Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Strawberry Jam Bars and the Fine Art of Cheat Cooking

As satisfying and deceptively easy it can be to make stuff from scratch, sometimes you just want some Duncan Hines on your palate. A little Betty Crocker down your gullet. Some Pillsbury knocking on your epiglottis. It's like the difference between Pizza Hut and pizzeria pizza. I KNOW they're different, because I am not stupid. I KNOW what the superior product is. But sometimes I want a little stuffed crust in my life, and that's OKAY.

But just because you're using a mix, it doesn't mean you can't be versatile. Take, for example, this recipe for strawberry jam bars. It's super easy, relatively labor free, and done in an hour start to finish.

First, get a box of yellow cake mix. Today we have opted for Betty Crocker SuperMoist Butter Recipe Yellow, because that is what was on sale.

Preheat your oven to 375 degrees. Then, melt 3/4 cup of butter. This is about a stick and a half. So this is a lot of butter. Anytime we're using more than a stick you can be assured we are not screwing around.

Empty the contents of the cake mix into a large bowl. Then add 2 1/2 cups of oats. Use the old fashioned kind. Not the quick cooking kind. I don't know why for certain, but I'm under the impression it will eff your ess up. And no one likes an effed ess.

Make a well in the middle of the oat/cake mix mixture and pour the butter in. Gradually mix the butter into the cake mix until it's been fairly consistently butter-ified and is crumbly, like this:

Grease a 13x9x2 pan. Really grease it, because the finished product is fairly sticky. Spoon half of the cake mixture into the bottom of the pan. Press it down firmly so it covers the bottom. Like this:

Take a 12 oz jar of strawberry preserves. Dump the whole sucker into a small bowl. Add a tablespoon of water. Mix it up and then carefully spread over the cake mix in the pan. You don't have to go all the way to the edges, but try to cover as much of the surface as possible.

Then take the rest of the cake mix still in the bowl, and spoon it over the preserves. Carefully pat this layer with your fingers so it creates a fairly firm top, but doesn't mush too badly into the fruit layer. It should look like this:

Bake the bars in the oven for 20 minutes, or until the top layer is light brown. It should smell amazeballs. Let it cool completely before you cut them. Then eat the crap out of it:

And there you are! You can even change up the preserves and use blueberry, raspberry, peach, apple...whatever. An original treat, helped along ever so slightly by the good people of Betty Crocker. Because sometimes, cheating is a good thing.