Oatmeal Cranberry Bars or What To Do With Leftover Cranberry Sauce

Oatmeal Cranberry Bars

This recipe is a great way to use up any leftover cranberry sauce you may have from holiday meals. I find whole berry works best but if you like the jelly kind, use it too. Store bought, in a can or fresh, any cranberry sauce will work out quite well.

For the best, make your own cranberry sauce.

Oatmeal Cranberry Bars

  • Servings: 12
  • Difficulty: moderate
  • Print

Cranberry Sauce 003

Cranberry Sauce 003 (Photo credit: MGF/Lady Disdain)

Pre-heat the oven to 350°F. Prepare a 9 x 13 inch baking pan. Spray the bottom and sides with baking spray, line the pan with a sheet of parchment, allowing the sides of the paper to overhang on the long edge of the pan. This makes for easy removal from the pan after the bars are baked. Simply lift the paper and the whole thing can be moved to a cutting board or platter.

Spray the parchment with baking spray. Set aside until ready to use.

Make the dough:

  • 8 ounces soft  unsalted butter
  • 1 1/4 cups packed light or dark brown sugar
  • 1 large egg
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 2 1/2 cups old-fashioned rolled oats
  • 1 cup chopped pecans
  • 4 ounces cream cheese
  • 1 cup semi sweet chocolate chips

Using a mixer with a paddle attachment, add the butter and sugar, mix just until it comes together.

Add the eggs and vanilla.

Mix together: flour, baking soda, salt, cinnamon and pecans in a separate bowl. Add the mixture to the butter and eggs, stirring slowly to combine, slowly add all of the oats and mix only until combined.

Press 1/2 of the dough into the bottom of the baking pan.

Top with cranberry sauce. Make sure to cover the entire surface, all the way to the edges. I added some seedless raspberry jam in dollops all over the dough too.

Dot the cream cheese over the surface of the dough.

Using the remaining half of the dough, dollop it over the top of the cranberries and cream cheese.

Bake in the pre-heated 350°F for 45 minutes or until the top is lightly golden brown.

When the bars come out, drop 1 cup of semi-sweet chocolate chips on top. The heat from the baked bars will melt the chips, then spread the melted chocolate in swirled patterns over the top. You could drizzle some fondant icing over them too but that might be overkill.

Remove from the oven and cool on a wire rack for about 1 hour.

Carefully lifting the sides of the overhanging paper, lift the baked bars onto a cutting board and cut them into the desired size with a sharp knife. Sprinkle any crumbles over yogurt.

Store covered at room temperature for up to 7 days. (If they last that long!)

Plated Oatmeal Cranberry Bar

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Pepper Jelly, Another Southern Staple

Chances are, if you live in the southern USA, you have seen and tasted pepper jelly. Pepper jelly is one of those staples that can be used in many things.

Hostess Saver

It saves a hostess when guests show up; pour some pepper jelly over cream cheese and some crackers and you have a marvelous snack with wine, beer or even iced tea.

It adds a special something to pan-fried pork chops and makes scrambled eggs amazing. Slathering some onto a biscuit or over some ham will leave you in taste bud heaven.

While pepper jelly is a bit on the pricy side ($4.99 USD for a small 6 oz jar) it can be made rather quickly and you can adjust the heat to make it hot or just make it sweet.

When you make this, set aside time to give it your full attention because it needs to be stirred constantly to prevent lumping and scorching.

As always, when working with hot sugar, be careful. Keep a bowl of ice water near your working space so if you get splashed, you can plunge it into ice water to prevent a bad burn.

There are many recipes for pepper jelly. This one does not use a large amount of pectin so it sets on a medium gel which makes it perfect for pouring over cream cheese, making a sauce or slathering onto a nice hot buttermilk biscuit.

