Can food change your life? I think it can. Well, at least it did for me. I remember visiting Hood River a few years ago with my husband. We enjoyed taking in the beautiful landscape, dining at the local restaurants, and hiking the trails between the falls. One morning we ventured into the farmers market where we happened upon a table of fresh jams. Excited to try one, I picked up a jar made with Oregon blackberries. It was warm from the sun and quite possibly one of the best things I’ve ever eaten. The first thing I thought was, there are so many delectable deserts you can make with blackberries and berry jams.
Food has been a big part of my life and Oregon agriculture has contributed greatly. There aren’t many places you can visit that give you the option to plan your day around your favorite recreational pastime, food — or both. Oregon is one of those special destinations where a morning hike or a quick stop at a local farmers market can turn into a fabulous day-long adventure.
The Oregon Coast offers a bounty of fresh seafood, creameries and cranberry farms. You can tour the Tillamook Cheese Factory, warm up with some hot clam chowder, or visit the Cranberry Festival held every September in Bandon.
If your travel plans include a trip to Southern Oregon, try to make time to stop in the Willamette Valley for locally grown nuts, berries, and wine tasting. In Southwest Oregon, the Rogue River Valley has an international reputation for producing some of the most succulent tree fruits. Ashland has some of the best pears I’ve tasted. While you’re there, go for a hike through Lithia Park or take in a play at the Oregon Shakespeare Festival.
After a visit to Southern Oregon, I encourage you to take a drive through Central Oregon where you can find onions, potatoes and sugar beets. Continuing north, you will enter Hood River Valley where they grow some of the best apples, cherries, and blackberries (and make scrumptious blackberry jam).
If you are looking for fresh blackberries, they are in season July through September. Check the local farmers markets in the Willamette Valley and in Northern Oregon. This Oregon blackberry inspired recipe was one of the first gluten-free recipes I developed. Enjoy!
Fruit Filled Oatmeal Squares
1 cup all-purpose gluten-free flour blend*
1 cup gluten-free quick-cooking oats
⅔ cup brown sugar, packed
¼ teaspoon baking soda
½ cup butter (1 stick), cold
10 oz. of your favorite fruit jam (I like to purchase local strawberry and blackberry jams from the Oregon Farmers Markets)
Preheat oven to 350°F (180°C). Position the oven rack in center of oven. Grease a 9x9x2 inch pan; set aside.
In a medium mixing bowl combine flour, oats, brown sugar and baking soda. Cut in butter until flour mixture looks crumbly. Reserve half of the crumbly flour mixture for the topping.
Press the remaining flour mixture into the bottom of the pan. Spread fruit jam on top. Sprinkle the remaining flour mixture on top of the fruit jam.
Bake for 30-35 minutes or until the top is golden brown. Remove the pan from the oven and cool on a wire rack. Cool completely before cutting into bars. Store in an airtight container at room temperature.
*For this recipe, I use all-purpose gluten-free rice flour blend that has been prepared in advance. Rather than making a whole batch, you can scale it down to ½ cup white rice flour + ¼ cup tapioca flour + ¼ cup potato starch.
Editor’s note: This recipe is from Chrystal’s forthcoming cookbook, “Sweet & Simple Gluten-Free Baking: Irresistible Classics in 10 Ingredients or Less” which will be released on August 29th. For more information, visit www.glutenfreepalate.com.