Saturday, May 19, 2012

AB and Gluten Free--Strawberry Oatmeal Bars (Vegan, G-free, Dairy-free)

This post is actually something I wrote over a year ago on another site to which I belong.  I was was being fairly strict with following my Blood Type (AB) diet and also staying gluten-free, hence the title 'AB and Gluten-free'.  Although I'm not as 'strict' today as I was then, I still loosely follow many of the guidelines, such as eating very little meat and dairy and embracing a lifestyle that centers around fresh veggies and not so many grains on a day-to-day basis.  

My friend Tatiana sent me a lovely recipe for Raspberry Oat Bars a few months ago. I ADORE raspberries and oats...especially together in a tasty, chewy bar of bliss. Unfortunately this recipe had oats AND wheat. Sooooooooooo, I decided I would find a gluten-free version of a similar recipe, or take some time on my own and experiment with some GF flours. Well, as luck would have it, I picked up a bag of Bob's Red Mill Oat Flour at the grocery store a few weeks later, flipped it over to its back and delightfully spotted a recipe for Raspberry Oatmeal bars, gluten free! I love when the Universe does my dirty work. :-)

However, in this moment of time that the recipe was found, I was really in the mood for STRAWBERRY oat bars. So I just made a quick switch-a-roo on the ingredient list and used all-natural strawberry preserves (with no added sugar and only sweetened with fruit juice) in place of raspberry. Aside from the switch, I almost followed the recipe precisely, which I rarely do (I'm a Leo AND a rebel!), and the bars turned out to be Heavenly! They were perfectly moist and slightly chewy, but almost more of a cake-type bar than a chewy oatmeal bar. If I had to compare these to something in texture, they would be similar to the Quaker breakfast oatmeal bars, but not nearly as dense.  You know, the ones you pull out of a foil wrapper and then pop into the microwave for a few seconds and then get to wonder about the origins of some of the ingredients. The bars I made tasted a million times better, and I KNEW exactly what went into making them. I was naughty and ate some of mine topped with TruWhip frozen whipped topping, which is all-natural and non-dairy AND free of hydrogenated oils. Whoo-hoo!

Here's the recipe!

Strawberry Oatmeal Bars:
  • ½ Cup Earth Balance buttery spread (non-hydrogenated, I used the soy-free version)
  • 2 tsp. Vanilla Extract, divided
  • 1 C. Oat Flour (certified gluten free)
  • 1 C. Roll Oats (certified gluten free)
  • ¼ C. Raw Cane Sugar
  • ¼ C. Xylitol (can substitute sugar if xylitol isn't available)
  • 1 ½ tsp. Xanthan Gum
  • 1 tsp. Baking Powder
  • 1 tsp. Grated Lemon Zest
  • ½ tsp. Sea Salt
  • 2/3 C. Natural Strawberry Preserves (you can use any flavor you like!)

1.  Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. (I only preheated to 350 since my baking dish was glass)
2.  Generously grease, or spray with cooking spray, an 8x8 inch pan. 
3.  In a medium bow., combine the melted buttery spread and 1 tsp. of vanilla. 
4.   Stir in flour, oats, sugar/xylitol, xanthan gum, baking poweder, lemon zest, and salt until thoroughly combined.
5.  Press 1 C. of the oat mixture firmly onto the bottom of the pan. 
6.  Stir the remaining vanilla in with the fruit preserves until smooth, then spread evenly over oat mixture.

7.  Sprinkle remaining oat mixture over top of the preserves and lightly pat down or press into the the fruit filling. (I just crumbled mine in very loosely and lightly smoothed it out with my finger tips to give a crumb-topping look to the bars.).

8.  Bake 20-25 minutes or until top is lightly firmed and brown. (It actually took me closer to half an hour for mine to firm up, and this could partially be because I dropped the cooking temperature.) 
9.  Cool bars in the pan on a wire rack for at least 30 minutes.

This dessert will yield approximately 12 servings and should be kept at room temperature for best taste and texture. I kept mine on the counter top in a plastic container. They didn't last more than three days in my house.

If you don't want to fuss with finding Earth Balance spread (it's a tad expensive, although Wal-Mart Super Centers carry it at a reasonable price, if you're in the U.S.), you could certainly use any other buttery spread you prefer or even just real butter, which I'm sure would taste fantastic and rich! I use Earth Balance because it's the only non-butter spread I've been able to find that is truly natural, has no hydrogenated fats, and offers a soy-free version. No, it should not be consumed all the time as it still a processed collection of oils, but it is a wonderful alternative to the blood type AB's, who just simply cannot tolerate the saturated fats in real butter. And you definitely don't have to go through the the trouble of purchasing xylitol and raw can sugar. You can use the standard granulated sugar if you wish, but I would recommend at least using organic sugar as there will be a lot less chemicals and bleaching involved in the process. I prefer the raw cane sugar as it's only been washed and nothing has been done to alter its color. It resembles a light brown sugar used in baking and has the same rich, molasses taste. It does however have a fairly coarse granule, so you could further grind it up in a food processor if you prefer something a little finer. And the xylitol is there simply to cut back on the some of the sugar without sacrificing any taste (and having to use any chemical-laden sugar substitutes). It's easy on the blood sugar when eaten in moderation and actually good for the teeth!

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