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'Bluebarb' breakfast bars a healthy start to morning

Recipe: Blueberry meets rhubarb

These "bluebarb" bars are just lightly sweet. (Photos:
Kathy Morrison)

My little rhubarb plant finally had stalks to harvest. They were skinny, but long enough -- a plant grown from a tiny seedling purchased a few years ago at an American River College plant sale.

Rhubarb is not the easiest crop to grow in our climate, but this potted rhubarb has hung in there, protected by the shade of my little peach tree.

And I thought "now or never" for harvesting this year, with the real summer weather approaching. The plant will soon follow its perennial schedule, dying back in heat and re-emerging next winter.

But two stalks weren't going to do much in any baked good, so I augmented them with one large purchased rhubarb stalk. Then I found a recipe that combines rhubarb with blueberries (which are just coming into season locally) in a no-dairy, no-egg oat bar. Just a little sweet, with a whole-grain base -- perfect for breakfast.

Note: The amount of fruit is variable. I started with about 3 1/2 cups total, then added another 1/2 cup of blueberries when I realized the fruit was going to be spread a little thin. The recipe as baked could have taken another 1/2 cup of either fruit easily, so the amounts listed below reflect that.

Two think rhubarb stalks with leaves
They're thin but they're homegrown: My rhubarb stalks.
Note: Never eat the rhubarb leaves, or let pets eat them --
they're poisonous. Compost or discard them.

'Bluebarb' breakfast bars

Makes 24 bars

Ingredients:

1 teaspoon coconut oil (for pan)

Filling:

2-1/2 to 3 cups blueberries

1 to 1-1/2 cups chopped rhubarb

1/3 cup honey or maple syrup

Zest and juice of 1 large lemon (about 4 tablespoons juice)

1/8 cup water plus 1 tablespoon, divided

1/2 tablespoon vanilla extract

1 tablespoon cornstarch or arrowroot powder

Oat crust and top:

4 cups old-fashioned rolled oats

1 teaspoon nutmeg

2-1/2 teaspoons cinnamon

2 teaspoons baking powder

Measuring cups with blueberries and chopped rhubarb
The fruit as prepared: The rhubarb was chopped into chunks about
the same size as the blueberries, which were large.

1/2 teaspoon fine salt

2/3 cup unsweetened applesauce

2 tablespoons coconut oil (in liquid form); up to 1/2 tablespoon more if needed

1 tablespoon vanilla extract

Instructions:

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Grease a 9-by-12-inch baking pan with the 1 teaspoon of coconut oil.

Combine the fruit, honey (or syrup), lemon zest, lemon juice, 1/8 cup water and vanilla in a medium saucepan. In a small bowl or measuring cup, combine the cornstarch and the 1 tablespoon of water into a slurry. Heat the fruit mixture over medium-high heat until it has a strong bubble going. Remove from heat and stir in the cornstarch/water slurry until well combined. Set aside to cool.

Put 2 cups of the rolled oats in a food processor or blender and blend until the oats are finely ground. Pour them into a large bowl along with the remaining oats, the nutmeg, cinnamon, baking powder and salt. Stir together, then add the applesauce, 2 tablespoons coconut oil and the vanilla. Mix together to get everything consistently blended. (Clean hands work best for mixing here.) Add a little more coconut oil if the mixture seems too dry. It shouldn't be wet when you're done, but you should be able to create small clumps.

Oat mixture on top of fruit in pan
The bars are layered and ready to go in the oven.
Press half the oat mixture firmly and evenly into the greased pan. Spread the fruit mixture evenly over the crust, then crumble the remaining oat mixture over the fruit.

Bake 30 to 35 minutes. Allow pan to cool completely before cutting into bars.

Leftovers should be wrapped and refrigerated. (Wrap them individually for a quick snack.)

Variation: Substitute up to 3/4 cup of chopped nuts for an equal part of the whole rolled oats.



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Dig In: Garden checklist for week of Nov. 27

Before the rain comes later in the week, take advantage of sunny, calm days:

* This may be your last chance this season for the first application of copper fungicide spray to peach and nectarine trees. Leaf curl, which shows up in the spring, is caused by a fungus that winters as spores on the limbs and around the tree in fallen leaves. Sprays are most effective now, but they need a few days of dry weather after application to really “stick.” If you haven’t yet, spray now.

* Rake and compost leaves, but dispose of any diseased plant material. For example, if peach and nectarine trees showed signs of leaf curl this year, clean up under trees and dispose of those leaves instead of composting.

* Make sure storm drains are clear of any debris.

* Give your azaleas, gardenias and camellias a boost with chelated iron.

* Trim chrysanthemums to 6 to 8 inches above the ground after they’re done blooming. Keep potted mums in their containers until next spring. Then, they can be planted in the ground, if desired, or repotted.

* Prune non-flowering trees and shrubs while dormant.

* Plant bulbs for spring bloom. Don’t forget the tulips chilling in the refrigerator. Other suggestions: daffodils, crocuses, hyacinths, anemones and scillas.

* Seed wildflowers including California poppies.

* Also from seed, plant sweet pea, sweet alyssum, bachelor buttons and other spring flowers.

* Plant most trees and shrubs. This gives them plenty of time for root development before spring growth. They also benefit from winter rains.

* Set out cool-weather annuals such as pansies and snapdragons.

* Lettuce, cabbage, broccoli and cool-season greens can be planted now.

* Plant garlic and onions.

* If you decide to use a living Christmas tree this year, keep it outside in a sunny location until Christmas week. This reduces stress on the young tree.

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