!)
2/3 cup currants
¼ cup diced candied orange peel (optional)
1 beaten egg white plus 1 tablespoon water

Powdered Sugar Icing

1 cup powdered sugar
1-2 tablespoon milk or orange juice
¼ teaspoon vanilla

In a large mixing bowl, combine 2 cups flour, dry yeast, cinnamon, nutmeg, and cloves. In a sauce pan, heat and stir milk, butter, sugar, and salt until butter is almost all melted. Add milk mixture to dry ingredients and stir. Add eggs one at a time, beating on low after each addition. Beat on high for 3 minutes. Add currants, and 1 cup of flour. Add flour in 1/2 cup amounts until dough no longer sticks to sides of bowl.

Turn dough onto lightly floured surface. Knead until moderately soft and elastic, about 3-5 minutes. Shape into a ball and place in greased bowl, turning once to coat. Cover with damp kitchen towel and let rise in warm place until doubled in size, about 1½ hours.

Preheat oven to 375° Fahrenheit. Punch dough down. Turn onto floured surface. Cover with dry kitchen towel and let rest 10 minutes. Divide into 20-24 pieces and shape each into a smooth ball. Place balls on greased baking sheet, a few inches apart. Cover with dry kitchen towel and let rise until nearly doubled, 45-60 minutes.

While dough is rising or baking, make frosting. Combine powdered sugar, 1 tablespoon milk, and vanilla and beat with whisk attachment. Add more milk if needed to make frosting thin enough to drizzle.

Using a sharp (serrated works best!) knife, make crisscross slashes across the top of each bun. In a small bowl, combine egg white and water. Brush across top of each bun. Bake in preheated oven for 12-15 minutes, or until golden brown. Cool slightly. Drizzle frosting into slashes in buns to form a cross. Serve warm, or cool completely and store in airtight container.

Sausage Mushroom Egg Bake

unnamedGood egg bake” is often an oxymoron, but this recipe with sausage, mushrooms and roasted red peppers isn’t the usual tasteless mush served at potlucks across the Heartland. I found this recipe called “Patsy’s Egg Casserole” on the Midwest Living website when I was looking for brunch recipes to serve at my son Mitchell’s high school graduation open house a few years ago (a tradition unique to Minnesota, I hear). My mother, sister Susan, and a couple friends all made a pan or two of this and the bacon/asparagus variation, and every single dish was delicious! It’s truly a fool-proof recipethere were no differences in outcome between cooks. You could even say this is Judy easy! (For my sister Judy who doesn’t love cooking like I do…)

My trick to keep it from slipping into soggy, is to use french bread loaves instead of a sliced loaf of white bread. French bread is stiffer, and the fact that it has more crust helps too. The other reason I love this recipe, is that there’s no butter in it. Not that I have anything against butter—it’s often a staple ingredient in my recipes!—but I’ve had so many egg bakes that were positively swimming in melted butter, and that’s just diary overkill. 

Just made this recipe for a birthday brunch for my daughter-in-law Jessica, and we all remembered how much we liked it, so I thought it was about time to post this breakfast, brunch, or brinner winner. My husband loves it so much, that the first words out of his mouth this morning were, “Is there anymore of that egg bake left?” Good morning to you too, sweetheart.

Serves 6-8

1 pound uncooked Italian sausage or ground pork
2 cups (8 ounces) fresh cremini or button mushrooms, rinsed and sliced
1 (8 ounce) jar roasted red peppers, drained and chopped
8 cups cubed French bread
2-3 cups shredded cheddar cheese
8 eggs
3 cups milk
1½ teaspoons dry mustard
½ teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon cayenne pepper

Lightly coat a 9″x13″ baking dish with cooking spray. Set aside. In a large skillet, cook sausage and mushrooms on high until sausage is no longer pink. Drain off fat and extra moisture. Stir red peppers into mix and set aside. Place half of the bread cubes in prepared baking dish. Top with half of the sausage mixture, and half of the cheese. Repeat with remaining bread, sausage mixture, and cheese.

