What To Do With All Those Berries: Make Fruit Oat Bars

When I think of summer, I think of berry picking. In the part of New England in which I live, wineberries are in season right now. You can find them in almost any wooded area. They are like a prickly weed! Fortunately for me, they grow all over my property. They are the perfect plant: I do nothing all year round, just make sure I do not mow over them in the spring. They need some light, but not bright light. (They are the only food I can grow on my wooded lot.) Picking berries and making a yummy snack or dessert is therefore super easy, even on the laziest summer day.

So, yesterday my teenage daughter asked if I wanted to picked berries in the yard and I said sure — especially, as my neighbors know, time is of the essence as I needed to beat the deer to them! Here’s what a wineberry looks like:
They look like small raspberries. We ended up with probably about 7 cups worth. I wanted to make something other than the old fallback, berry cobbler. I make a mean lemon bar (recipe next time) and wanted to use that shortbread crust, which is delish.
What I came up with follows, and it is simple to put together, and the oats add more nutrition. If sugar is a concern, swapping out half the sugar for Splenda will work for both the filling and the crust. I would think you could substitute honey for part of the sugar in the filling if you’d rather do that.
There is no cutting involved, but some stovetop and oven use. I’d say 5th grade and up, with some supervision, so you can avoid burns.
I have fond memories of wild blueberry picking with my aunt in the Adirondacks in August, and you could certainly use blueberries (or raspberries) in place of the wineberries.  Here now is the recipe, with my thanks to Jake, who, through his mom, motivated me to post this today 🙂
Approx total time: 45 minutes
Crust
1/2 cup butter (1 stick)
1/4 cup white sugar
1 cup all-purpose flour (I use unbleached)
 
Filling
3 cups wineberries, blueberries or raspberries
1/3 cup granulated sugar
2 tablespoons fresh orange juice
1 tablespoon cornstarch
Topping
1/2 cup old-fashioned rolled oats (the kind in the cylinder)
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
1/4 cup packed light brown sugar
1/2 teaspoons finely grated fresh orange zest (optional)
1/8 teaspoon baking soda
1/8 teaspoon salt
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
  2. In a medium bowl, blend together softened butter, 1 cup flour and 1/4 cup sugar. Press into the bottom of an ungreased 8×8 inch pan.
  3. Bake for 15 to 20 minutes in the preheated oven, or until firm and golden.
  4. While crust bakes, make filling by mixing berries, juice, cornstarch and sugar together and bring to a boil over moderate heat. Cook, stirring, until thick and no longer cloudy, about 5 minutes, and remove from heat.
  5. Spoon filling into baked crust.
  6. Mix the topping ingredients together and then sprinkle all over the top.
  7. Bake in middle of oven until golden and bubbly, 25-30 minutes. Cool completely in pan on a rack. Cut into 1 1/2-inch squares using a plastic knife (disposable will do). Easier to cut with plastic than metal (true for brownies, too!).
  8. Now, enjoy and eat!

4th of July Fruit Flag

It’s Independence Day, and so I thought it was a perfect time to share a very simple recipe that kids absolutely love to do. When Melanie and I do this with the kids during our cooking classes, it’s a huge hit.

You’re going to make an edible American flag! It’s part craft, part recipe. And it’s totally something your kids will have fun creating — and eating — this holiday weekend.

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The great thing about it is you get to eat the craft at the end. No worrying about where to display THIS work of art 😉

You will need:
Seven wooden skewers (easily available at any grocery store)
A carton of strawberries
A carton of blueberries
Two bananas

Check out the picture I posted with this, it will help you immensely.
Have the child wash all the fruits, except for the banana for which nature has kindly provided its own antiseptic wrapper.

A note about cutting: My own opinion is that by the time the child is in fifth grade they can use a knife with adult supervision. You may feel differently. I have found also that using disposable, plastic knives is a good way to let younger children cut some fruits and vegetables. (We’ve also had good success in our classes with developmentally challenged young adults using plastic utensils.) This is a great recipe for plastic knife use.

Slice the strawberries from the top stem to the pointed bottom. It’s important for the flag’s appearance that they are cut all this way, but try to have patience if the kids get a couple wrong! This is about fun in the kitchen, remember.

Slice bananas into wheels that are wide enough to comfortably fit a skewer through. If your child likes to use a ruler, tell him or her to make the slices roughly a quarter-inch wide.

Now you are ready to assemble. Spear a half strawberry from side to side. Follow with a banana wheel. Continue alternating until you have used four strawberry halves and three banana wheels. Repeat this for a total of four spears.

The next three spears should be assembled this way: Start with a strawberry half, and follow with a banana wheel. Repeat. Then, skewer six blueberries.

Finally, lay your spears down vertically, so that the bottom all has strawberries going across. Voila! You have unfurled the flag! Now enjoy, and eat!