It might not be the best climate for a strawberry recipe right now, but I’m humbly presenting my Strawberries and Cream Oatmeal bars today anyway because it’s North Carolina Strawberry Season and I haven’t posted any strawberry recipes yet!
This is my favorite time of year. Strawberries are my very favorite fruit, but I don’t eat many of them outside of the season here which is from March to May. I can’t describe how big the difference is between berries trucked in from California and those I’ve picked myself locally. I mean just look at them…
Beautiful, right?! I picked those at Cottle Farms in Faison, NC.
Strawberries have been getting a lot of flack recently! First there was this tweet, disrespecting their whole ass existence, and now everyone’s deemed them gross because of the TikTok videos. My kid was so somber when she came to show me, knowing how much I love me some strawberries!
I’m not really bothered tho. I’m country.
Think cornfields, turkey farms, and peach groves. Raising chickens from hatchlings until they were big enough to butcher and turn into supper (I never ate them, it felt like cannibalism). I used to drink honeysuckle nectar straight from the flowers on the bush while waiting for the school bus to arrive.
All of this is to say that I think growing up the way I did – very familiar with where food comes from – desensitized me to things like this. I don’t want to eat bugs of course, but finding a worm in an apple is pretty low on my list of concerns. I just wash everything and carry on about my day.
Fruit & Veggie Wash
Here’s how to make a fruit and vegetable wash that’s sold at many local fruit stands around here:
- Fill your (cleaned and sanitized) sink with cool water.
- Add 1 C of distilled white vinegar and 2 tbsp of kosher salt.
- Soak your produce for about 5 minutes – longer if we’re talking something fibrous like broccoli or lettuce.
- Rinse thoroughly with cold water.
- Cut any bruised or damaged pieces off of the produce.
- Pat the fruits and or veggies dry with paper towels if not using right away.
I don’t recommend doing this more than a day or two before you want to use them: in my experience produce spoils much quicker after washing. You can also combine everything to a spray bottle (4 : 1 water to vinegar, eyeball the salt) and keep that in the fridge to clean things as needed.
Strawberries and Cream Oatmeal Bars
I’d argue that Strawberries and Cream is superior even to Peanut Butter and Chocolate as far as delicious duos go. Between the Strawberries and Cream Hand Pies in my ebook As Seen on IG and my Strawberry Cheesecake Crunch French Toast recipe this is probably not surprising.
My Strawberries and Cream Oatmeal Bars recipe is pretty simple, and you probably have the main components at home already: oats, sugar, flour, cream cheese, and vanilla.
Agar Agar Powder might be new to you and a bit harder to find. It’s a vegetarian gelatin substitute made of red sea algae – gelatin is usually derived from beef or pork bones. You can find it in most health food or herbalist stores, some specialty markets, and also on Amazon.
The recipe also calls for ground coriander. It, combined with the vanilla in the cookie and crumble layers add a wonderful warmth. You can find coriander whole or already ground in most grocery stores.
The recipe is also very versatile and we love those around here! Check out some easy ways to make it your own.
Switch it Up:
- Instead of layering the cream cheese filling both below and above the strawberries, take the reserved filling and drizzle it over the top of the oatmeal bars instead. You can do this before or after you bake them.
- Swap the strawberries out for another fruit. Try other berries like blackberries or blueberries; cook down some apples or peaches. Use lemon curd! Just make sure you don’t use raw fruit: the moisture will make the bottom cookie layer soggy.
- Leave out the cream cheese filling entirely and you have traditional Strawberry Oatmeal Bars. You’ll only need to reduce the baking time by 10 minutes, otherwise, the recipe is exactly the same.
- The recipe for the Cookie + Crumble is the same one I use when I make Dutch Apple Pies or any Fruit Crumble. It also makes a great topping for oatmeal, yogurt and smoothie bowls. Spread the crumble on a baking sheet and place it in a 350ºF oven. Toss it around with a spatula every couple of minutes so it browns evenly, and bake it for about 15 minutes. Dassit.
