I went through a phase when the kids were all in high school when I tried to get them to eat more fruits and nuts. It seemed that they were forever wanting junk food and, while I love a good potato chip, I realized that good carbs and fats were locked in other treats that were just as satisfying as chips and chocolate bars. I discovered this fruit bar recipe on the back of one of those bags of dried fruit and began making these bars as treats for sleep-overs, sports team half-time breaks, bake sales, and the family cookie jar.
Sigh ... they last a lot longer these days when I make them.
Time sure flies, folks! I suppose I'm really feeling it, as I spent yesterday at two parties, celebrating babies at one and graduates at the other. Talk about two ends of the parental spectrum ... At one party there were pastel colored baby sleepers strung across a clothesline and at the other there were metallic "Congrats, graduate!" flags strung from the one end of the kitchen to the other. At the baby shower, the young mother opening gifts and shifting her round belly around to make room on her lap for oversized boxes and bows was one of the same girls I baked these bars for when she came to our house for sleep overs and homework 'project nights' ... all grown up and starting her life as a young parent. At the other party, the young man sporting his 'know-it-all graduate attitude' was the same young man who used to come down the road to my house and help himself to cookies from our cookie jar, as he popped cans of catfood for our cats, played with our dog, and and watered our plants for me. Now, it's his younger brothers who do the same, for he's far too busy with a 'real' job.
Kids grow up and move into new roles and parents sit back and watch with pride and just a wee bit (no understatement here!) of nostalgia. I'm certainly getting my dose of it these days! So I'm baking these Harvest Bars and giving them to the young kids who are, today, fulfilling their confirmation into our little community church. Good grief! I'm STILL trying to get kids to eat more fruits and nuts! I guess the parenting instinct never leaves you!
Making these bars is so simple ... Bananas and dried tropical fruit mix get soaked in a bath of orange juice and spices while you make a butter and brown sugar crumble crust with old fashioned oats added for good chewy fiber.
Part of the crumble is reserved and mixed with chopped walnuts. The rest is pressed into a pan and baked to form the cookie bar base.
Then, the fruits and juices are layered on with the crumble and nuts pressed atop and the bars go back into the oven for about twenty minutes.
And voila! Out comes golden brown and juicy, chewy and healthy fruit bars. What can I say? I did a taste test before these bars ever made it to the confirmation reception ... I know. I'm bad.
Harvest Fruit Bars
1 - 6 oz package of diced mixed fruit
1 c. chopped bananas ( two medium bananas)
⅔ c. orange juice
½ tsp. cinnamon
⅛ tsp. nutmeg
Bars and Crumble Topping:
1 c. butter (I split it butter/margarine)
1 c. brown sugar, firmly packed
1 ¾ c. flour
1 ½ c. old-fashioned oats
½ tsp. cinnamon
½ c. chopped walnuts
Making the Harvest Bars:
Preheat oven to 350°F.
1. Combine all the fruit ingredients in a bowl and stir gently in the orange juice and spices. Set aside for at least half an hour so that the juice soaks into the dried fruit.
2. Combine the sugar and butter in a bowl and mix until it is smooth and creamy brown.
3. Whisk the flour, oats, and cinnamon together in another bowl and then add to the brown sugar cream. Mix well until all the flour is absorbed.
4. Measure out ¾ cup of the bar crumble and place it in a shallow bowl with the nuts, set aside.
5. Grease your fingertips and press the rest of the bar crumble into the bottom of an ungreased 13x9 inch baking pan.
6. Bake for 15 minutes. Remove and allow to cool for a few minutes.
7. Spread the fruit over the top of the baked cookie bar base up to ¼ inch from the pan edges. Drizzle any extra juices over the fruit.
8. Stir the nuts and reserved crumble together and use your fingers to spread crumble and nuts over the top of the fuit.
9. Press down gently with your hands and return the bars to the oven for another 15 - 20 minutes.
10. Remove when the crumble is golden brown and let the bars cool in the pan for about 20 minutes. Cut into bars and arrange on a nice platter.
11. Store closely covered with plastic wrap.