With this last move I am forced to sort and sift through old photo albums, random pictures, clear out old frames, and organize. We had a trunk full of these items that unfortunately do not need to stay with us. We are finding out that there are pictures which we have three - five copies of. How does this happen? I know how. We took a picture of it, our parents or siblings took one too. They all felt the need to make copies and proceed to send them to us. Ugh! What a head ache to scrutinize through. We also had a pile of photos of newborns we really have no idea who they are. (I am aware this sounds terrible, but there is no need keeping pictures of people/babies/things we have no recognition of.) So far we are consolidating an entire trunk into four albums. Well, we are almost there.
As I was combing through the pictures I came across a bunch from my cousin’s wedding in 1999. The wedding was in Massachusetts, and almost all of my New Jersey family caravanned our way there to celebrate. Looking at the pictures I am reminded of what a good time we had, how much we laughed together, and the memories I have of all of them. Then, I realize I am starting to cry. So many of these faces are not with us anymore. So many that I would love to hug and speak to just one more time. Then I notice that in two of the photos I am seated next to my cousin Frannie who is no longer with us. She was one of my father’s first cousins, and one who I always had a great time talking to.
I had an instant flashback to all the Christmas Eves of the past. I almost always spent a portion of that evening sitting next to Frannie at the dinning table asking her about what she baked or made for everyone. I was thrilled to hear about how she poorly planned her timing and was forming spinach appetizers in the back of the car as her parents drove there. Or how she decided which jam to use in her oatmeal bars and how small to cut them so there would be enough for everyone. I know that every year I would tell her those bars where my favorite treat of the evening. I would indulge in a couple and she often gave me a few to take home. It was then that I realized what was missing from my holidays this year. Between moving and traveling I never made those fruit and oatmeal bars like have have done every year since I have moved away from New Jersey.
Now that things have calmed down a bit for me from the move and the holidays I spent some time the other morning mixing up and baking my cousin’s Fruit and Oatmeal Bars. They were just as delicious as I remembered and was just what was missing from my Christmas celebrations. I indulged in them with a cup of tea and continued to dig through more photos. I looked at the pictures from that wedding again and it is like I can hear my cousin Frannie’s voice. I really miss her. I hope she knows her recipe is still pleasing and carrying on a tradition as a holiday treat…even if it was a little late this year.
Cousin Frannie’s Fruit and Oatmeal Bars
(**Note: Although my cousin’s original recipe called for margarin, I have swapped it out for butter. Also the oven in my new home is very old and not very good! My cousin’s bars always had a more golden browned hue. Lastly, I was in a rush and didn’t reserve 3/4 a cup of the mixture but a 1/3 of the whole mixture. Although both work out in the end, my cousin Frannie’s way is much prettier in the end.)
2 cups Quaker Oats
1 cup flour
3/4 cup butter, melted
1/3 cup brown sugar
1/3 cup chopped nuts
1/2 tsp baking soda
one 10 - 12 oz jar of fruit preserves, of your liking
First, pre-heat your oven to 350 degrees. Butter an 11 by 7 inch baking dish, and set it aside.
Next, in a bowl combine all the ingredients (except for the fruit preserve). Mix it together well. Reserving 3/4 cup of the mixture and set it aside. Press all but the reserved mixture into the bottom of your baking dish. Bake the dish about 10 minutes.
Then, remove from the oven and carefully spread the preserve over it evenly. Leaving a 1/4 of an inch round the edge free. Sprinkle the remainder of your oat mixture over the preserve. Place the pan back in the oven for 20 - 25 minutes, until golden brown.
Finally, remove from the oven and allow to cool. Cut the bars into the size you wish and serve. (These bars last up to a week when wrapped well.)