Strawberry Oatmeal Bars
Four years ago today, by a dazzling combination of good fortune, mutual sacrifice, and temporary insanity (on his part), I duped a cute guy into marrying me. Thus far, our lives together have involved a healthy dose of all three, though I’ll take responsibility for more than 50% of the insanity. We’re celebrating our anniversary with two special guests: a pan of Strawberry Oatmeal Bars and…my mother.
Yes, my husband will be spending his wedding anniversary with his mother-in-law. At my request, my mom is coming to help me decorate our still-bare walls. Where as I feel overwhelmed and slightly panicky walking through a HomeGoods, my mom has a natural talent for picking out just the right touches to make a room feel comfortable and charming. The dates that aligned with her work schedule happen to fall on our anniversary, so my mom and I will spend the day putting a few more nail holes in the walls, progress to a three-person anniversary dinner with Ben, then end with Strawberry Oatmeal Bars for dessert.
While some gals might find it a bit of a bummer to spend their wedding anniversary dinners with their mothers, I don’t feel that way. Because I live far from home, my mom and I don’t have quality time together often, so I’m happy to sit down for dinner with her on any calendar date.
Plus, as the person who walked me down the aisle, she’s entitled to make at least one anniversary appearance.
My dad passed away unexpectedly 10 years go, so my mom did me the honor of walking me down the aisle in his place. While—to put it weakly, incompletely, and as a total cliché—my life will never be the same without my dad, I am unbelievably fortunate to have another wonderful man in my life, my husband Ben.
I am married to the best person that I know.
I’ve written a blog post on each of Ben and my wedding anniversaries, a tradition I’ve kept because it gives me pause to a) reflect on my marriage and b) make a strawberry dessert recipe to share with you. Our wedding cake was strawberry, so each year on our anniversary, I bake a strawberry dessert and post the recipe here, along with a few of my marital musings.
First thing’s first: these Strawberry Oatmeal Bars. Oh my. Every year, I say I’ve baked my favorite strawberry wedding dessert to date, but these Strawberry Oatmeal Bars might be the best yet, and they even qualify as healthy oatmeal bars too!
A bewitching cross between a soft bar cookie and a streusel-topped crumb bar, these sweet treats are the perfect use for the fresh strawberries that are finally starting to make their way into grocery stores in big, juicy quantities. They are also one of the easiest desserts I’ve ever baked.
The top and bottom “crust” of the oatmeal bars comes together in a single bowl, and since the recipe calls for melted, not softened, butter, you don’t even need to wait for the butter to come to room temperature first.
While many strawberry oatmeal bar recipes require making the filling in a separate bowl, these fresh strawberry bars do not. Once you’ve pressed the first crust layer into the pan, simply scatter the filling ingredients—diced strawberries, lemon juice, and a touch of sugar and cornstarch—right over it, then sprinkle the remaining oatmeal crumble on top.
In the oven, the strawberries “cook” into a bright, almost pie-like filling that’s reminiscent of a wonderful homemade strawberry jam.
Made with oatmeal, whole wheat flour, and little added sugar (the sweetness of these bars comes almost entirely from the fresh strawberries themselves), these healthy oatmeal bars are wholesome enough for breakfast or an afternoon snack. Try one warmed up with a dollop of Greek yogurt.
For those who prefer a sweeter take, a drizzle of vanilla glaze (recipe included below) sweetens the strawberry bars enough for dessert, though if you feel the need to garnish them with a scoop of vanilla ice cream, you have my blessing to say “I do.”
Speaking of “I do,” in keeping with prior years’ anniversary post tradition, here is a brief excerpt of what I learned about marriage this year. I’m sure to many, these lessons will seem trite; however, they are sincere, and as all good lessons should be, they are practical too.
- Leave three things a day unsaid. I owe Gretchen Rubin for this nugget. That little critique you are dying to utter or grievance you want to air? Don’t. It will feel good for all of two-seconds. A pleasant, positive atmosphere feels good all night.
