The sun is warm and shining, Bessie Smith is playing in the background, food magazines are strewn haphazardly all around me, and the entire apartment smells of butter, brown sugar, and fruit preserve baking in the oven. I could bask in this smell all day, and given my incredibly relaxed state, I just might. The only thing tempting enough to coax me off this couch, are the boysenberry oatmeal bars turning a beautiful, golden brown just a couple feet away. The timer is going off and I must oblige.
This moment is one of those marvelous Summer moments, the kind where you couldn’t feel more serene or content. I’ve noticed I’ve developed a pattern lately. Summer seems to be my choice of subject lately as wells as all things simple. One could chuck this up to the weather (both the invasive and the exquisite), one could say I’m merely pointing out what’s great about this time of year. After all, who doesn’t love Summer right? In the end, I think it’s because I’ve been able to appreciate the season in a way I never have before. I’m pretty sure I have food to thank for that.
For my husband and I, moving to the west coast and being so far away from family and friends has been a real learning experience in defining and making our own happiness. Food, more specifically cooking, has been especially helpful for me in that it’s both challenging and motivating at the same time. Cooking forces me to slow down and remain present throughout the process. I’ve enjoyed being present. I’ve enjoyed that we’ve allowed ourselves to indulge in what we like and what makes us happy, rather than feeling the need to apologize or act according to someone else’s set of standards. (Who is this person? And why are they so darn judgmental?)
Admittedly, it’s a work in progress and some of our self-created moments have been more successful than others, but this one right now – sunk into the couch, bathed in recipes, gazing lovingly at my husband talking to himself on the other side of the room – is definitely us and definitely one of my favorites.
Crumbly, buttery, and, in a word, scrumptious. The hardest thing about this recipe is waiting for it to cool down before digging in.
Boysenberry Oatmeal Bars
Adapted from Ree Drummond (Adapted in that she used strawberry preserves and I used boysenberry).
1 3/4 sticks salted butter, cut into pieces, plus more for greasing pan*
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/2 cup oats
1 cup packed brown sugar
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
One 10 to 12-ounce jar boysenberry preserves (you could really use whatever kind you like, it all works)
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Butter a 9-by-13-inch rectangular pan.
Mix together the butter, flour, oats, brown sugar, baking powder and salt. Press half the oat mixture into the prepared pan. Spread with the strawberry preserves. Sprinkle the other half of the oat mixture over the top and pat lightly. Bake until light brown, 30 to 40 minutes. Let cool completely, then cut into squares.
*I used unsalted butter so I upped the salt to a full teaspoon.