If you make these Strawberries and Cream Oatmeal Bars I hope you’ll come back and let me know what you thought by rating it and leaving a comment. Scroll down past the recipe for a nice big Pinterest-friendly graphic and check out the extended tutorial on my YouTube channel.Print
Crunchy oatmeal cookie bars topped with strawberry filling, sweetened cream cheese, and oatmeal crumble.
Cookie + Crumble:
- 2 C rolled oats
- 2 C AP flour
- 1 1/2 C brown sugar, packed
- 1 tsp baking powder
- 1 tsp vanilla extract
- 1/4 tsp ground coriander
- 1/2 C salted butter, melted
- 4 C strawberries, sliced thin
- 1/2 C granulated sugar
- 1/2 tsp almond extract
- 2 tsp lemon juice
- 1 tbsp agar agar powder
- 8 oz cream cheese, room temperature
- 1/4 C powdered sugar
- 2 tsp milk
- Preheat your oven to 350ºF and prepare an 8×8″ baking dish by either lining it with parchment paper, or greasing it with baking spray or a light coat of oil.
- Begin with the cookie: Add the rolled oats, flour, baking powder and coriander to a large mixing bowl. Stir well. In another bowl, whisk together the brown sugar and melted butter.
- Once the butter and brown sugar are blended, add the mixture to the dry ingredients along with the vanilla extract. Use a wooden spoon or silicone spatula to stir well. You want to distribute the butter mixture into the dry ingredients as much as you can. Look for chunks of various sizes, as well as some oats still loose. Try to incorporate as much loose flour as you can.
- Scoop a little less than 2/3 of the mixture into the prepared pan and spread it around the bottom evenly. Use the bottom of a dry measuring cup to really pack it in, pressing down and using as much force as you can. You want it to be tight so it doesn’t break apart when cutting and eating later.
- Bake the cookie layer in your oven on the middle rack for 10 minutes, then remove and set aside to cool.
- Start on your strawberry filling: add the sliced berries – reserve some slices for topping later – along with the lemon juice and sugar to a small saucepan over medium heat. Cover and bring to a boil. Let boil for 2 minutes, then turn off the heat. Sprinkle in your agar agar powder and whisk it in well. Work quickly so the powder doesn’t set in one place.
- Set the strawberry mixture aside to cool for at least 30 minutes, stirring occasionally.
- Make the cream filling by combining the cream cheese, powdered sugar, and milk in a small bowl. Whisk until most of the lumps are gone. You can whisk until it’s completely smooth if you want but it’s not necessary.
- Spoon half of the mixture over the cookie layer and spread it around in an even layer.
- Check to see if the strawberry filling has cooled. It can be warm, but it shouldn’t be so hot it’s uncomfortable to touch. When it’s ready, pour the strawberry filling over the top and spread it around evenly as well, all the way to the edges.
- Use a spoon to add dollops of the remaining cream filling around the top of the strawberry layer. Once you’ve added it all use a butter knife to swirl it together. Make sure not to push the knife in too far: don’t disturb the cookie layer at the bottom.
- Sprinkle the remaining cookie mixture over the entire top, from edge to edge. You can leave some of the berries and cream mixture showing if you like.
- Arrange your strawberry slices over the top of the crumble in whatever pattern you’d like.
- Finish with a light sprinkle of extra crumble if you have any, then place the pan back into the oven for 40-50 minutes. It’s ready with the jam is bubbling around the edges and the top is golden brown. Trust your nose; don’t let it burn.
- Let it cool completely – it takes HOURS but it’s necessary. Once it’s cooled, remove the cookie from the pan, then slice it into squares. It will keep in the fridge in an airtight container for 4 days.
- Gelatin can be substituted for agar agar powder.
- A 9×13″ baking dish is the perfect size for doubling this recipe.
- You can prepare the strawberry filling in advance and let it cool completely. I don’t do this because I don’t want the filling to set in the shape of the bowl, causing me to have to stir TF out of it to get it back into a pourable/smoothable state.