When I was a young girl, I wrote a poem about the queen of the forest. I can’t remember how the poem goes, but I remember the picture I painted to go with it. Or, rather, I remember the many attempts I made the night before the deadline to create my last-minute masterpiece. It was September, and I was so inspired by the colors around me that I couldn’t decide on the color of her gown, so I kept starting over and over and over.
At first her dress was golden yellow with gray and white trim, mimicking the birch forest she was walking through, but there wasn’t enough contrast. Then I dressed her in swirling, stormy grey and blue, as an autumn rain cloud among the trees, but she was a joyful character, and the gloom didn’t suit her. I finally chose to make her gown cranberry red — composed of all the subtly different shades of the cranberry. I agonized over getting just the right shades, mixing and adding and scraping the palette, still unsatisfied as I reluctantly laid the paint down on the canvas before tucking myself into bed. But I slept secure in the knowledge that even if I had a hundred years to mix paint, I could never match the perfection of wild cranberries in the forest.
The cranberries are particularly abundant this year, and we have been picking them by the bucketful. They aren’t as popular as blueberries for out-of-hand eating, but I love their versatility in recipes, both sweet and savory, and their longevity in the freezer. These delicious cranberry pecan oat bars are sweet and tart and are sturdy enough to pack for the trail or in lunchboxes for lucky little ones.
Cranberry Pecan Bars
Ingredients for the crust:
1 ¼ cups all-purpose flour
1 ¼ cups old-fashioned oats
¾ cup packed light brown sugar
½ teaspoon baking soda
Ground cinnamon to taste (I used about ¾ teaspoon)
1 stick unsalted butter, melted and cooled
3 tablespoons lemon juice
For the topping:
1 cup vanilla yogurt
Splash of vanilla extract
1 teaspoon lemon zest
¼ cup all purpose flour
½ cup packed light brown sugar
1 cup frozen cranberries
¾ cup chopped pecans
Preheat your oven to 325 degrees and grease a 9×13 baking dish.
In a large bowl, combine the oats, flour, brown sugar, salt, baking soda, and cinnamon.
Pour the melted butter and lemon juice over the dry mixture and toss to combine.
Press the crust mixture into the bottom of the pan in an even layer.
In a separate bowl, whisk together the yogurt, vanilla, brown sugar, lemon zest and flour.
Pour over the crust and spread gently into an even layer, covering the crust completely.
Sprinkle or deliberately arrange the pecans and cranberries over the whole dish.
Bake for 1 hour, rotating the pan halfway through.
When the dish is done the top should be tacky but not wet, and there should be no jiggle when you shake the dish.
Wait for the bars to cool to room temperature before covering and storing in the refrigerator.
Allow them to come to room temperature before serving for the best texture.
Serve with hot cocoa, milk or sweet coffee.