Strawberry-almond oatmeal bars

Last week’s Banner featured a guest food columnist, Jack Dura, and his Grandma’s Little’s banana bread recipe. Jack is a former Banner intern whom we all adore, and I feel like a proud parent every time I see his byline in the Bismarck Tribune. Because clearly, the Banner is to credit for all he has become.

But seriously, we keep in regular touch with Jack, which is how last week’s column came about. He sent me a message last month telling me he’d enjoyed my son’s food column, and jokingly, sent a selfie of what has become the signature “Angel in the Kitchen” column photo pose.

“Any time you want to write a column, you’re welcome!” I told him.

He went on to remind me that his grandparents were from Traill County, where his grandpa was a longtime doctor. “Duane Nysveen once showed me the scar from the appendectomy my grandpa gave him,” Jack said. He also explained that his family’s mainstay banana bread recipe also had its roots in the county. It seemed like a natural fit.

(We later discovered through a random course of conversation that the hubby was delivered by a Dr. Little at the Mayville hospital – a doctor who turned out to be Jack’s uncle, Dr. Jim Little. Yes, for those of you keeping track at home, Baby Short was delivered by Dr. Little. It’s too adorable for words.)

Jack’s family’s banana bread recipe is one of those quintessential Midwestern staples – something you can make year-round, and that’s perfect in both its most simple format and if you want to add a few tweaks here and there.

This is another of those recipes, which relies mostly on pantry staples. In its simplest iteration, it’s just butter, flour, oats, sugar, baking powder, salt and any flavor of fruit preserves. Everything else is optional and customizable.

I played around with bits of the unbaked oatmeal crumble, adding different add-ins and seasonings, until I found my preferred combination: almond to complement the strawberry, cinnamon to warm the oats and toffee to help glue together the dough (mmm … toffee glue). But, like any good mainstay recipe, it’s very forgiving if you want to try your own favorite flavor combinations.

For the recipe, see the Banner's online or print edition.