Bright, tart cranberries are simmered with maple syrup and honey, then given some extra zing with a splash of lime juice. The result is a thick, intensely flavorful filling that jazzes up a base of ground oats, almonds, and whole wheat flour. These cranberry almond bars are delicious and nutritious, and they are perfect for breakfast, dessert, a snack, or a treat to pack in the kids’ lunchboxes.
I must admit that until recently, I have kind of under-appreciated cranberries. But it is cranberry season, and it seems cranberries are everywhere! I have made these almond bars in the past, and used strawberry jam for the filling (also very good), basing the recipe on one I found in the September 2015 issue of Real Simple magazine. However, now that it is November, I wanted to make these bars with something seasonal, so pumpkin and cranberries came to mind. I’m still working on the pumpkin angle–I haven’t hit upon the right proportion of ingredients yet–but the cranberry filling? Amazing! It is so good, that I am thinking of tripling the recipe and using it as cranberry sauce for Thanksgiving dinner.
I now fully appreciate the powerful flavor of cranberries, not to mention their gorgeous, ruby-red color and their health benefits (vitamins, minerals, and phytonutrients). For me, sweetening the berries with things like maple syrup and honey, rather than sugar, makes the filling even more appealing. Talk about rich, flavorful, and natural! The filling recipe below is one I put together from researching different recipes for cranberry sauce. Lots of the recipes called for orange juice or orange zest, but I added a splash of lime to mine, because that’s what I had on hand, and it works great. The filling thickens as it simmers, and thickens even more as it cools. The base and the topping of these bars is nutritious, with ground almonds, oats, and whole wheat flour making up most of it, providing lots of protein, iron, and fiber. All in all, these bars have it all: great taste, great texture, and lots of health benefits.
With Thanksgiving, my husband’s birthday, and my daughter’s birthday approaching, all within the same week, things are ramping up into high gear around here. I have so many things on my mind, it feels like the thoughts are swirling around like the leaves that blow all over our yard. And these thoughts are trivial compared to what has been going on in the larger world lately. So what do we do with the scattering thoughts and the chaos? We gather. We feel for those who are affected by violence around the world, and we gather around a table and give thanks for what we have. We scatter, and then we gather.
My family went to a special park this past weekend, and I took some pictures of moments I wanted to hold onto. The beautiful river, the clear water carrying leaves downstream, and the old roots of a tree near the riverbank. The water moves, and the roots anchor. We scatter, and then we gather, and often food is in the center of the gathering, connecting us. If you are gathering for Thanksgiving this upcoming week, Happy Thanksgiving in advance! And have a wonderful weekend too. I look forward to the weekly blog gathering of inspirational bloggers at Angie’s Fiesta Friday co-hosted this week by Loretta @ Safari of the Mind and Petra @ Food Eat Love.
Cranberry Almond Bars
For the filling:
- 1 cup of cranberries (frozen or refrigerated is ok. If frozen, run cold water over them first)
- 1/4 cup of maple syrup
- 1/4 cup of honey
- 1 lime
For the base and topping:
- 1 cup of old fashioned rolled oats
- 3/4 cup of whole wheat flour
- 1 cup of raw almonds
- 8 tablespoons (1 stick) of unsalted butter, at room temperature and cut into pieces
- 1/3 cup of packed brown sugar
- 3/4 teaspoon of baking powder
- 3/4 teaspoon of salt
For the filling:
Measure the cranberries, maple syrup, and honey into a small saucepan. Bring just to a boil, and stir until the cranberries pop. Then turn the heat down to medium-low to low, and gently simmer for about 15 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the sauce begins to thicken. Allow the sauce to cool, and as it cools, it will thicken more. Add a splash of lime juice, to your taste.
For the base and topping:
Preheat your oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Line an 8 inch square baking dish with 2 crisscrossed pieces of parchment paper, leaving an overhang of paper on all sides, and pressing the paper down inside the dish.
In a blender or food processor, pulse or puree the oats, flour, and almonds until finely ground. Transfer to a mixing bowl. Add the butter, brown sugar, baking powder, and salt. Cut the butter into the dry ingredients with a fork or pastry cutter until the mixture resembles coarse crumbs and everything is combined. Reserve 1/2 cup of the crumble mixture (for the topping). Press the remaining crumble mixture into the baking pan, using a straight-sided glass or measuring cup to pack it down evenly.
Spread the cranberry filling over the bottom crust, distributing it evenly. Scatter the reserved 1/2 cup of crumble mixture evenly over the top. Bake until golden brown and set in the middle, 35 to 45 minutes.
Let it cool completely. Then, holding the overhanging parchment paper, transfer it to a cutting board and cut with a sharp knife into 12 bars. Enjoy!