I am not friendly with oatmeal. Growing up, I spent a number of summers slogging through the great outdoors with other young backpackers. Our culinary prowess was limited by severe weight parameters, our slight shoulders could only hold so much. The easiest things to carry on our week-long adventures were dried goods: pastas, beans, oats, rices, etc…
Every morning we ate oatmeal.
One morning, whoever was in charge of cooking (I take no responsibility, and my memory offers no blame) made too much oatmeal. And when I say too much, I need you to understand that this was our Strega Nona, this was an unconquerable amount of food.
And we had no choice but to eat it. Were we to leave food behind, black bears would creep into the camp ground and take up our trail, hoping for more food. There was no way to dispose of the oatmeal other than biologically processing it through our bodies.
So we ate full bowls. And still there was more.
We had seconds. And still there was more.
A few of us were knighted with the responsibility of finishing the batch, they assumed we could handle it, given our size.
A final bowl, gloppy and thick. I threw in a handful of raisins, some sunflower seeds for texture, and I shoveled it into my mouth. Quickly. I couldn’t let my stomach alert my mind that it was full, over full, before the bowl was clean.
And then it was empty. We won.
By that point we were at least 30 minutes behind schedule, the sun was up and already searing the trail through our thin atmosphere. The rest of the camp was packed in haste, we hefted our loads and set off on the trail, eager to reach the next campground by mid afternoon (it was situated near a lake and our feet so desperately wanted the cool relief).
I was slow. The weight in my belly was a new gravity, a force I could not reckon. They urged me on, cheering me for eating so much, thrilled that we left no trace of our stay at the last campground.
I am not friendly with oatmeal.
But this year I’m giving it a reprieve. I make these breakfast bars and keep them in the fridge when I’m running late in the morning. Unlike the oatmeal of my childhood, these are soft and tender, sweetened with dried fruit and packed with protein from nut butters.
For now, oatmeal is back on my friend list.
2 ⅔ cups Gluten Free Steel Cut Oats
5 ⅓ cups Water
2 cups Dates, pitted
2 cups Dried Apple Slices
2 cups Pecans
1 cup Almond Butter
2 tablespoons Cinnamon
1 teaspoon Salt
1. Heat your oven to 350 degrees. Pour the water and oats into a medium saucepan. Bring to a boil, then drop the heat and simmer for about 12-15 minutes, until the oatmeal is thick and the water is absorbed. Pour the oatmeal into a large mixing bowl.
2. In a food processor, buzz the dates, apples and pecans.
3. Add the buzzed fruit and nuts to the oatmeal and stir in the almond butter, cinnamon, and salt.
4. Pour the mixture into a 9×13 baking dish. Slide the dish into the oven and cook for 10 minutes, just enough to set the bars a bit. Let the mixture cool in the fridge for at least 2 hours, or overnight, then cut into bars and wrap in waxed paper or plastic wrap. Store bars in the refrigerator.
Yield: ~16 bars
Prep. Time: ~30 minutes