Last week at the farmers market there were strawberries. The first local strawberries of the season. Strawberries are one of the foods that I eat almost exclusively locally and in season because they taste so much better that way. I look forward to strawberry season all year long.

 

I also picked up some rhubarb. If you don't know what rhubarb is, it's an early spring vegetable that looks like red celery. It's quite tart, but when sweetened with sugar it becomes fabulously sweet/tart. It's usually paired with some sort of berry for pies or crisps. I would say about 75 percent of the time, you'll find it paired with strawberries.

 

I went looking for a recipe to use my farmers market finds in, and I came upon a strawberry/rhubarb dessert bar recipe on the Land O' Lakes website. After reading the recipe it occurred to me that this would be a great substitute for cereal bars and much healthier than traditional boxed processed cereal bars.

 

Look at this list of ingredients for a Strawberry Nutrigrain Cereal Bar from Kelloggs (via Amazon.com). I've highlighted the ingredients that raise a red flag for me (although I'm sure there are other ingredients in here that others would have a problem with).

 

Filling (Strawberry Preserves [High Fructose Corn Syrup, Strawberries], Corn Syrup, Fructose, Glycerin, Water, Maltodextrin, High Fructose Corn Syrup, Modified Corn Starch, Citric Acid, Sodium Alginate, Natural and Artificial Strawberry Flavor, Caramel Color, Calcium Phosphate, Xanthan Gum, Malic Acid, Sodium Citrate, Modified Cellulose, Red No. 40), Enriched Wheat Flour, Whole Oats, Sugar, Partially Hydrogenated Soybean and/or Cottonseed Oil, High Fructose Corn Syrup, Honey, Calcium Carbonate, Dextrose, Nonfat Dry Milk, Wheat Bran, Salt, Cellulose Gum, Leavening (Potassium Bicarbonate), Natural and Artificial Vanilla Flavor, Soy Lecithin, Wheat Gluten, Corn Starch, Niacinamide, Carrageenan, Guar Gum, Zinc Oxide, Reduced Iron, Pyridoxine Hydrochloride (Vitamin B6), Riboflavin (Vitamin B2), Vitamin A Palmitate, Thiamin Hydrochloride (Vitamin B1) and Folic Acid.

 

Now here are the ingredients for the strawberry rhubarb dessert bars. Most of the ingredients in this recipe can be substituted with organic ingredients if you wish.

 

Strawberry rhubarb dessert bars

 

Ingredients

Filling

 

  • 1 ½ cups fresh or frozen unsweetened rhubarb, cut into 1 inch pieces (I had about 1 ¼ cups worth so I made up the difference with extra strawberries)
  • 1 ½ cups sliced fresh strawberries
  • 1 tbsp lemon juice
  • ½ cup sugar
  • 2 tbsp cornstarch
 

Crust

 

  • 1 ½ cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 ½ cups quick-cooking oats
  • 1 cup firmly packed brown sugar
  • ¾ cup butter softened (since this is from Land 0’ Lakes site they would prefer you use their butter, but any butter will do)
  • ½ tsp baking soda
  • ¼ tsp salt
 

Time estimates

Prep time: 15 minutes

Cook time: 35 minutes

Total time: 50 minutes

Makes about 12 bars

 

Note: The recipe site also has a drizzle for the top made of powdered sugar and milk, but I omitted it.

 

Directions

 

  1. Combine strawberries, rhubarb and lemon in a saucepan and cook on medium heat for 8-10 minutes, stirring occasionally.
  2. Add sugar and cornstarch to fruit mixture, bring to boil, and allow to boil a minute or two until sauce thickens.
  3. While the strawberry mixture is cooking, combine the crust ingredients and mix with electric mixer until the mixture resembles course crumbs — it will be very dry.
  4. Reserve 1 ½ cups of crust mixture and pat down the rest of the crust mixture into a 9x13 pan that has been sprayed with non-stick or greased.
  5. Spread fruit mixture over bottom crust.
  6. Sprinkle the rest of crust mixture evenly over the top.
  7. Bake in a 350° F oven for 30-35 minutes until golden brown.
  8. Cool completely (if you can wait that long — we couldn't).
 

These are delicious, and a much better option for my boys' morning snack at school than a pre-packaged cereal bar. They are very crumbly so I had to wrap them in plastic wrap so they wouldn't fall apart in their backpacks. I wasn't happy about that, and if someone has a suggestion as to how I can package them without waste, please put it in the comments.

 

Photo courtesy Land O'Lakes

 

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