In a large mixing bowl, beat eggs with whisk attachment. Slowly pour in milk and whisk again. Sprinkle dry mustard, salt, and cayenne over eggs and milk, and beat one last time to combine. Carefully pour egg mixture over the layered bread mixture in dish. Gently press down the bread using the back of a large serving spoon to get it to absorb some of the egg and milk. Cover and chill for at least 2 hours or up to 24. (NOTE: The beauty of this recipe is that you can make it ahead! I love to make this the night before serving. Quick and easy party the next day…)

Preheat oven to 325° Fahrenheit. Bake uncovered for 50-60 minutes, or until skewer inserted in center comes out clean. Let stand for 10 minutes before serving.

BACON AND ASPARAGUS EGG BAKE VARIATION

Prepare as above, except replace sausage with 8 strips of crisp-cooked bacon. Cool bacon, and crumble or chop. Replace mushrooms with one bundle of fresh asparagus. Cut asparagus into bit-sized pieces (snapping off tough ends), and drop into salted boiling water for 1-2 minutes. Drain asparagus, then toss in bowl with bacon and chopped roasted red peppers. Use 2-3 cups shredded Swiss cheese instead of cheddar cheese.

Raspberry Wine Bread

FullSizeRender-1This sweet bread with a raspberry filling and cream cheese frosting is an absolute favorite with my current (but soon to be former!) co-workers. These are best for brunch, or as a treat with a cup of coffee or tea. Since it tastes similar to a Swedish kringle, I’m not sure why this is called “wine bread,” as there is no wine used in the recipe. Does it go great with a glass of red or white? I don’t know. All I know is that I’ve been making this recipe for years, ever since it was given to me by my host mom during a Bethel College women’s choir tour. Maybe it was the break from church basement potlucks featuring red Kool-Aid and green Jell-O that made this treat especially delightful, or maybe it was the thoughtfulness of the South Dakota mom who made the effort to go beyond chocolate chip cookies to welcome her guests. In hindsight, I think the poor woman was a little shocked that a skinny little college girl (this was a while ago…), could down as many of these delicious treats as I did. She simply had to share the recipe so I could get my fix once I got home. She sure didn’t want me stalking her for more.

Don’t let the fact that there’s yeast in the recipe scare you. This is one of the easier yeast dough’s to make, as all the eggs and butter make it very pliable. I’ve included photos below of how to roll out and assemble, in case my descriptions don’t make sense. Then once you’ve tried it, give me YOUR opinion of how it got it’s name.

Makes 4 pastries, each one yielding about 8 pieces

For pastry:
1 cup butter (2 sticks)
3 tablespoons granulated sugar
1 teaspoon salt
2½ teaspoons dry yeast
4 cups all-purpose flour, divided
2 eggs, room temperature
1 cup milk
Raspberry pie filling *

For frosting:
8 ounces cream cheese, room temperature
1½ cups powdered sugar
¼-1/3 cup milk
1 teaspoon almond extract
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Garnish:
Sliced almonds

In small sauce pan, melt butter. Stir in sugar and salt, and stir until they are dissolved. Let cool to lukewarm. Pour into mixing bowl; fit mixer with dough hook. Sprinkle yeast on top of butter mixture. Mix eggs in small bowl, then add to butter and yeast in bowl, along with 1 cup of the flour. Stir to combine. Add milk and the rest of the flour all at once, and turn mixer on second to lowest setting. Stir until dough clings to dough hook, and no bits remain on outside of the bowl. Cover dough with plastic wrap, tucking it right on top of dough ball. Chill at least 15 minutes, or up to 3 hours.

Preheat oven to 350° Fahrenheit. Divide chilled dough into 4 equal parts. Sprinkle cutting board with flour and drop one section of dough onto surface, and knead into a ball. Sprinkle a little flour on top. Roll out with rolling pin to about ¼” thickness. Transfer to a baking sheet. (You will need 2 baking sheets for the 4 pastries.) Spread one-quarter of the raspberry filling down middle section of the dough, then fold 1/3 over from each side on top of filling. Repeat process with other three sections of dough to form the rest of the pastries.

Bake for 20 minutes. Remove from oven and place each pastry on a cooling rack. Cool for about 30-60 minutes. Then make frosting. Place cream cheese in smaller mixing bowl, then add powdered sugar and cream thoroughly. Gradually add ¼ cup milk, and both extracts. If frosting is not thin enough to drizzle on pastry, add more milk. Drizzle or spread onto cooled dough, then sprinkle sliced almonds on top. To serve, slice into 1-2 inch wide strips. Store any remaining pastries in an airtight containers.

