Travel Food: Easy No-Bake Oatmeal Bars

There are two ways of approaching eating at a convention: 1) enjoying food trucks parked outside the convention center, restaurants in a new city, and pizza delivered to your hotel room, or 2) packing lots of cheap and easy to eat meals. Five years ago, packing food for a convention weekend for me meant “yeah, I brought the snacks and beer!” This year, it means: “OK, breakfasts are hard boiled eggs, yogurt, fresh fruit, and oatmeal bars. Lunches are sandwiches and bulgar salad. Do you think the hotel fridge will have room for me to pack some meal-prepped dinners?” (It does not. I guess pizza to the hotel room is still on the menu!) The night before heading out for Worldcon saw me in the kitchen preparing a bunch of food. Luckily, these oatmeal bars are very easy to make, and highly customizable! I made them with almond butter, dried cranberries, and dark chocolate chunks. So far, my friends are enjoying eating them too!

Easy No-Bake Oatmeal Bars
Adapted from Cookie + Kate
Makes 16

Ingredients
1 ¾ cups old-fashioned oats or quick-cooking oats
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
½ teaspoon coarse salt (or less if using fine salt)
2 cups mix-ins (nuts, seeds, chocolate, shredded coconut or dried fruit)
1 cup creamy peanut butter or almond butter
½ cup honey or maple syrup
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1) Line a 9-inch square baking dish with parchment paper.
2) Place the oats in a large mixing bowl. Add the cinnamon and salt, and whisk to combine.
3) Chop your mix-ins into small pieces – about a centimeter. Then add the mix-ins to the oats.
4) In 2 cup liquid measuring cup, measure the nut butter and on top of this add ½ cup honey/maple syrup and vanilla. Whisk until well blended.
5) Pour the liquid ingredients into the dry ingredients. Using a big spoon, mix them together until the two are evenly combined and no dry oats remain. (I did the last bit of mixing with my hands, the same way you would for a meatloaf!)
6) Transfer the mixture to the lined baking dish. Using a spoon, or the bottom of a glass cup, or your hands again, arrange your mixture evenly then pack it down as firmly and evenly as possible.
7) Cover the dish and refrigerate for at least one hour, or preferably overnight. (The oats need time to soak up some of the moisture so they aren’t sticky.) When you’re ready to slice, lift the bars out of the baker by grabbing the parchment paper. Use a sharp knife to slice the bars into 4 even columns and 4 even rows.
8) Wrap the bars in or parchment paper (if you store them all together, they will stick to one another). Bars keep well for several days at room temperature, a couple of weeks in the fridge, or several months in a freezer-safe bag in the freezer for best flavor.

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