Unless you're me, in which case you freeze a ton of strawberries every summer, then were not able to eat them this year because of gestational diabetes. Generally we use the strawberries in lieu of ice in smoothies because they add fiber, flavor, and color. Gene makes such delicious smoothies. I really missed them this year.
My freezer remains well stocked with frozen strawberries. Other than smoothies and French toast topping, I've been hard-pressed to find a good use for them. Frozen strawberries turn to mush when defrosted, making them nearly impossible to use in baked goods. I'm not a fantastic baker and everything I've ever made with strawberries, frozen or fresh, winds up gooey and unsatisfactory.
I'm inordinately stubborn, however, so crossed my fingers and hoped for the best with this substitution. The original version calls for frozen blueberries, which I unknowingly ran out of a few days ago. You whir the frozen berries with cornstarch and sugar in a food processor, then layer the fruit with an oatmeal dough. The blueberry version, which I've made many times, is like a homemade Nutrigrain bar, only way yummier. The end result is nutritious, packed with filling fiber, and tasty. The bars freeze well, thaw quickly, and can be eaten one-handed.
As a new parent I have a fresh appreciation of the importance of this last item. I can't tell you how many recent meals I've wolfed down without chewing, hoping to get some sustenance before Kaelen starts screwing up his angry, feed-me-Seymour face. Feeding time has been complicated due to my low milk supply (yes, I'm seeing a lactation consultant) and subsequent requirement to supplement. I feed Kaelen for 30 minutes, give him a bottle for 10, pump for 10 if I have the energy, and then start the process over again in an hour. Sometimes less, sometimes more.
Good thing he's so cute.
Since Gene doesn't love blueberries the way I do, I'd been thinking of making a version with strawberries for a while. The strawberries set up perfectly and the end result is, if I may say so myself, delectable. I'm betting that this can be made with any type of frozen berry with similar results. Perhaps even frozen peaches...??
BERRY OAT BARS (from Spring 2010 "Real Food" magazine distributed by Metropolitan Market)
2 cups rolled oats
2 cups whole wheat flour
1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
1 1/2 cups brown sugar
6 tbsp very cold butter (frozen is fine)
3/4 cup milk
1 tbsp lemon juice
2 tsp vanilla
1/2 cup white sugar
1 tbsp cornstarch
2 cups frozen berries
1. Preheat oven to 350. Oil 9x13 baking dish.
2. In a large bowl, combine oats through brown sugar. Using large holes of a cheese grater, shred butter into mixture and work in until the size of grains of rice.
(As an aside, this is my new favorite way to incorporate butter into a dough when not using the food processor. Use your hands to make quick work of mixing in the butter.)
3. In another container (I use the measuring cup), combine the milk, lemon juice, and vanilla, then stir into the oat mixture. Press a little more than half of the dough into the bottom of the prepared dish.
4. In a food processor, combine the sugar and cornstarch, then add the berries and process until the mix looks grainy nad well minced. (If using blueberries, reserve half of the berries and combine with the processed berries at this point.) Dollop the remaining batter evenly over the fruit. Bake for 50-55 minutes (40-45 in convection oven) until the top layer is deep golden and the fruit is bubbling.
5. Remove the bars from the oven and allow to cool in the baking dish on a rack. When cool, cut into 18 3x6" bars.
You can wrap them individually in plastic and store in a zip-top bag in the freezer for an easy breakfast or snack that will thaw on the counter in about an hour. Thirty seconds in the microwave will also do the trick.