What to do with a blueberry bonanza? Make these scrumptious bars!
I've been known to claim that a culinary wasteland begins just outside the front gate to our farm. This is of course an exaggeration, but when you know you're probably the only one in three counties growing arugula, or that the closest fresh parsley for sale is 40 miles away—and is probably wilted—it sometimes feels true.
The truth is, though, that if you're willing to hunt around and do some driving, it's quite possible to score some wonderful locally produced foodstuffs around here. Throw in some available freezer space, and you can enjoy these scrumptious seasonal specialties all year long.
For example, next week I'll be driving to a farm to pick up ten all-natural, pasture-raised chickens that will have been processed right there on the premises that morning.
And last week I picked up the five gallons of big organic blueberries I pre-ordered back in January from a local grower. They'd been picked right before my arrival, and are, as you might imagine, incredible: plump and juicy, sweet but not too sweet, each one bursting with flavor.
Most of them are already in the freezer, where theoretically they will last until next year, though I doubt that will happen. On more than occasion I've found myself filling up a large bowl with blueberries and popping them into my mouth like they were M&Ms.
But a baker who has nearly five gallons of blueberries in her possession will eventually get a hankering to turn them into something more than finger food.
I'd been planning to finally make my first ever blueberry pie, and we even bought a carton of ice cream to go with it—a task that requires intricate planning, driving slightly above the speed limit, and lots and lots of ice.
But before I could start sifting through all the blueberry pie recipes I've collected over the years, I was sidetracked by a recipe for blueberry bars I created the last time we had a blueberry haul in the house.
After some tinkering, including nearly doubling the amount of blueberries in my original version, I've come up with what I think is a delectable blueberry bar. I've never tasted anything quite like it. With its oatmeal crust and streusel topping, it reminds me of an eat-with-your-hands cross between blueberry pie and blueberry crisp.
There's no particular reason why I decided to call them Blueberry Breakfast Bars, except that doing so allows you to eat them for breakfast without having to make any rationalizations, as with say, a slice of Emergency Chocolate Cake. Although that's a poor example because a chocolate emergency, even one at breakfast time, does not, by definition, ever need to be rationalized.
August 2011 update: I recently came across a Martha Stewart recipe for something called Blueberry Bonanza Bars. Blueberry bonanza! My recipe remains the same, but I've swiped the fabulous word bonanza and added it to the name.
Despite calling for a fair amount of sugar, these blueberry bars, especially if accompanied by a cold glass of milk and perhaps a banana, do make a healthier breakfast than many of the traditional breakfast foods out there, like jelly-filled donuts or highly-processed packaged items whose names include the word fruit but do not actually contain any fruit.
Of course you can break out a Blueberry Bonanza Breakfast Bar any time of day or night. You can put one in a lunchbox, pack some on a picnic, or munch on one in the car on your way to pick up the kids at school.
You can cut them into squares, wrap them up individually, and freeze them for an instant on hand snack. Or you can cut into the pan while they're still warm and gooey and serve them up in bowls alongside scoops of vanilla ice cream to your dearest friends who will then love you even more than they already do. Topping the bowls with a handful of fresh blueberries may cause swooning.
Besides being really good for you, blueberries have another wonderful quality; unlike strawberries and raspberries, they freeze individually without special treatment.
How do you freeze blueberries? Just fill up a zipper freezer bag or plastic container and toss them in the freezer.
9/06 Update: Got peaches? Check the end of the recipe for how to make my Just Peachy Blueberry Bars. And click here to read more about them.
8/07 Update: Love apples? Check out my new Apple Blueberry Version of this recipe.
Many thanks to everyone who has taken the time to leave a comment below, telling us how much you enjoyed this recipe and sharing your wonderful variations.
Farmgirl Susan's Blueberry Bonanza Breakfast Bars
Makes one 9"x13" pan — 12 to 16 large bars
**Click here to print this recipe**
Don't let the three separate layers in the recipe scare you off; they come together quickly and you only need to dirty up two mixing bowls.
I've made them with both fresh and frozen blueberries. My blueberries are large and not super sweet. If yours are the smaller and sweeter wild variety, you may want to use less sugar in the middle layer.
Feel free to substitute whole wheat flour for some or all of the white flour in the crust and/or the streusel topping. To give them another healthy boost, you could mix some chopped walnuts or almonds or pecans into the topping.
As always, I urge you to seek out local and organic ingredients; they really do make a difference. Even organic sugars are becoming mainstream.
2 cups organic old-fashioned oats (not quick oats)
3/4 cup organic all-purpose flour
3/4 cup (packed) light brown sugar
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
10 Tablespoons (1 stick + 2 Tbsp/5 ounces) organic butter, melted
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1 cup organic all-purpose flour
1/2 cup (packed) light brown sugar
1/2 cup (1 stick/4 ounces) organic butter or natural vegetable oil sticks, such as Earth Balance
3½ cups fresh or frozen blueberries
1/2 to 1 teaspoon pure almond extract
3/4 cup granulated sugar
3 Tablespoons all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg (1/4 teaspoon if freshly ground)
For the bottom layer:
Heat the oven to 425°. Grease a 9" x 13" pan (I love my Chicago Metallic commercial bake and roast pans and these heavy duty USA Pans are really nice too).
In a large bowl, combine the oats, flour, brown sugar, baking soda, and salt. Stir in the melted butter and vanilla until thoroughly combined. Press this mixture evenly into the bottom of the pan with your fingers. I also use the bottom of a stainless steel measuring cup to help make the crust flat and even.
For the top layer:
Place the flour, brown sugar, and butter or vegetable oil sticks in a small bowl and use a fork, pastry blender, or your fingers to combine until the mixture resembles large crumbs (some pea-sized clumps are okay). Set aside.
For the middle layer:
Place the blueberries in the bowl you mixed the bottom layer in and toss them with the almond extract. Pour them evenly over the bottom layer in the pan.
Combine the sugar and flour and sprinkle it evenly over the blueberries. (Even when wet or frozen, the sugar/flour mixture wouldn't stick to my big fat blueberries when I tried tossing it with them. If yours will, just toss the sugar/flour mixture with the blueberries and then pour the whole mixture over the Bottom Layer in the pan.)
Sprinkle the top layer evenly over the blueberry mixture. Bake at 425° for 15 minutes, then lower the oven temperature to 350° and bake for another 20 to 25 minutes, until the top is golden, and the edges are starting to brown.
Let cool in pan on a wire rack. Store in a cool place or refrigerate. Bars may also be frozen.
Just Peachy Blueberry Breakfast Bars:
Follow the instructions above, but substitute 3 cups of small peach chunks (about 2 peaches, no need to peel them) and 2 cups of fresh or frozen blueberries for the 3½ cups of blueberries. Toss the sugar and flour directly with the fruit before spreading it over the bottom layer.
Bake at 425° for 15 minutes, then lower the oven to 350° and bake until the topping looks 'dry' but the edges aren't too brown, about 30 to 40 more minutes.
Still hungry? You'll find links to all my sweet and savory Less Fuss, More Flavor recipes in the Farmgirl Fare Recipe Index.
© FarmgirlFare.com, the blue but happy foodie farm blog where Farmgirl Susan shares recipes, stories, and photos of her crazy country life on 240 remote Missouri acres—and if we're lucky there are always blueberries (or blueberry bars!) in the freezer.