*NOTE: While I prefer raspberry pie filling for this recipe, you can also use blueberry or peach. I’ve made this with all those flavors, but usually raspberry is the fan favorite.

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Sausage, Apple, and Acorn Squash Casserole with Egg

IMG_1507Are you a serial cereal eater? Is it hard to imagine starting your day without your oatmeal or O’s? I didn’t think I could have energy for the day without my morning oatmeal, and that was the scary part of going Whole30 for me. But then I was paging through the Whole30 book and found this gem under “Fancypants Meals,” intended for part of a holiday dinner. It had a list of ingredients I love: portabella mushrooms, apple, acorn squash, and pepitas (pumpkin seeds), so I made it for supper one night to go with our grilled meat and roasted veggies. The next morning, I pulled out the leftovers for breakfast, heated a small plate of it in the microwave, and topped it with an over-easy egg. It’s become my new favorite breakfast! How did I exist on gruel all these years, like some middle-class, middle-aged Oliver Twist?

Serves 4-6

For sausage:
1 tablespoon ghee (or other Whole30 approved cooking fat)
½ of 1 yellow or white onion, minced
1 pound ground pork
½ teaspoon dried sage
½ teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon coarse ground black pepper
¼ teaspoon garlic powder

For casserole:
1 tablespoon ghee (or other Whole30 approved cooking fat)
1 acorn squash, peeled, seeded, and diced
1 (10-ounce) container of baby bella (crimini) mushrooms, sliced
1 apple, peeled and diced
1 teaspoon dried sage
½ teaspoon thyme
½ teaspoon ground rosemary
¼ cup pepitas or chopped pecans
Salt and coarse ground black pepper

For breakfast:
1-2 eggs

Preheat oven to 375°. Heat large frying pan on medium-high heat, and add ghee. Add ground pork and seasonings from sage to garlic powder, and stir and cook until pork is no longer pink. Add another tablespoon of ghee, and squash, mushrooms, and apple. Cook until fork-tender, about 5 minutes. Add the seasonings* and pepitas or nuts and transfer to a 9″x12″ glass baking or 2-quart casserole dish. Roast for 10-15 minutes. Add salt and pepper to taste. Serve as side dish for dinner, or cool, then transfer to a airtight container and refrigerate.

For breakfast, ladle a generous cup of casserole onto microwave-safe plate. Heat on high for 1 minute. While casserole is heating, fry up 1-2 eggs in a teaspoon of ghee, sunny side up, or over easy. Place egg on top of sausage casserole and sprinkle with salt and pepper.

NOTE: The Whole30 recipe used poultry seasoning, which I did not have on hand, so I used sage, rosemary, and thyme. (I didn’t add parsley, as I wasn’t in the mood for a Simon & Garfunkel song. Wait for it…wait for it…got it?) The book also suggested using ground turkey or chicken as well as the pork, but I felt the pork paired best with the mushrooms in this dish. They also made their sausage into patties, and then broke them up into bits for this dish. I’ve changed that process to cook the pork, and then continue on with the rest of the recipe in the same pan.

Jorunn’s Hearty Flatbread

FullSizeRender-3It was worth the trip to Norway, just to have a piece of this awesome flatbread made by my cousin’s wife, Jorunn. She’s a retired home economics teacher, and a fabulous cook, and she came up with this recipe to serve with aged cheese, and smoked salmon or salty herring. It’s great as a side with soup, or works as breakfast when topped with boiled egg slices and cheese. We also fell in love with geitost (also spelled gjeitost, pronounced “yay-toast”) on our visit to Norway—a caramelized semi-hard cheese that is sweet and nutty and almost tastes like dessert. Pictured here is the flatbread served with sliced ham and geitost. Add a dollop of raspberry jam, and it’s a hearty treat done the Norwegian way. Used to be a challenge to find geitost in the U.S., as it was only at Kowalski’s or specialty cheese shops. Now Cub Foods and other grocery stores carry the blocks of Norwegian cheese wrapped in it’s signature red packaging.

It was a bit of a trick to convert Jorunn’s recipe from metric to Imperial measurements (American), but once we figured out the liter to cup conversion, we were able to commit the recipe to paper. This bread is chock-full of flax and oats and sunflower seeds, but no white flour, and is my only whole wheat bread recipe that can claim that. Normally, you need a heaping helping of white flour or else the bread won’t rise. Since this is meant to stay flat and be like a soft cracker, rising is not an issue.

