Peanut Butter & Jam Breakfast Bars

If it weren’t for peanut butter, I might not have made it past 5 feet.  As a notorious fussy eater, I engaged in a 15 year eating jag consuming a daily peanut butter-jam sandwich for lunch from toddlerhood until college. I found most other healthy foods revolting.  My mother looks for audiences to share the stories which best illustrate my former fussy self, but only if I am also a member of the audience—like the time I made a spectacle of gagging on ham at a formal dinner or the time I scraped half-eaten stew back into the pot at our pastor’s home before anyone could stop me.

She must find it particularly galling that I later became not only an adventurous eater but also a nutrition and culinary educator who teaches parents how to raise healthy eaters.  So I  submit to her small revenge, and not a Mother’s Day passes when I don’t sincerely apologize for these childhood transgressions.  She says she forgives but clearly she doesn’t forget.

Peanut butter spared me a lifetime of short jokes and step-stool fetching.  Perhaps because of this, my love affair with this supreme legume continues. So when I began thinking of a DIY breakfast bar to avoid buying the exorbitantly priced “all-natural” ones at the supermarket, my thoughts turned to peanut butter. Jam made the short list too not only for the classic taste combination but also to clear my pantry of it’s jam surplus.  (Jam making season is around the corner though in Wisconsin it doesn’t feel like it.)

Peanut Butter & Jam Breakfast BarsThis recipe is dead simple, contains wholesome and nutritious ingredients (mind you, I didn’t say low-calorie) including, of course, peanut butter–that protein-rich legume chock-full of heart healthy fats.  So enjoy! You just saved 5 bucks as you passed the breakfast bar aisle at the supermarket, and now it’s… peanut butter jelly time, peanut butter jelly time.

Peanut Butter & Jam Breakfast Bars
Author: 
Recipe type: Baked Treats
Cuisine: American
Prep time: 
Cook time: 
Total time: 
Yield: 20 bars
 
This makes a tasty breakfast bar or mid-day snack. Each square is about 90 calories, the same as store-bought varieties but at a fraction of the cost and multiple times better. Soy butter makes a fine substitute for the peanut allergic.
Ingredients
  • 4 T unsalted butter
  • ¼ cup brown sugar, packed
  • ¾ cup quick oats
  • ¼ cup whole wheat pastry flour
  • ¼ t kosher salt
  • 1 t baking powder
  • ¼ cup quick oats
  • ½ cup whole wheat pastry flour
  • ¼ cup 100% all natural peanut butter (no palm oil)
  • 1 large egg
  • ⅓ cup jam or jelly
Instructions
  1. Preheat the oven to 350◦F. Lightly grease an 8” x 8” pan.
  2. In an up-right mixer or using a fork, mix the first 5 ingredients together (butter, sugar, oats, flour, salt).
  3. Remove 1 cup (loosely packed) of the combined ingredients and set aside—this will be the crumble topping.
  4. Now add the remaining 5 ingredients (baking powder, oats, flour, peanut butter, and egg) and thoroughly mix together.
  5. Pat the dough into the 8 x8 pan.
  6. Spread the jam evenly on top of the dough, careful not to touch the edge of the pan with the jam as it will burn.
  7. Evenly sprinkle the reserve crumble topping over the jam.
  8. Bake for about 25 minutes.
  9. Remove from oven and allow to cool. Cut into 20 even pieces.

Cooking with Kids:  Simple baking projects like this can and should be entirely executed by the kids.  Have them do the measuring and mixing.  Take the time to teach them about fractions while you work.

Storing:  Double or even triple the recipe, bake it, and store the surplus in the freezer.  It doesn’t take much more time, and now you have a supply of wholesome breakfast bars to last the next couple of weeks.

.

 

Whole Grain Apple Crisp

Apple Crisp--ServedI easily succumb to the temptation of sweet treats particularly baked goods.  My daughters share this weakness, though they naturally gravitate to candy.   My husband is the exception, and despite his relentless admonishments, we eat a sweet treat nearly every night after dinner—not a lot but something.  The meal just doesn’t feel complete without it.

