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Bake healthy apple bars for breakfast or dessert

Recipe: Seasonal treat is vegan, can be gluten-free

Apple crumble bar on plate
Apple crumble bars are delicious with breakfast
coffee, but also would make a nice dessert.
(Photos: Kathy Morrison)

Baking season, like fall planting season, is among my favorites. There are so many wonderful ingredients in fall -- pears, pumpkins, persimmons -- but apple is the king.

I find, however, that too many apple recipes are so loaded with butter and sugar that you can barely taste the apples. So I've been reading through dozens of recipes to adapt to a healthy apple treat. The one here is pretty close. It's vegan and can be made gluten-free by using almond flour instead of whole wheat. If you already have oat flour -- which is just ground-up rolled oats -- by all means use that instead of making the 1-3/4 cups ground oats in the blender.

These apple crumble bars have just enough sweetness to be part of breakfast, but they would be delicious for dessert under a scoop of ice cream or a puff of whipped cream.

Three apples
Left to right, a Mutsu apple, Smitten apple and a Jonagold.

I used a combination of apples for a balance of tart and sweet: a Mutsu and a Jonagold from the farmers market and a new-to-me branded apple, Smitten, that I found at the supermarket. (Smitten, which resembles a Gala, was developed in New Zealand but is now grown in Washington state.) They are all fairly firm, and don't turn to mush when baked. But use your favorite varieties; this recipe will work with any combination. Leave them unpeeled unless you're using a Granny Smith -- that skin is just too tough.

Apple crumble bars

Makes 9-12


For crust and topping:

2-1/4 cups old-fashioned rolled oats, divided

1/4 cup whole-wheat flour or almond flour

1 teaspoon baking powder

1/2 teaspoon cinnamon

1 teaspoon salt

1/4 cup apple butter or applesauce

1/4 cup coconut oil (melt if it's solid)

1/4 cup real maple syrup

3 tablespoons almond butter

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

For the filling:

3 medium unpeeled apples, preferably a mix of varieties, cored and sliced thin (1/16th inch)

2 tablespoons lemon juice

1 tablespoon cornstarch or arrowroot powder

2 tablespoons apple butter or real maple syrup

1 teaspoon cinnamon

For glaze (optional):

1 tablespoon coconut oil (liquid)

1 tablespoon real maple syrup

1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon (to taste)

Rolled oats in food processor
Quickly turn rolled oats into oat flour in a food processor
or blender.


Line an 8-by-8-inch baking pan with parchment paper. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Measure out 1-3/4 cups of the rolled oats and put them in a food processor or blender. Whir until the oats have a consistent flour texture, but not too fine.

In a large bowl, whisk together the ground oats, the remaining 1/2 cup rolled oats, the whole wheat or almond flour, the baking powder, cinnamon and salt. In smaller bowl or glass measuring cup, stir together the apple butter or applesauce with the coconut oil, maple syrup, almond butter and vanilla until blended. Using your hands or a spatula, combine the wet mixture with the dry ingredients until the dough starts to stick together.

Remove about 2/3 cup of the crumble dough and set aside. Dump the rest of the dough into the prepared pan and flatten it out, pressing very firmly, especially in the corners. Use the moistened bottom of a glass or a wet spatula if you have to.

Place the apple slices in the same large bowl used for the crumble. Cut the longer slices in half if desired. Sprinkle on the lemon juice, then the cornstarch or arrowroot powder. Blend in the apple butter or maple syrup and the cinnamon.

Arrange the apple slices over the crust in the pan as evenly as possible. Crumble the reserved dough evenly over the apples, breaking it up into small pieces as you go.

Bake the crumble bars for 45 minutes, or until the topping is golden brown and the apples are tender. (Check with the tip of a knife.)

Remove from oven and cool completely. The glaze is optional but adds a nice bit of shine to the top: Stir together the liquid coconut oil and the maple syrup until completely combined, then add the cinnamon to taste. Drizzle over the cooled crumble. Cut and serve as desired: plain, with berries, ice cream or whipped cream.


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For week of March 3:

* Celebrate the city flower! Catch the 100th Sacramento Camellia Show 3 to 6 p.m. Saturday, March 2, and 10 a.m to 5 p.m. Sunday, March 3, at the Scottish Rite Center, 6151 H St., Sacramento. Admission is free.

* Between showers, pick up fallen camellia blooms; that helps cut down on the spread of blossom blight that prematurely browns petals.

* Feed camellias after they bloom with fertilizer formulated for acid-loving plants.

* Camellias need little pruning. Remove dead wood and shape, if necessary.

* Tread lightly or not at all on wet ground; it compacts soil.

* Avoid digging in wet soil, too; wait until it clumps in your hand but doesn’t feel squishy.

* Note spots in your garden that stay wet after storms; improve drainage with the addition of organic matter such as compost.

* Keep an eye out for leaning trunks or ground disturbances around a tree’s base, a sign of shifting roots in the wet soil.

* Fertilize roses, annual flowers and berries as spring growth begins to appear.

* If aphids are attracted to new growth, knock them off with a strong spray of water or insecticidal soap. To make your own “bug soap,” use two tablespoons liquid soap – not detergent – to one quart water in a spray bottle. Shake it up before use. Among the liquid soaps that seem most effective are Dr. Bronner’s Pure-Castile Soaps; try the peppermint scent.

* Pull weeds now! Don’t let them get started. Take a hoe and whack them as soon as they sprout.

* Prune and fertilize spring-flowering shrubs after bloom.

* Cut back and fertilize perennial herbs to encourage new growth.

* Make plans for your summer garden. Once the soil is ready, start adding amendments such as compost.

* Indoors, start seeds for summer favorites such as tomatoes, peppers and squash as well as summer flowers.

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