Raspberry rhubarb chia jam bars

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Preschool germs. Is there a stronger force in the universe? In my memoir, this era will be titled: The time when my child who never got sick, was never not sick.

And I don't know if all kids do this when ill, but mine is like a koala bear who drank a pot of coffee. He's both lethargic and wired, wanting to be on top of me while simultaneously thrashing like he's breaking out of a human prison. In short, this has not been a fun week.

Anyway, since we're stuck in the house for the foreseeable future, I've tried my hand with chia jam a few times. The basic recipe in that link has worked well for me as long as I cook the fruit down for about 20 minutes before adding the chia seeds and letting the mixture set in the fridge for about 30 to 60 minutes before using it. 

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And this jam is really versatile! It works in sandwiches, obviously, but is also great when added to oatmeal, yogurt, and baked goods. It would also make a tremendous baby puree.

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This is as easy as dessert/snack/breakfast gets. One bowl, no extra tools, and the same batter for the base and the top crumble. This recipe also uses gluten-free flour and clarified butter, so it's free of gluten, dairy, nuts, and eggs. And I've used as little butter and sugar as possible to maximize health without losing out on taste and texture.

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This dough is definitely crumbly, but packs down nicely with a rubber spatula. If it's too crumbly, feel free to add an extra tablespoon or two of butter.

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Raspberry rhubarb chia jam bars

For the jam:
12 oz frozen raspberries (one package or about 1 ½ cups)
2 cups rhubarb, chopped
2 large green apples, peeled and chopped
1 Tbsp water
4 Tbsp chia seeds  

Add raspberries, rhubarb and green apples to a medium pot. If your berries are still frozen, add 1 tablespoon of water to get things started. If your berries have unfrozen and there’s some liquid in your bag, skip the extra water and just start cooking.

Bring to a boil and reduce heat to medium or medium low and simmer, stirring occasionally, until the fruit is falling apart and the liquid has largely evaporated or become syrupy, about 20 minutes. Let cool slightly and add the chia seeds. Cool in the fridge for 30-60 minutes before using.

Yield: About 3 cups


For the bars:
1.5 cups gluten free flour
1.5 cups quick oats
½ cup brown sugar, packed
½ tsp baking soda
½ tsp cinnamon
¼ tsp cardamom
½ tsp kosher salt
Zest of 1/2 large lemon
8 Tbsp clarified butter
4 Tbsp ice water
1.5 cups chia jam (see recipe above)

Preheat the oven to 350. Grease a 9x9 brownie pan with clarified butter or olive oil and set aside.

In a large bowl, combine the flour, oats, brown sugar, baking soda, cinnamon, cardamom, and salt and mix well.

In a small bowl, melt some clarified butter. Measure the butter when melted and add to the dry ingredients, stirring after adding each tablespoon. Add the ice water, also stirring between additions.

Pack about 2/3 of the mixture into the bottom of your brownie pan with a rubber spatula or wet hands. Top with the chia jam and smooth out. Crumble the rest of the oat mixture over the chia jam. If possible, pack some of the oat mixture into larger pieces and place those on top.

Bake for 40 minutes or until the edges begin to darken slightly.

Let cool completely before cutting.

Yield: 16 pieces

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Chia, cherry, and chocolate cookie bark

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Remember two weeks ago when I talked about the danger of expectations around the holidays and how we were going to be easy on ourselves and M? HA! HAHAHAHAAHAHAHAHAHA! Oh, universe. I shouldn't have taunted you like that. (As always, scroll to the next photo for more about food and less about life with a toddler!)

My body, our house, and our toddler's frustration tolerance have all deteriorated at the same time. We moved into the house that "didn't need any work" about four months ago and in that time we've had two floods in the basement; the oven, washer, and now dryer have all broken at different points; we had a leak from the third floor bathroom that traveled all the way to a light fixture on the first floor; and now we have to replace the furnace vent.