Though I love bakery treats, I have limited talent for the art of baking, and that is purposeful. As a limited resource, I have only so much time to dedicate to cooking.  If I’m doing my best to create whole-food, plant-based meals every day that are not only healthy but enjoyable to eat, well then sweet treats have to take a backseat. Moreover, let’s say that I did regularly bake.  Who would eat it?  Not my children.  I am a responsible parent, and would limit their intake.  Not my sweet-toothless husband.  That leaves me, standing alone in my pantry, quietly cramming cookies in my mouth while my children call out, “What are you doing in there, Mama?”  I’ve been down that road to Weight Watchers more than once.

When I do find the time to make desserts, I incorporate the foods we need for good health too—fruits, legumes and whole grains.  I don’t delude myself.  Even though they they are made with whole foods, they remain desserts—hard-to-resist, calorie-dense, goodies made with butter and sugar.  Eating a lot of them will make you fat.

Some of you may poo-poo my sweet treat philosophy.  You’re thinking, “Just let cake be cake, and healthy foods be damned at dessert-time.”  But cake is too easy to come by, and I eat enough of it without going out of my way.   My own cooking efforts have to go toward the goal of including at least 8 – 12 serving of fruits and vegetables in our diet every day. This adds a challenging new dimension to the art of creating sweet treats. While I want them to be healthy, taste is essential. Nothing leaves me feeling more cheated than eating a grainy, tasteless food masquerading as a sweet treat.

Fruit is a natural solution.  It’s nature’s candy. I make apple crisp a lot and have for years.  The prep work takes only a few minutes with the right tools, it’s chock full of apples, and no-one feels cheated when served a warm, fresh from-the-oven helping of apple crisp topped with a dollop of ice cream or whipped cream.

Apple Crisp
Author: 
Recipe type: Dessert
Cuisine: American
Prep time: 
Cook time: 
Total time: 
Yield: 8
 
Pears, peaches, and cherries also work nicely in this recipe. Serve it with a bit of whipped cream or vanilla ice cream.
Ingredients
  • 3 ½ pounds apples, cored and peeled
  • 1 T lemon juice (optional)
  • ½ cup raisins or other dried fruit (optional)
  • 6 T unsalted butter, cold
  • ½ cup whole wheat pastry flour
  • ½ cup quick oats
  • ¾ cup brown sugar
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • ¼ teaspoon nutmeg
  • ½ teaspoon cinnamon
Instructions
  1. Lightly butter an 11” x 7” (8 cup) baking dish and preheat oven to 375◦ F.
  2. Core and peel the apples; toss with lemon juice and dried fruit; and place in the baking dish.
  3. Cut the butter into small chunks.
  4. Using a food processor or fork or hands, cut the butter into the rest of the dry ingredients until it is just combined. (It should look lumpy and crumbly).
  5. Sprinkle the crumble mixture over the apples and bake until the apples are tender and the crisp is crisp—about 50 minutes.

Cooking with Kids:

Apple Crisp Prep--Pealing Apples

This may be one of the easiest, no-fuss, no-danger recipes to make with your kids.  Invest in an apple peeler if you don’t have one.  Kids never tire of using that gadget.

Officially, to make the crumble, you should not use your hands to cut the butter into the dry ingredients as the heat from your hands will melt the butter. I ignore this rule as the kids love to use their hands. Just don’t let them do it for too long and start with ice cold butter. I haven’t noticed any difference in crisp mixed with a fork or hands.

Apple Crisp Ingredients--All   Apple Crisp Ingredients--ButterApple Crisp Prep--Nutmeg2

The girls made this recipe with me just supervising and setting up.

Apple Crisp Prep--Making Topping

Apple Crisp--Before Baking

The crisp before placing it in the oven.