- Put your phone away. I don’t mean face-down on the table “away.” I mean, AWAY. During dinner or another shared activity (reading in bed, watching Netflix, etc.), put your phone somewhere that you can’t get to it without physically standing up and walking. Maybe I’m supremely lazy, but placing my phone where I’d have to go to the trouble to haul myself up from the chair/couch/pillow and walk over to pick it up removes the temptation. No matter how quickly I glance at my notification screen or check to see how many Instagram likes my most recent post received, looking at my phone says silently say to Ben, “what I’m looking at is more important than what we are doing together right now.”
- Say thank you when your spouse completes shared household tasks, like unloading the dishwasher or taking out the trash. It’s nice to be appreciated, even for the chores that are “expected.” I may have mentioned this one in years past, but it is worth repeating. Gratitude never goes out of fashion.
OK, let’s eat some Strawberry Oatmeal Bars already!
Past years’ anniversary posts (all of which include more wedding photos, in case you enjoy that sort of thing as much as I do):
- One Year: Sprinkle’s Bakery Strawberry Cake
- Two Year: Strawberry Almond Skillet Cake
- Three Year: Strawberry Rhubarb Crisp
Tools I used to make this recipe:
Healthy Strawberry Oatmeal Bars
The easiest, best strawberry oatmeal bars with butter crumb topping. One bowl, simple ingredients, and 100% whole grain—perfect for a snack or dessert!
Yield: 1 8x8 inch pan (16 small or 9 large)
Prep Time: 20 minutes
Cook Time: 35 minutes
Total Time: 55 minutes (plus cool time)
For the Strawberry Bars:
- 1 cup old fashioned rolled oats (gluten free if needed)
- 3/4 cup white whole wheat flour (or substitute all purpose flour or 1:1 baking flour to make gluten free)
- 1/3 cup light brown sugar
- 1/4 teaspoon ground ginger
- 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
- 6 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted (or substitute melted coconut oil to make vegan/dairy-free)
- 1 teaspoon cornstarch
- 1 tablespoon freshly squeezed lemon juice (from about 1/2 small lemon)
- 1 tablespoon granulated sugar, divided
- 2 cups, small-diced strawberries (10 ounces)
For the Vanilla Glaze (optional but delicious, especially if you prefer a sweeter bar):
- 1/2 cup powdered sugar, sifted
- 1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
- 1 tablespoon milk (any kind you like)
- Place a rack in the center of your oven and heat to 375 degrees F. Line an 8-by-8-inch baking pan with parchment paper so that the paper overhangs two sides like “handles.”
- In a medium bowl, combine the oats, 3/4 cup flour, brown sugar, ginger, and salt. Pour in the melted butter and stir until it forms clumps and the dry ingredients are evenly moistened. Set aside 1/2 cup of the crumble mixture, then press the rest into an even layer in the bottom of the prepared pan.
- Scatter half of the strawberries over the crust. Sprinkle the cornstarch evenly over the top, then sprinkle on the lemon juice, and 1/2 tablespoon of the granulated sugar. Scatter on the remaining berries, then the remaining 1/2 tablespoon sugar. Sprinkle the reserved crumbs evenly over the top. You will have some fruit showing through.
- Bake the bars for 35 to 40 minutes, until the fruit is bubbly and the crumb topping smells toasty and looks golden. Place the pan on a wire rack to cool completely (you can speed this process along in the refrigerator).
- While the bars cool, prepare the glaze: in a medium bowl, briskly whisk together the powdered sugar, vanilla, and milk until smooth. Feel free to add more milk if a thinner consistency is desired. Using the parchment paper handles, lift the bars from the pan. Drizzle with glaze, slice, and serve.
Notes: Recipe can be doubled and baked in a 9×13-inch baking pan. The bars will be a bit thicker, but still delicious. To make gluten free, substitute the white whole wheat flour with a 1:1 baking mix like this one.
Store leftovers in the refrigerator for up to 5 days
Serving Size: 1 (of 16) without glaze
- Amount Per Serving:
- Calories: 100
- Total Fat: 5g
- Saturated Fat: 3g
- Cholesterol: 44mg
- Sodium: 19mg
- Carbohydrates: 13g
- Fiber: 2g
- Sugar: 3g
- Protein: 2g