Pepper Jelly Biscuit with herb and cheese scrambled eggs

Southern Pepper Jelly

1 1/4 cup of finely diced red and orange peppers (one large pepper of each color)

3/4 cup finely diced green pepper

2 tablespoons finely diced jalapeno pepper OR 1 small Habanero

Wear gloves when handling hot peppers. If you get the hot peppers on your skin, soak the skin in milk, 1/2 & 1/2 or cream.

Do not rub your eyes or touch small children or babies with hands that have just handled hot peppers.

1/2 cup apple cider vinegar

1 1.75 ounce package of powdered pectin

1/2 teaspoon kosher salt

2 1/2 cups granulated sugar

Take your time cutting the peppers. The best jelly has lovely evenly diced cubes of multicolored peppers floating the jelly. If you just hack and chop, you see uneven strands and bits and pieces of peppers which isn’t so nice to look at through the jar or when you are eating the jelly.

Here is how to cut a nice looking pepper:

Wash the peppers and remove any sticky labels.

Trim the top and bottom off, remove the stem and save the trimmed ends for kebab or in a salad or stir-fry.

Remove the ribs and seeds, open the pepper so it lays flat, skin side down.

Carefully remove the membrane

See how much prettier the pepper is with the membrane removed?

Slice into julienne, cut even slices all the way down the pepper strip.

Turn the julienne and cut into dice. The cubes should be of even size.

Pepper Jelly, a southern staple and hostess saver.

Slice the pepper so it becomes one long strip. Lay the pepper out with the skin side down. Remove the seeds and ribs from inside the pepper.

Using a sharp knife, remove the membrane from the inside of the pepper, leaving the plump pepper flesh. Just take a very thin slice from the surface to remove the membrane.

Make long thin slices from the pepper (Julienne cut), then turn the strips and cut them into cubes. Do this carefully so you create a bowl full of nicely diced peppers.

Trust me, it really makes a difference to take the time to do it right.

Place the diced peppers, vinegar and pectin into a saucepan. Bring to a boil over high heat, stirring constantly.

Be careful of vinegar fumes, turn your exhaust fan on so you don’t get all choked up.

When the mixture comes to a full rolling boil, add the sugar.

Return the mixture to another rolling boil, then boil it for 1 full minute while stirring constantly.

Remove from heat and skim off any foam that may have formed on the top.

You can process the jelly in canning jars, hot water bath etc to seal and make them shelf stable. (Great idea for gifts)

Or using clean, sterile jars, fill and invert them on the counter to cool. Once cool, turn them over and they seal will set, but you will need to refrigerate the jars.

This makes slightly over a pint.

Soften cream cheese, to fancy it up a bit, put it in a piping bag and pipe the cream cheese out in a decorative pattern rather than just plopping a chunk of cream cheese on a plate.

But if you want to, you can do it that way. Lots of southern folks do.

Blueberry and Lemon Tart

Lemon Blueberry Tarts

A delicious blueberry and lemon tart for Fathers Day!

The tart uses a pie dough made with vodka, a filling with lemon curd and cream cheese crowned with a pile of fresh blueberries.

What could be better?

Pie dough first:

Using vodka in pie dough creates a very flaky crust. The alcohol prevents gluten from forming in the flour as the dough is processed. Gluten is what would make the dough tough. Wonderful for bread, but not so nice in a pie crust.

This dough rolls out beautifully. One secret is to chill the dough for at least 2 hours or overnight.

Use a food processor for speedy results. If you don’t have a processor, use the two knife technique or a pastry cutter to blend the fat and flour, then again to add the vodka and water.

Pie dough ready to roll

Pie Dough with Vodka

English: A dough blender; also called a pastry...

English: A dough blender; also called a pastry blender. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

  • 2 -1/2 cups AP Flour or King Arthur’s white whole wheat flour
    • Measure it separately: 1 1/2 cups and then another 1 cup
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 2 Tablespoons sugar (Optional)
  • 1- 1/2 sticks of butter cut into 1/4″ slices to ease combining
  • 1/2 cup Crisco or shortening (Or use all butter)
  • 1/4 cup vodka
  • 1/4 cup water

Method:

Add 1-1/2 cups flour to the bowl of a food processor. Add the salt, sugar (if using), butter and shortening to the bowl. Put the lid on and pulse until the mixture is about the size of peas.