1 cup old-fashioned oatmeal
1 cup salted or unsalted sunflower seeds
½ cup flaxseeds, ground*
½ cup oat bran
1½ teaspoons salt
2½ cups boiling water
1 cup whole wheat flour
¾ cup rye flour
2½ teaspoons yeast
½ cup vegetable oil

In large bowl, combine oatmeal, sunflower seeds, flaxseeds, oat bran, and salt. Stir in boiling water with wooden spoon until all ingredients are moistened. Let stand until mixture is luke warm. Add whole wheat flour, rye flour, yeast, and vegetable oil, and stir until ingredients are incorporated. Set in a sink of warm water, and cover with a clean, damp, kitchen towel. Let rise for 30 minutes.

Preheat oven to 400°. Line large (11″x17″) baking sheet with parchment paper. Spread bread mixture onto lined pan, using a spatula to press dough down into pan. Cover with damp towel again, and let rise another 30 minutes.

Bake in preheated oven for 20-25 minutes, or until brown around edges, and dough begins to pull away from edges slightly. When fresh from oven, cut bread into 20-24 pieces with pizza cutter, and move squares to cooling rack to cool completely. Once cooled, store in container with lid set slightly ajar to keep bread from getting too moist.

NOTE: Flaxseed needs to be ground in order for your system to be able to utilize it’s health benefits. If you buy it whole, you can run small amounts of the seeds through a coffee grinder to get a quick, course grind.

Carrot Cake Cookies

FullSizeRenderI love carrot cake, but it seems like a special-occasion dessert, not a make-any-old-day deal. So when I ran across this recipe for carrot cake cookies that promised the same moist deliciousness without the cake fuss, I thought I’d give them a spin in the old KitchenAid. The recipe from the December 2014 issue of Real Simple said it made only 16 cookies, which is a snack for two at our house, so I doubled it. But then I ended up with 32 frosted cookies, which can’t be stacked in a container. So I brought them to my friend (and fellow blogger) Kathy’s house when she invited us for dinner, asking them to consume a few so I didn’t have to get creative with storage. No hardship on their part! We were barely home before she was texting to ask for the recipe, saying her husband was craving more of the tasty muffin-like morsels. Since you may have similar trouble with storage, the recipe here is for a single batch. Oh, and I added cloves to the spices, and used more confectioners sugar in the frosting than there was in the Real Simple version. They had also suggested these be made as sandwich cookies—two cookies with frosting between thembut my taste-testers decided that wasn’t nearly enough frosting-to-cookie ratio. And you gotta give the people what they want! And they want these perfect autumn spice cookies.

Makes 16 cookies

Ease rating: medium

1½ cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
½ teaspoon baking soda
½ teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon ground nutmeg
¼ teaspoon ground cloves
½ cup (1 stick) butter, room temperature
1 cup packed dark brown sugar
1-2 large eggs (1 makes them more cookie-like in texture, 2 makes them more cake-like. If doubling recipe, 3 eggs is perfect amount.)
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1½ cups coarsely grated carrots (2-3 medium)
1 cup chopped pecans
½ cup raisins

Frosting

8 ounces cream cheese, room temperature
1 cup confectioners sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla
1-2 tablespoons milk—whatever is needed to get frosting to spreading consistency

Combine flour, cinnamon, baking soda, salt, nutmeg, and cloves in a mixing bowl. Set aside. In mixer fitted with paddle attachment, cream butter on medium-high. Add sugar and cream again until light and fluffy. Beat in egg (or eggs—one at a time if using two), then vanilla. Scrape down bowl occasionally. Reduce speed to low, and slowly add in flour mixture. Stir until just combined. Fold in the carrots, pecans, and raisins. Cover and chill for 1 hour or up to 2 days.

Preheat oven to 350° Fahrenheit. Drop 1-2 tablespoons of dough onto baking sheet, 12 per sheet. Bake for 8-10 minutes, or until golden brown around edges. Let cool on baking sheet for about 5 minutes, then transfer to wire rack to cool completely before frosting.

