When my second baby was born a few months ago I was fortunate enough to have my mom stay and help for a while. She was able to get my little missy out of bed and fed in the mornings while I took care of feeding the little one. When she left, reality hit big time as the two of them woke up at exactly the same time, one screaming for milk, the other not really understanding why she’d have to wait for her breakfast. So began our adventures in self feeding, as trying to keep baby latched to a boob with one hand and feeding oatmeal to missy with the other just wasn’t working out (especially considering that at that point baby still had zero head control and mommy wasn’t too good at the breastfeeding thing either).
I tried to make the oatmeal less runny so missy would have time to get it into her mouth before it slid off the spoon (which was usually turned upside down at some point between bowl and mouth). But that just resulted in dry “yucky” oatmeal and still she wound up wearing at least as much of it as made it into her mouth. The oatmeal thing just became a nuisance especially as I didn’t even really have the time to make it as baby screamed for milk! Soon I discovered Greek yogurt, which is thick enough that missy could eat it on her own without getting most of it in her lap and it was quick enough to um, prepare! Rip the cover off, mix the fruit at the bottom and place on high chair tray. Breakfast, done. I still wanted to be able to offer oatmeal, so I started hunting around for recipes for oatmeal bars that I could make in advance and just hand over to missy to get her started with breakfast. Unfortunately the countless recipes that turned up in my google search were loaded with sugar, and some even had chocolate chips. Definitely not breakfast material for a little child. I basically wanted to give her a bowl of oatmeal in bar form and it seemed I had my work cut out for me. Then, as if she had read my mind, my favorite overachieving mom food blogger (www.weelicious.com) posted a recipe for Oatmeal On-the-Go Bars from her archives. I knew even before reading the recipe that this was exactly what I’d been looking for. Even Ms. Weelicious herself called these oatmeal in bar form. These are not the breakfast bars you can buy at the store, and a quick read through the comments confirmed it: many readers remarked at how bland they were. Bland is good. Bland means not loaded with sugar. Bland means better for you. Besides, flavor can always be played with using dried fruit and cinnamon (both of which are in the recipe).
Today, with an hour to go before lunch, and with baby uncharacteristically calm, I decided to whip up these bars. Whip up is right, by the time missy was hungry half an hour later, these things were baking in the oven! The ingredients took no time at all to put together and with a half hour of baking time, you’re done in an hour. The difficult thing is waiting for them to cool before cutting into them. I admit I was not patient and cut the squares too soon. They did not cut smoothly. I also used a butter knife, which probably didn’t help. Anyway, I’m not trying to win any food beauty contests and if they pass my little food tester’s rigorous examination, they’re OK in my book. As I was trying to snap some pictures of the bars, little hands were reaching up to the kitchen island and a little voice was asking for cake. I let her take a piece and off she went, chowing down. I tried a piece too and was quite happy with the outcome. These are not sweet, but you can taste the cinnamon and they are certainly not bland in my opinion. I used dried apricots and raisins for the fruit and the apricots added a nice zip, while the raisins provided some sweetness and a familiar oatmeal raisin cookie flavor. The flavor possibilities are endless depending on what you use for fruit. Imagine a fig and date bar, or apples and ginger. How about cranberries and orange zest? Yum! You could even make these a sweet treat with semi sweet chocolate chips… The consistency was nice and light too. These bars were a little crumbly, so I’m not sure how well they’d work “on-the-go” but that’s not my intention anyway, so if doesn’t matter to me. And I have to say they have firmed up as they’ve cooled. For those of you who wish to substitute the eggs and wheat products, there are suggestions in the comments on the Weelicious page (the link is at the end of the recipe).
Weelicious’ Oatmeal On-the-Go Bars (Makes 18 Bars)
2 Cups Old Fashioned Oats
1 Cup Whole Wheat Flour
1 1/2 Tsp Cinnamon
Pinch of Salt
1 Tsp Baking Powder
1 1/2 Cup Milk (any kind of milk — rice, almond, soy, cow’s — will work)
3 Tbsp Agave **(you can also use honey, which is what I did)
1/2 Cup Applesauce
1 Large Egg
1 Tsp Vanilla
3/4 Cup Dried Fruit (Cranberries, Raisins, Blueberries, and/or Cherries)
1/2 Cup Nuts (Walnuts, Sunflower Seeds, and/or Pepitas) **(I used almonds)
1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
2. Place the first 5 dry ingredients in a bowl and stir to combine.
3. Mix the milk, applesauce, egg, agave, and vanilla in a separate bowl.
4. Pour the dry ingredients into the wet mixture, stir to combine and then stir in the dried fruits and nuts.
5. Pour the oatmeal mixture into a buttered or greased 7 x 11 inch baking dish.
6. Bake for 30 minutes or until thickened and golden.
7. Cool, cut into squares and serve.
*Allow to cool, cut into squares and place in a ziploc bag to freeze up to 4 months. When ready, allow to defrost in fridge for 24-48 hours.
*Refrigerating the bars will make them last up to 5 days.