Thursday, September 22, 2016

Apricot Pecan Oatmeal Bars

I’ve mentioned before that I’m not much of a morning person. Once I’m up, I enjoy watching the sky lighten as I sip my coffee and work my way through the newspaper. I also feel more productive if I wake up early.

It’s just the getting up part that is difficult. I hate to leave my soft, cozy bed.

Recently, I’ve learned there is a 5 o’clock in the morning as well as the evening. A few weeks ago, I started a new job at a local middle school. I’m working in a program that helps students improve their reading skills…perfect for a writer who wants to encourage kids to enjoy reading as much as I do! Books have brought fun and joy to my life ever since I discovered The Boxcar Children in elementary school. Now I hope to pass that joy on to this generation.

The only obstacle is waking up in the mornings. I’m also not much for eating breakfast, which wasn’t a problem when I was working full-time from home and able to grab something from the kitchen whenever my stomach growled. Now, I head out the door at 7:15 a.m., so by 8:30 or 9, I start getting pretty hungry.

These Apricot Pecan Oatmeal Bars are a great solution. They are adapted from a video made by Ree Drummond—The Pioneer

While her recipe sounded yummy, I wanted to up the nutrition level a bit more by adding pecans and some whole wheat flour. Her original recipe called for strawberry jam, which would taste great. But on Facebook, she suggested apricot, which is one of my favorites. You can use any flavor jam you like. Just make sure it’s jam, which is easier to spread than jelly. Also, if the jam is still a little stiff, try zapping the jar in the microwave for 10 seconds to warm it up a bit. Just don’t let it get too runny.

These bars are a tasty way to stave off hunger in the morning. Just put one (or two!) into a plastic bag and go!

Apricot Pecan Oatmeal Bars
Adapted from The Pioneer Woman recipe

1 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 cup whole wheat flour
1 1/2 cups quick oatmeal
1 cup packed brown sugar
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
14 tablespoons cold unsalted butter, cut into small pieces (plus more for the dish)
1 10-ounce jar (or larger) apricot jam
1/2 cup chopped pecans

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Butter a 9 x 13 baking dish or spray with non-stick cooking spray. Set aside.

In a medium bowl, mix together the flours, oatmeal, brown sugar, baking powder, and salt. Using a pastry cutter, two knives, or your fingers, cut the butter into the mixture to make small, crumbly pieces. (The mixture will look like coarse, damp sand with bits of oatmeal.)

Pour half the mixture into the prepared baking dish. Using your fingers, pack the mixture firmly into the bottom of the dish to form a crust. Spoon the jam on top and gently spread it on the surface in an even layer.

Stir the pecans into the remaining oatmeal mixture. Spread the mixture over the top of the jam and press it down to form a crust.

Place the baking dish into the oven and bake for 35 to 40 minutes, until top is golden brown. Take out of the oven and allow to cool completely before cutting into squares.