Add the vodka and water, pulse to combine. Do not overwork which will make the dough tough.

Remove the dough from the bowl, separate into two pieces, flatten into discs. Wrap each disc in plastic wrap and chill either overnight or for at least 2 hours.

Roll the dough, line the pastry dish (pie tin, tart molds) with the pastry.

Dock the crusts before baking

Dock the surface of the dough; cover each tin or mold with parchment, fill with rice or beans and bake at 375°F until the crust is golden brown.

Fill with pie weights or dried beans and bake

Cool the shells before filling.

Cool shells before filling

You can always buy pie crust if you don’t want to make it. You can even pie totally pre-made and cooked shells if you prefer.

Lemon Cream Cheese Filling

8 ounces cream cheese

Homemade lemon curd

Homemade lemon curd (Photo credit: Wikipedia) You can also buy it already made.

4 ounces lemon curd

1/4 cup confectioners sugar (powdered sugar; 10x sugar)

2 ounces heavy cream

2 sheets or 1/4 ounce gelatin powder (Bloomed in the heavy cream)

Zest and juice of 1 lemon

Bloom the gelatin. Heat the cream and the gelatin in a double boiler to prevent scorching.  Set aside and keep warm.

Warm the cream cheese slightly in the microwave, it combines better with other ingredients when it isn’t cold. In the bowl of a mixer, add the cream cheese and lemon curd and confectioners sugar.

Mix cream cheese, lemon curd and sugar

Combine until smooth.

Add the warm cream and gelatin, zest and lemon juice to the mixture, mix until smooth.

Fill each of the baked pastry shells with lemon cream cheese mixture, Chill until firm.

To serve, top with fresh blueberries.

Fresh Blueberries

Garnish with a dusting of confectioners sugar and cinnamon.

Use a 5-hole zester to get long thin strips; sprinkle with granulated sugar

Top it all off with a curl of lemon zest and fresh mint leaves.

Dust the berries with confectioners sugar with a small bit of cinnamon over the berries just before serving.

Lemon Blueberry Tarts

Strawberry “Cheesecake”, Rhubarb Compote, Oatmeal Hemp Seed Crisp

A bowl of Strawberries. Français : Un bol de f...

Strawberries enhance the tartness of rhubarb. Classically they go together like hand in glove. But they don’t have to.

I like strawberries and I like rhubarb, both separate and together.

The local grocery had a sampling table set up promoting hemp seeds for their nutritional value. I picked up a bag intending to use them in a multi-grain bread, but used them instead of nuts in the oatmeal crisp.

So you are really getting three desserts today; you can eat each separate and then together.

Let’s talk briefly about the hemp seeds.

Gillian McKeith's organic shelled hemp seeds i...

Gillian McKeith’s organic shelled hemp seeds in a small bowl with teaspoon. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

These seeds are not the variety of hemp used to “get high” anymore than you can “get high” from pistachios.

They are delicious, have great nutritional value and I thought it may push the envelope a bit to use them.

You can toast them but the texture is fine so it would be best to use them in something rather than a snack food.

If you desire, substitute finely ground pistachios or almonds instead of hemp seeds.

This entire dish consists of three recipes. Each quite simple.

The beauty is you can eat the strawberry “cheesecake” without the rhubarb compote and the compote without the cheesecake.

The cheesecake in this case is not baked, does not contain as much fat as traditional cheesecake; hence the quotation marks.

Make this with cream, or half and half (even the fat-free kind), Greek yogurt, cream cheese (can also be low-fat) and low-fat sour cream if desired.

Depending upon your choices of regular, low or non fat versions, you can have a pretty nifty dessert.

