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Cranberry Almond Bars

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.

cranberry filling 3I 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. cranberry bars outside cranberry bars 7The 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.water and roots Huron Rivercranberry bar ingredientscranberry filling 1cranberry bars, uncutcranberry bars on porch 3I 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

  • Servings: 12 bars
  • Print

Ingredients:

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

Directions:

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!

14 Comments

  1. Jenny – these bars look so good! The pictures are beautiful. Your river reminds me of the Shenandoah River where we canoe. Have a great weekend!

  2. Beautiful bars! It always surprise me when people don’t like foods like cranberries and pumpkin! Glad you’ve come over from the dark side!

    • Jenny

      November 20, 2015 at 4:54 pm

      Thank you, Mimi! I’m glad I have been converted to loving cranberries too. They are so versatile, and now I look forward to using them in more baking!

  3. Welcome to Fiesta Friday and thank you very much for bringing your cranberry almond bars. I posted something very similar over the holidays last year. I love the bright red pop of the cranberries, and with all those yummy ingredients, it had to have been a winner.

    • Jenny

      November 20, 2015 at 4:56 pm

      Thank you, Loretta. I love hearing the pop of the cranberries too, and the color is so festive. Thank you for co-hosting Fiesta Friday this week!

  4. Such a perfect recipe for the festive season! I’m not a fan of cranberries because I find that they are too tart for me but I’m totally feeling them after seeing your delicious bars! They also make for the perfect snack! Happy FF!

    • Jenny

      November 20, 2015 at 4:57 pm

      Thank you, Cynthia. I was not a fan of cranberries for a long time for the same reason you mentioned. But when they are cooked with natural sweeteners, they taste amazing! You should give them a try! 🙂 Happy FF to you too.

  5. “We scatter, and then we gather”… Beautiful words Jenny!! And of course, you recipe and pictures look incredible too!!

  6. These bars look awesome. They remind me of the old classic date bars–but with a wonderful cranberry filling.

  7. I make a couple of cranberry salads/relish but hardly ever bake with cranberries. I obviously need to as I do love the taste of that bright little fruit. Your bars look delicious 🙂

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