One of my all time favorite Ina Garten recipe is her Raspberry Crumble Bars. It is safe to say that I made it more than ten times. And it has always been a hit with friends and family. However, as I read (and listen related podcasts – this one in particular) more and more about eating healthy and cooking with whole foods, I find myself looking for alternatives for healthier versions of my favorite dishes.
You know what they say; Knowledge is power. And as I flip through the pages of cookbooks full of recipes made with whole foods and healthier ingredients and learn from them, I find it much harder to go back to my old ways and bake things with lots of butter, sugar, and other processed ingredients. Knowing that we are what we eat, I am choosing to pay attention to what is going into my body and make changes in my cooking habits accordingly. Do I know everything there is to know and cook and bake that way? Probably not. But I am willing to give it a try.
With that being said, my journey of learning and experimenting with cooking (and baking) this way has been a rocky one. For one thing, I live on an island and it is hard to find certain ingredients. Even though I can order things online, not having them readily available is always a challenge. But more than that, the end product of cooking and baking with healthier ingredients requires a shift in my understanding of the tastes that I am used to.
Here is what I mean by that. Take this breakfast bar recipe as an example. Unlike Ina’s recipe, in this one there is no all-purpose flour, no granulated sugar, and no butter. Therefore, it is not as crumbly and sweet. Instead, I used a little bit of coconut oil, oat flour (that I made with processing old fashioned oats in my food processor), a little bit of honey, and a ripe banana to sweeten it. As a result, though it was still delicious, I can’t say it tasted the same.
And to be perfectly honest, I didn’t succeed on my first try. My first attempt was literally inedible. Since I wanted to try taking out the oil completely (by using a couple of ripe bananas instead), it yielded a crust that was too hard to eat. I also wanted to see if I could eliminate any type of sugar and solely rely on the sugar coming from the fruit. It was hard and tart, hence making it an inedible disaster.
Before I gave it another shot, I went online and checked out some of my favorite healthy food bloggers’ websites (this and this, in particular) to see how they do it, and finally came up with my own version.
I didn’t call it a crumble bar, because in my opinion in order for it to be a crumble bar it has to have a crumbly crust in addition to a crumbly topping. Since I didn’t use any butter, the crust was not crumbly. It was softer. Moreover, I used no processed sugar (like brown sugar or granulated sugar) in this recipe. I choose to sweeten it by using just a little bit of honey (you can also use maple syrup), which I thought worked perfectly. Here, I have to mention that this recipe relies on the sugar coming from the raspberries. I recommend adjusting the amount of honey you add after tasting your raspberries. Mine weren’t too sweet, so I added 2 tablespoons of honey. If yours are sweeter or you are using other fruit/s, give it a taste before adding more (or less) honey.
As I said earlier, the end product was not what I was used to eating, but it sure was delicious. Beyond the taste, I was glad that I was being nice to my body by fueling it with a breakfast bar made with healthier ingredients.
Almond and Raspberry Breakfast Bars
For the crust:
- 1 tablespoons chia seeds
- 4 tablespoons of water
- 2 +1/4 cups old-fashioned oats divided
- 1 ripe banana medium size
- 2 tablespoons honey
- 3 tablespoons coconut oil
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 1/4 teaspoon almond extract optional
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1 teaspoon baking powder
- 1/4 cup almond flour
For the filling:
- 4 cups fresh raspberries
- 11/2 teaspoon nutmeg
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- 1 zest of a lemon
- 1/2 tablespoon cornstarch
- 3-4 tablespoons honey
For the topping:
- 1 cup old fashioned oats
- 2 tablespoons honey
- 2 tablespoons coconut oil
- 3/4 cup sliced almonds lightly toasted
- 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
- pinch of salt
- 2 tablespoons unsweetened coconut
To make the crust
- Pre-heat the oven to 350 degrees.
- Line an 8X8-baking dish with parchment paper. Set aside.
- Place the chia seeds in a small bowl and add the water. Stir until mixed. Set aside.
- Process the 2 cups of oats in the bowl of a food processor until it turns into oat flour, 30-45 seconds.
- Add in the banana, honey, coconut oil, vanilla & almond (if using) extracts, salt, and baking powder. Process for 30 seconds or until they are all combined.
- Transfer the mixture to a mixing bowl. Stir in the 1/4 cup oats, almond flour, and the chia seed & water mixture. Be aware that it will be a very sticky dough.
- Transfer the dough into the prepared baking pan. Using either your hands or the back of a spatula, press it down firmly (especially around the corners) to spread it evenly into the pan. If you use your hands, it will be easier to handle if you wet them a little bit.
To make the filling:
- Combine all ingredients in a mixing bowl and give it a gentle stir.
*To make the topping:
- Place all ingredients in a mixing bowl and toss to combine.To assemble: Distribute the filling equally on top of the crust.
- Sprinkle the topping over the raspberry filling making sure to cover the all of the fruit.
- Place it in the oven and bake 30-35 minutes, or until it turns slightly golden on top.Let it cool completely.
- Cut it into 9 pieces and serve. It can be stored in the fridge in an airtight container up to 4 days.
- You can also use frozen raspberries. However, make sure to let them thaw first.
- Before adding honey into the filling, taste the fruit. If it is already sweet add a little less or visa versa.