An easy weekend baking project that will pay off next week

Looking for a healthy treat to bake for an upcoming picnic, potluck or end-of-school party?

With oats, apple and dates that are rich in complex carbohydrates, vitamins, minerals and fiber, these date and apple squares from “Have Your Cake and Eat It” author Mich Turner are way better for you than a buttercream-frosted cupcake. The bars are naturally sweetened with the dates and apples and have less sugar than you’d typically use in a bar or brownie. You can store them for up to five days in an airtight container at room temperature or chilled.

Dates, apples and brown sugar sweeten these oat squares, which you could pack in a lunch or for a picnic. Contributed by Jacqui Small.

Date and Apple Squares

12 ounces cooking apples, peeled, cored and chopped
Grated zest and juice of 1 lemon
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
2 1/2 cups Medjool dates
3/4 cup soft light brown sugar
2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
2 1/4 cups rolled oats
Generous 1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, melted

Heat the oven to 350 degrees. Line the base and sides of a 12-inch-by-8-inch pan with parchment paper.

Place the apple in a saucepan with the lemon zest, lemon juice and the cinnamon. Bring to a boil and simmer over a low heat for 5 minutes until tender.

Add the dates and 1/4 cup of the sugar and cook for 5 minutes until the mixture is a stiff paste, but not dry. Be careful not to let the mixture boil dry. Add 2 to 3 tablespoons water if this is looking likely. Remove from the heat.

Put the flour, remaining sugar and oats into a bowl and mix together. Make a well in the center and pour in the melted butter. Mix together to form a crumbly mixture.

Press half the oat mixture into the bottom of the pan and press down firmly. Spread the apple and date mixture over the base, then top with the remaining oat mixture. Press down firmly. Bake for 35 minutes until golden. Leave to cool in the pan, then cut into 16 bars.

— From “Have Your Cake and Eat It: Nutritious, Delicious Recipes for Healthier Everyday Baking” by Mich Turner (Sterling Epicure, $24.95)

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