Oatmeal bars get kids through school mornings

Breakfast bars made by Janet CleavelandThis post first appeared in Northwest Catholic, the magazine for the Catholic Church in Western Washington. Rachel Bauer of Rachel Bauer Photography, Washougal, took the photo. Besides food shots, she specializes in photos of newborns and their parents (http://www.rachelbauerphotography.com)

The breakfast dash

My kids were terrible when it came to eating breakfast before school. Yes, we knew that the morning meal is the most important of the day. I probably told them a million times. But I admit it: My three sons preferred to hunker down in bed as long as possible.

“I’m not hungry now,” one would say. “I don’t have time,” another would tell me.

So off they would go, dashing to school at the last minute. I would sit at my desk in The Columbian newsroom, worrying all the way to lunch about whether they would have a power outage and not be able to do their best.

cropped-small-plates-blog.pngThose days are long behind me, but every mom has flashbacks during the back-to-school season. The August reminders about school supplies and new shoes got me thinking about how I could have helped more during my kids’ school days. I came up with breakfast bars made out of some of their favorite ingredients — along with notes of encouragement as little gifts, sometimes from Mom, sometimes from Dad.

Of course, there’s always more a parent can do on a harried school day by sending up prayers to two saints in particular: Pope St. Gregory the Great, patron saint of teachers, and St. Thomas Aquinas, patron saint of universities and students. We may get energy from nutrition, but we get inspiration and help from the saints.

St. Gregory’s feast day is Sept. 3, just when students and teachers are headed back to the classroom. He has been called the “father of the medieval papacy” and is one of the church’s most influential writers. Gregory (540–604) described himself as “servant of the servants of God,” a title that has been used by all popes since.

The feast day of St. Thomas Aquinas (1225–1274), a Dominican, is Jan. 28. His greatest work, the Summa Theologica, profoundly influenced Christian thought. He studied at Cologne under St. Albert the Great and taught at Paris. Nicknamed “the dumb ox” by fellow students, he was apparently big, slow-moving and taciturn. When he did speak, however, he was brilliant, and his teacher Albert prophesied, “This dumb ox will fill the world with his bellowing.”

Let’s take note from St. Thomas Aquinas as we begin the school year. Our students should know that when they have ideas to send forth, we’re listening.

Oatmeal-cherry-hazelnut breakfast bars

This recipe is adapted from “Ida’s Oatmeal Rocks.” My mother-in-law brought this recipe with her when the family moved from North Dakota to Vancouver in the early 1940s. No one in the family can tell me who Ida was.

1/2 cup butter

1/2 cup brown sugar

1 teaspoon vanilla

1 egg

1/4 cup wheat germ

1 cup old-fashioned oats

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon baking powder

1/2 teaspoon cinnamon

1 cup all-purpose flour

1/2 cup dried cherries

1 1/2 cups boiling water to cover the cherries

1 teaspoon baking soda for saved cherry water

1/2 cup diced hazelnuts

Heat oven to 350 degrees. Line a 9-by-9 pan with parchment paper, or lightly grease it.

Cover the dried cherries with 1 1/2 cups of boiling water.
Allow to soak for at least 10 minutes. Set aside.

Cream the butter and brown sugar in a large mixing bowl. Beat until smooth, and then add the vanilla and egg. Gradually add the wheat germ, the oats, and 5 tablespoons of saved cherry water with the baking soda.

When that is beaten, sift the flour, salt, baking powder and cinnamon together, and then slowly add the dry ingredients to the creamed mixture. The batter will be stiff.

By hand, mix the cherries and nuts throughout. Pour into the pan and bake for about 12 minutes. Check often; do not overbake. The bars are dense, not delicate, so they can be hauled around in a backpack.


Janet Cleaveland

Janet Cleaveland

What happens when a retired journalist spends a lot more time in the kitchen than in past years? She tries new dishes and jumps at the chance to write a blog about food, family and good times. My kids are grown now, but I'll be looking back at how they learned to cook, what recipes my husband (the Intrepid One) and I are experimenting with, and how food and conversation make for happy times in the kitchen. I worked for The Columbian for 15 years as a copy editor and another 10 elsewhere, though I didn't start out as a journalist. I thought I wanted to teach English literature. My husband grew up in Clark County, and I've lived here since 1983. My kids have grown and left home. Like my husband of 52 years, our adopted chocolate Lab would never pass up a chance for a tasty meal.

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