Strawberry Banana Oat Bars

Remember my frozen strawberry conundrum? Where I was left with bags and bags of nothing but frozen strawberries after picking out all the rest of the fruits from my bags of frozen mixed berries? It got to be a serious problem… I had, like, 4 bags going.

And it’s not that I have anything against strawberries, but trying to eat them frozen is like trying to bite into a rock — those suckers are hard! And because I’m afraid of the dentist and would prefer to avoid ending up in ‘the chair’ with a chipped tooth that needed fixing, I pretend the strawberries don’t exist and eat around them until that’s all that’s left in the bag. And then I go out and buy another bag. Womp, womp.

So what’s a girl to do when life hands her a bag of lemons frozen strawberries? Make jam…

Throughout my teenage years, Mom tossed packages of granola bars into her shopping cart every time she entered the grocery store. My brother and I basically inhaled them—the boxes practically disappeared overnight—and we sampled most of Safeway’s entire selection: Nature Valley, Fiber One, Clif Bars, Special K… We normally gravitated towards the softer varieties, which meant Mom maintained a constant stash of Nutri-Grain and Quaker Chewy Bars in the pantry. 

In the mornings, my high school scheduled a 10-minute snack break at the start of 3rd period, so I’d slip a Chewy Bar out of my backpack (normally Oatmeal Raisin or Chocolate Chunk) and slowly savor it while comparing geeky calculus stories with my friends about how we solved the integrals from the previous night’s homework. By the time I swallowed the last bite, Mr. D had already warmed up the overhead projector to start presenting that day’s notes.

This was my first time making/trying chia seed jam, and I have to admit that I’m pretty impressed with the stuff! I’ve had my gripes with chia seeds in the past (mostly surrounding the fact that they hang out in my teeth all day without me noticing), but they’re definitely useful little buggers. Not to mention loaded with plant-based protein, fiber, and omega-3’s. So much goodness in a [slightly creepy] little seed…

But I digress. This post isn’t about chia seed jam. I mean, it is, but only as a stepping stone to the main event — some pretty epic strawberry banana oat bars…

Ingredients
For the strawberry jam:

  • 2 cups frozen strawberries
  • 2 TBSP maple syrup
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract

For the banana oat bars:

  • 2 cups rolled oats divided in 1 cup sections**
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 2 large ripe bananas mashed
  • 1/4 cup maple syrup
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1/2 tsp cinnamon

Instructions
For the jam:

  1. Add strawberries and maple syrup to a saucepan on medium heat.
  2. Heat until the berries begin to liquid, about 10 minutes.
  3. Bring to a boil and cook for an additional 5 -10 minutes stirring occasionally until berries begin to thicken and become more
  4. Use a spoon to mash them a little.
  5. Stir in the vanilla and cook for another 5 minutes.
  6. Remove from heat and allow the jam to cool for about 20-30 minutes to thicken it even more.

For the bars:

  1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.
  2. Line an 8 x 8 baking dish with parchment paper
  3. Place 1 cup of oats in a food processor (or blender) and pulse for 1 minute or until they look like flour.
  4. Transfer the oat flour to a large mixing bowl, and add the remaining 1 cup of oatmeal and baking powder and mix well
  5. Add the mashed bananas, maple syrup, cinnamon and vanilla extract.
  6. Mix thoroughly to combine.
  7. Transfer 1/2 of the mixture into the prepared baking pan. Press the mixture into the corners and flatten with the back of a spoon.
  8. Spoon the jam over the oat mixture and spread evenly with a spoon or spatula. Spread to within about 1/4 inch of the oatmeal mixture so the edge of the the jam doesn’t burn.
  9. Spoon the remaining oatmeal mixture on top of the jam in big spoonfuls. Then spread the spoonfuls out lightly.
  10. Bake for 30 minutes or until the top turns a light golden brown.
  11. Remove from oven and allow to cool completely in pan before cutting into bars.
  12. Optional – use 3/4 cup all-natural store bought jam if you want to skip making your own.

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