Recipe 1:

Strawberry Rhubarb Oatmeal Hemp Seed Crisp

Strawberry “Cheesecake”

1 cup of whole strawberries, stemmed and washed

1/2 cup heavy cream or 1/2 and 1/2

1/2 cup plain Greek yogurt

1/4 cup sour cream (optional)

1 8 – ounce package Cream Cheese

1/4 cup confectioners (10x) sugar

4 gelatin leaves or 2 teaspoons powdered gelatin

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Method:

Puree the strawberries until smooth. Set aside.

Warm the cream cheese slightly in a microwave or wrap in a warm towel for 10 minutes to soften. The cream cheese whips better when soft.

Place the cream cheese in the mixer along with the sugar. Whip until smooth, add the strawberry puree.

Important notes about using gelatin:

If using gelatin leaves, soften the gelatin leaves in cold water for 10 minutes. When soft, squeeze out excess moisture. Add to warm liquid to melt, in this case the warm cream.

If using powdered gelatin, measure out the cold cream into a  heat proof bowl. (Stainless bowls work great) Sprinkle the powdered gelatin over the surface of the cream. Allow the gelatin to “bloom” for 10-15 minutes. Place the bowl over a pot of boiling water (double boiler) to warm the cream and melt the gelatin.

Careful in both cases, gelatin burns and scorches easily. Be careful and pay attention.

If using powdered gelatin follow these directions:

Heat cream and bloomed gelatin until warm and melted in a double boiler.

( A stainless bowl over pot of boiling water works nicely)

Add yogurt, be careful not to scorch, stir until warm and gelatin is totally melted.

If using gelatin sheets or leaves follow these directions:

Add the softened gelatin to warm cream and yogurt.

Stir until gelatin is dissolved.

Continue:

Add the gelatin mixture to the whipped cream cheese and strawberries.

Add the vanilla extract.

Pour the mixture into desired containers: pretty stemmed glasses, ramekins, small bowls, fancy tea cups or a large dish.

I used stemmed “Marie Antoinette” champagne classes for this.

Refrigerate 2-3 hours or overnight for the gelatin to set.

Recipe 2:

Rhubarb Compote with Oatmeal Hemp Seed Crisp

(Or Oatmeal Pistachio/Almond Crisp)

Wash and dry rhubarb

3 stalks of fresh rhubarb, washed and sliced into pieces finger width wide. Be consistent.

1/2 cup sugar or 1/3 cup honey or agave syrup

2 tablespoons instant tapioca

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Pinch of salt

Slice the rhubarb

Allow rhubarb, sugar and tapioca to sit 15-30 minutes
( this is called “to macerate” in cooking terminology)

Spray baking dish with pan spray or
butter the dish

Fill the baking dish with macerated rhubarb

Wash and slice the rhubarb. In a large bowl, combine the rhubarb, sugar and tapioca and vanilla.

Allow the mixture to rest for 15 – 30 minutes.

Meanwhile make the crisp part.

Recipe #3

Oatmeal, Hemp Seed Crisp

(Or Oatmeal Pistachio/Almond Crisp)

Combine oats, brown sugar, butter and ground nuts or seeds with a pastry cutter

Combine until the mixture looks like this; spread over top of the rhubarb; bake

Bake until golden and bubbly

1 cup old-fashioned oats

1/2 cup brown sugar

1/4 cup whole butter, soft not melted!

1/4 cup hemp seeds or finely ground almond or pistachio nuts

1 teaspoon salt

Combine the oats, sugar and seeds and salt, cut in the butter until the mixture is like coarse cornmeal.

Place the macerated rhubarb mixture into a baking dish, top with the oatmeal hemp seed streusel mixture. Bake for 1 hour in an over set at 350°F or until the mixture bubbles.

Be sure to place a pan under the dish to catch all of the drippings for easy clean up.

To serve, top each chilled strawberry cream cheese dish with a generous dollop of warm rhubarb compote. Make sure you get some of the crisp part for the top. Add sliced or fresh diced strawberries if you like.

Garnish with mint leaf and serve with a smile!

Rhubarb Hemp Seed Crisp on top of Strawberry “Cheesecake”