OKANAGAN CHERRY OAT BARS

I’ve been on a bar kick lately (not to be confused with a ‘barre’ kick… which would be a marginally more sensible choice lol!) and since it happens to coincide with cherry season here in the Okanagan… cherry bars it is!  These bars leverage the natural sweetness of the local cherries that are literally falling off the trees in buckets right now in the Okanagan: this is my absolute favourite time of the year!  Enjoy these Okanagan Cherry Oat Bars!

When Jillian, my brother Terry and I were young we used to sit in our granny’s cherry tree and eat cherries until our bellies hurt.  Her tree had the perfect limb to sit on, it’s one of my favourite memories of growing up in the Okanagan: I want Max and Charlie to have those same memories.

Of course, when there’s cherry overload (again, no complaints), a gal needs to find a home for them and these bars are the perfect solution!

How To Store Cherries

I’m so proud of where I live and the gorgeous food that we grow here. Please come visit if you can, but if you can’t, try to at least pick up some of your local fruit stand or farmers market if you can find it locally (just look for the sticker or package).  Here are a couple of cherry picking and storage tips:

  • Store refrigerated and unwashed for several days
  • Choose plump, bright-coloured fruits; avoid soft cherries
  • To maintain optimum flavour and texture, keep cherries chilled
  • Forget about regular ice cubes: freeze some cherries to use instead of ice cubes in the beverage of your choice

Health Benefits of Cherries

Cherries are a good source of fibre, vitamin C, folic acid and minerals, including potassium, calcium.  One cup of cherries has about 90 calories in it if you’re counting.  They are also a source of antioxidants, anthoycyanins and cyanidin, which may help the body fight inflammation in conditions such as arthritis.  They have also been studied for their ability to reduce muscle pain and stress after a hard work out: try throwing them in your next smoothie after hitting the gym!

I recommend making these bars in advance to make them easier to cut (and who doesn’t like something that can be made in advance, might I ask?).  In fact, you can make them and freeze them for up to a month in a sealed container: they store well in a covered container at room temperature for 2-3 days.  They make a great snack or a dessert… we even topped them with a tiny scoop of vanilla ice cream (you can use dairy-free of course) as a fancy cherry-crisp type of dessert.

Okanagan Cherry Oat Bars (gluten-free & vegan option)

 Course Baking, Breakfast, Dessert
 Keyword bars, cherries, Cherry, Oats
 Total Time 1 hour
 Servings 24 bars
 Author Fraîche

Ingredients

For the Filling

  • 8 c. fresh pitted and halved cherries
  • 1/4 c. sugar
  • ¼ cup plus 3 tablespoons water divided
  • 3 tablespoons corn starch

For the Topping

  • 1 cup old fashioned oats
  • ¾ cup sliced almonds
  • ¼ cup brown sugar
  • ¼ cup melted butter, vegan butter or coconut oil
  • 1/4 cup oat flour
  • 1/4 teaspoon almond extract
  • Pinch salt

For the Base

    • 1 cup shredded unsweetened coconut
    • 3 cups large flake oats
    • 1/2 cup oat flour
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar
  • 2/3 cup melted butter, vegan butter or coconut oil
  • 1 teaspoon almond extract
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 cup honey, maple syrup or brown rice syrup

Instructions

    1. Combine the cherries, sugar and ¼ cup of water in a medium pot and bring to a simmer. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the cherries have softened, about 15 minutes.
    2. Mix the corn starch and water in a small glass and slowly pour it into the cherries, stirring constantly. Cook for an additional 2-3 minutes and remove from the heat.

    3. Preheat the oven to 350 F and line a greased 9×13” pan with parchment paper.

    4. Prepare the topping by combining all of the ingredients together in a medium bowl and stirring to combine. Set aside.

  1. Place all of the base ingredients in a food processor and process until the mixture sticks together, about 30-45 seconds.
  2. Press the mixture in the bottom of the prepared pan to form an even, packed layer: I use the bottom of a flat glass cup to do this.
  3. Bake the base for 8 minutes and remove from the oven.
  4. Pour the cherries on top of the base and smooth to even. Sprinkle the prepared topping evenly on top of the base and bake until the top is lightly browned, approximately 35-45 minutes. Remove from the oven and cool completely.  Best if refrigerated before cutting.