This dessert recipe is for Cranberry Oatmeal Bars and it’s perfect for after Thanksgiving because it uses leftover cranberry sauce.
My mom is one of the most innovative cooks I know. It’s from her that I learned to trust my instincts to jump in and try new things in the kitchen. Not that my instincts (or probably hers) are always right. But the fun of cooking is when you try something different and it works!
It was one of my mom’s great instincts that led to this recipe. Basically, what she did was to take her old recipe for Matrimonial Squares and substitute canned cranberry sauce for the dates. Wait, what are Matrimonial Squares, you ask? That is the name used for Date Squares in parts of Canada.
The reason for the matrimonial name seems to be that the two streusel-like layers are being brought together by the dates to solidify their relationship, like a couple getting married. Yes, really!
So, my mom had an extra can of cranberry sauce left after a Thanksgiving dinner. Somehow, she then had the brilliant idea to use the sauce in place of the dates in her classic Matrimonial Squares recipe. Voila! Deliciousness was born!
This easy dessert recipe hits so many amazing flavor and texture components, sweet, tart, rich, crunchy, soft and chewy. It’s got it all. I wonder if my mom swooned when she first made it.
The best thing about these cranberry oatmeal bars, besides their taste and ease, is that they’re a great use for leftover cranberry sauce. I mean, that’s sort of how they came to exist so it makes sense.
Once Thanksgiving rolls past and you find yourself with leftover cranberry sauce don’t fret and wonder what to do with it. Make these oatmeal bars. You’ll love them. So much so that at future Thanksgiving dinners I bet you’ll hide the cranberry sauce at dinner just so you’ll have enough left to make these bars.
But really, no need to hide the sauce from your guests. If you don’t have the amount of cranberry sauce called for in the oatmeal bars recipe below, you can absolutely supplement with jam of any kind. Or open another can of cranberry sauce and combine it with your leftovers since these bars can happily accommodates more filling.
NOTE: There were many comments on this recipe that were wonderful, and many that found the oat mixture to not have enough butter or be difficult to work with. I figured out that I was explaining things incorrectly, and that softened butter is easier to use for this than cold. I have therefore edited the recipe to use the easier softened butter and to explain how to work the butter into the dry ingredients. I hope this helps everyone enjoy this recipe more. It’s one of my true all-time favorites and I hope you end up loving it as much as we do!
This twist on the classic Matrimonial Squares (also called Date Squares) uses cranberry sauce as a filling instead of a date purée. They’re super easy to make and are a fabulous use for leftover cranberry sauce. Note that this recipe originally called for cold butter but I have retested it and it now uses softened butter, which is much easier to work into the dry ingredients. Enjoy!
2 cups old fashioned rolled oats
2 cups flour (2 cups of all-purpose white or 1 cup of all purpose white and 1 cup of whole wheat)
1 cup brown sugar
1 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. salt
1 cup unsalted butter, softened
1 (14 oz.) can whole berry cranberry sauce or 1 and 1/2 cups homemade cranberry sauce
Preheat oven to 350ºF.
In a large bowl mix together the oats, flour, brown sugar, baking powder, baking soda and salt.
Use your fingers to rub in the butter into the dry ingredients. Then keep rubbing until you can’t really find any butter in the mixture anymore because your fingers have melted it quite a bit and it has mixed in so well into the flour and oats.
Spoon three-quarters of the oat mixture into an ungreased 13″x 9″ cake pan. Press down on it firmly everywhere to form a firm layer that evenly covers the bottom of the pan.
Add the cranberry sauce in dollops and spread it in a thin layer over the oat layer.
Sprinkle with the remaining oat mixture. Press down lightly on the oats so that they adhere to the wet cranberry sauce a bit.
Bake for 25-30 minutes. Note that the topping will not change color but it is still done.
Allow to cool in the pan on a wire rack. Cut into 8 strips along the length of the pan and 3 strips along the width yielding 24 bars. Use a spatula to remove the bars from the pan.
I'm Christine Pittman, a cookbook author and busy mom of two. My recipes are made from scratch, they're quick, and they're fresh. I started this website over 10 years ago and I'm delighted that over a million people now come to visit every month to try my recipes. Thank you for visiting and for joining me on this delicious journey!Find out more about me here.
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