Flax seeds are invited into most kitchens because of their impressive health-promoting qualities. But most cooks and eaters soon begin to value them for their nutty taste and silken texture. While seeds have pleasing taste and crunch, only the ground meal is digestible. Although flax meal is easy to buy, for freshness I prefer to buy whole seeds and grind about a cupful at a time in a coffee grinder reserved for that purpose. Once ground, flax meal must be refrigerated (to avoid rancidity) and used within a few weeks. About 1/4 cup of whole flax seeds yields 1/3 cup meal.
It's a snap to incorporate flax meal into everyday meals. Stir a few tablespoons into your morning hot or cold cereal. Sprinkle it on grain, bean, and green salads. Knead it into breads, press it into pie crusts, blend it into smoothies, and toss it into granola.
Flax meal is a particular boon to vegan and cholesterol-free cooks because it works well as a binder and can be used to replace eggs. Stir 3 tablespoons of meal into 1/2 cup of water and beat until the mixture becomes viscous. Use to replace two large eggs. This binding property is used to advantage in the moist and chewy bar cookie recipe that follows. You can replace the dried fruits with an equal amount of raisins or other varieties you have on hand.
Place a rack in the center and preheat the oven to 350°F. Lightly oil an 8-inch square baking pan. Distribute 2 tablespoons of the oats on the bottom. Reserve another 2 tablespoons for sprinkling on top.
In a medium-sized saucepan, bring 1/2 cup water to a boil. Turn the heat to low and blend in the honey, orange juice concentrate, oil, salt, cinnamon, and nutmeg. Cover and turn off the heat.
Place 1/2 cup of the oats in a spice grinder and process into oat flour. Stir the oat flour, remaining 1 c. oatmeal, baking powder, baking soda, mango, blueberries, cranberries, and walnuts into the honey mixture in the pot. Cover and let sit for 10 minutes.
Meanwhile, in a mini-chopper or food processor, grind the flax seeds into a fairly fine meal. Add 1/2 cup water and process until the mixture becomes gummy, about 30 seconds. Blend the flax-seed slurry into the oat mixture.
Pour into the prepared pan and even off the top. Sprinkle the reserved oats on top and gently press them into the batter. Bake until the bottom and sides are golden, the center springs back to a gentle touch, and a toothpick inserted into the middle comes out clean, 30 to 35 minutes.
Set on a cooling rack. Slice down the middle while still warm. Then cut each half into 1-inch wide bars. Eat warm, at room temperature, or chilled. Refrigerate in an airtight container for up to five days.
Recipe adapted from WHOLE GRAINS EVERY DAY, EVERY WAY (Clarkson Potter, 2006) by Lorna Sass. Copyright Lorna Sass 2007.