And while there are daily magical moments in which I'm stunned by M's hilariousness and creativity, there are also moments where I feel like screaming into the abyss. He's just such a toddler. He'll ask to go outside and we'll say, "Sure. Let's put on your clothes/shoes/whatever," but he seems to hear, "NO! WE'RE NEVER GOING OUTSIDE AND YOU WILL STAY INSIDE EATING GRUEL AND STARING AT THE WALL FOR THE REST OF TIME! MWAHAHAHAHAHA!" Or, at least, that's my interpretation based on the intensity of his reaction sometimes.

And potty training is going nowhere fast.

And my back went out for the 500th time.

I'm just drowning in "shoulds." We should have started potty training sooner. I should read parenting books to figure out a better way to handle tantrums and the lack of listening. I should be more proactive about my back by losing weight and doing more strength training. We should know how to fix stupid things like the dryer.

Mostly, I should stop fretting because it could be worse. Back pain isn't the end of the world. A toddler not listening and tantruming is par for the course. A new house will always come with quirks and there's a learning curve when it's your first time owning one. So on top of feeling bad, I feel bad for feeling bad.

I think part of my problem is that the state of the world and our country has me at an 8.5 most of the time, so little things put me right up to 10. How do you turn off fear and anger about what's happening daily? How do you push forward knowing that so much needs to be fixed and is only getting worse? AAAAAAAAAAAAAHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH.

Okay, I'm done.

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So, why isn't cookie bark more of a thing? It's a lot easier than making individual cookies and takes less time to bake than a skillet cookie. I mean, the topping for this crumble I made over the summer is basically a lightly healthified oatmeal cookie. I suppose it has to do with most people liking some crisp bits and some gooey bits, which you don't get in a thin crackable cookie like these. Okay, so maybe I answered my own question, but I still think we can make cookie bark a thing.

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Also, I'm calling these "cookies" but they're really a hybrid. Not quite granola, not quite a cookie, they're not terribly sweet, but are sweet enough to pass convincingly for a dessert. They're also chock full of healthy stuff like toasted coconut, dried cherries, and chia seeds.

In one batch I swapped out the toasted pecans for raw pepitas and they were good, but not great. However, if you wanted these for a lunchbox snack, M still liked them a lot, so I think it's a good way to make them school safe.

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Also, there will be a bit of extra liquid that seeps out of the mixture when you spread it on a baking sheet. Try to get as much of it into the mixture as you can. But, I recommend rotating the baking sheet mid-bake and at that point, the extra liquid will have set a bit and is easy to scoop away and discard.

And a last note about baking: We are trying to find the balance here between drying out the bark and burning the bark. Cook it for as long as you can without scorching the edges to get a dryer, more crackable cookie. 

And a last last note about the chia seeds: If you spill any, you WILL think you have an infestation in your home. Over the past week, I've panicked that we had ants, bedbugs, and ticks. A tiny chia seed in a child's hair looks EXACTLY like a deer tick. Just a heads up.

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Chia, cherry, and chocolate cookie bark

2 eggs
¼ cup maple syrup
¼ tsp salt
½ cup pecan pieces, lightly toasted in the oven
1 cup dried coconut flakes, unsweetened
2/3 cup dried cherries, unsweetened
1/3 cup mini semi-sweet chocolate chips
1/3 cup chia seeds

Preheat the oven to 300. On a parchment-lined rimmed cookie sheet, toast the raw pecan pieces until they just begin to smell nutty, about 5 minutes (but keep a close watch). 

In a large bowl, lightly whisk the eggs to combine the whites and yolks. Add the maple syrup and salt and whisk vigorously until the mixture is a bit frothy on top.

Add the dry ingredients and turn a few times to coat everything.

Dump out onto your parchment-lined, rimmed baking sheet and spread evenly in a thin layer, trying your best to trap the liquid inside and not let too much seep out. But, see note above if some does seep out. You'll have the chance to scoop it out later.

Bake for 15 minutes and then rotate the baking sheet to ensure even browning. Cook for 15 more minutes and check the mixture. If the sides haven't begun to brown, keep cooking for 5 more minutes and check again. Once the edges are a nice golden browned, remove from the oven and let the bark cool completely on its original baking pan. This will take about 2 hours, but I've left this uncovered overnight on the counter and the snap is best the next day.

Yield: 20-30 pieces, depending on how big you make them.

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