For frosting: Whip cream cheese in mixing bowl. Slowly add confectioners sugar until it’s all incorporated. Add vanilla, and milk, if necessary, to get frosting to spreading consistency. (You do not want this too runny, as this is not intended to be icing.) Frost cooled cookies. Store frosted cookies in airtight container. As this frosting recipe will frost a double batch of cookies, store any remaining frosting in frig for next time you make these cookies.

Cranberry Pecan Bars

IMG_1157A pop of rich red makes these cranberry bars look special enough for company, yet these sweet-tart treats are easy enough to make any old day. With cranberries showing up in grocery stores soon, I thought I’d share this delicious recipe I found on www.food.com, sent in by Wisconsinite and cranberry-lover Bonnie Young. They use mostly kitchen staples, and mix up in just a few minutes. I found they work better with frozen cranberries, as the fresh tend to mush and bleed into the batter and that makes them not so pretty. But the frozen berries make the batter very stiff, so you have to pat (or smash, if that’s more your mood) it into the pan with a spatula. Worth the effort though—the result is a deliciously chewy cake-like bar with just enough tang to keep you wanting more.

Makes 12-15 bars

½ cup butter, softened
2 eggs
1½ cup granulated sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla
1½ cup all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
¼ teaspoon salt
½ cup chopped pecans
2 cups frozen cranberries
Powdered sugar

Preheat oven to 350° Fahrenheit. Butter a 9″x13″ baking dish and set aside. In large mixing bowl, cream butter. Add eggs and cream again. Add sugar, and beat until light and fluffy. Add vanilla and beat again. In medium bowl, combine flour, baking powder, and salt. Gradually add to creamed butter and sugar mixture. Stir in nuts with large wooden spoon until combined. Fold in cranberries. Press batter into prepared baking dish and bake for 40-45 minutes, or until top of bars are light golden brown. (Bars may not appear to be cooked all the way through when removed from oven, but they will set up as they cool.) Sprinkle with powdered sugar and let cool to room temp before cutting with very sharp knife.

(Shout out to Monique Kleinhuizen, who brought me a huge bag of fresh cranberries—the size of grapes—from a cranberry festival her family attended in Wisconsin. Used them in the batch of bars pictures here. Awesome berries!!!)

Blueberry Breakfast Bars

IMG_0979Breakfast, lunch, dinner, or bedtime snack—these bars are a hit any time. This was a recipe request when I wrote a food column for the St. Paul Pioneer Press, and was wildly popular with subscribers.  It had been circulated by WIC as a healthy (or healthier than sugary cereals) and kid-friendly recipe at one time. Fresh or frozen fruit work equally well in these bars, and I’ve made them with either blueberries or raspberries, too. Strawberries do NOT work well in this recipe, so save yourself the hassle (and waste) and don’t bother with those berries. Because these are deliciously soft, they fall apart when I’ve tried to send them in a school lunch bag, so cut and serve the bars at home, or bring a pan to share with co-workers. Others will be glad you decided to share the love.

Makes 15 bars

2 cups old-fashioned oatmeal
1½ cups all-purpose flour
¾ cups firmly packed dark brown sugar
½ cup chopped pecans
½ teaspoon baking soda
¼ teaspoon salt
¾ cup butter, melted
2 cups fresh or frozen blueberries (or raspberries)
½ cup granulated sugar
2 tablespoons cornstarch
2 teaspoons lemon juice (optional – I’ve made it without and can’t taste the difference!)

Preheat oven to 350° Fahrenheit. Grease a 9″x13″ glass baking dish. In a large mixing bowl, combine oats, flour, brown sugar, nuts, baking soda, and salt. Pour melted butter over top and stir until all ingredients are coated with butter. Reserve 1 cup of the mixture. Press remaining mixture onto bottom of prepared dish. Bake for 10 minutes.

While base is baking, combine berries, sugar, and 2 tablespoons water. Bring to a boil. Simmer for 2 minutes, uncovered, stirring occasionally. In small bowl, combine 1 tablespoon water cornstarch, and lemon juice. Mix well. Gradually stir into blueberry mixture. Cook and stir for 30 seconds or until thickened.

Spread berry mixture over baked base to within 1-inch of edge, and sprinkle reserved oat mixture on top. Bake for 18-20 minutes or until golden brown. Cool on wire rack. Cut into bars. Store tightly covered.