The Granola Bars To Rule Them All

We had a go at making buns yesterday. There was a number of issues with this. It was all going okay mess wise until Ted got up from his nap. Then half the ingredients went on the countertop/floor/cat.

My husband was working from home and had made an omelette for his lunch, leaving no eggs. No problemo, I made a chia egg replacement. (1 tbsp milled chia, 3 tbsp water = stir and leave sit for 10-15 mins = 1 egg)

I had no regular flour so I used spelt. That doesn’t usually cause an issue for me either.

Then I realised that the milled chia seed I thought I had was in fact a mix: one third chia, one third linseed and one third hemp. So, still very good for you but maybe not suitable when what the recipe really truly was asking for was “2 eggs”.

Anyway, it put in half an hour with the kids on a rainy afternoon which is never to be sniffed at. Add another ten minutes of fighting over blueberries. The mixture was very light and fluffy and the bowl got licked and the slightly sticky buns eaten, but I don’t think I need waste your time with this particular recipe.

What I will share with you is an entirely foolproof no-bake granola bar recipe which is adaptable to infinity and allows you to fly by the seat of your pants in a way that baked goods don’t usually. I can’t believe I haven’t written about these before. I’ve only made them about sixty seven times. They’re fairly healthy and wholesome to boot.

Foolproof No-Bake Granola Bars

The only 5 ingredients you need

 Ingredients

  • 1 cup dates
  • 1/4 cup maple syrup
  • 1/4 cup peanut butter or almond butter
  • 1 cup almonds, chopped roughly.
  • 1.5 cups oats

Method

Blend the dates to a sticky ‘dough’ in the food processor – there will still be bits, it won’t be totally smooth. It takes about 30 seconds in the small processor that came with my stick blender (my very favourite kitchen gadget). You can add a couple of tablespoons of water if your dates are a bit dry. I buy the deglet noor ones in Aldi.

Mix the dates, porridge oats and almonds together. If you prefer the flavour you can toast the nuts in the oven for 7-8 mins, and oats for 10 mins at about 175 degrees c.

Warm the nut butter and maple syrup in a small saucepan together until they stir together easily. I use a small whisk. I only use good quality nut butters – preferably Meridian, sometimes Kelkin – as close to 100% nuts and nothing else as possible. You can use honey or agave instead of the maple syrup. I often use a blend of honey and maple syrup because y’know, maple syrup is expensive.

Add the nut butter/maple syrup to the dry ingredients and mix thoroughly.

Amazing non-messy cling film flattening method in action

Pop the whole mixture into a tray or dish. I use an 8×8 inch silicon pan I have. Now here’s the skilful bit. Place a big bit of cling film on top, then use you your hands to flatten the whole thing down. You’ll never try and use a wooden spoon or spatula again. Place in the fridge to harden.

Optional Extras

That’s the basic bars made but I never leave it there; you can add all sorts to this recipe.

Some of my favourite things are toasted seeds, a variety of chopped nuts, bits of dark chocolate and dried apricot. You can put in some dried cranberries or mango too for a super sweet kick. (I soak the mango in a little warm water for about half an hour and drain before using it) For a real treat you can cover the whole thing in a thin layer of 70% chocolate.  

With dried mango and a chocolate top layer
These bars freeze really well, so you can stick them in a lunchbox straight from the freezer and they’re ready to eat within a couple of hours. The only trouble with them is that I have to make them when (the egg-hogging) husband is out of the house so they remain hidden from him for as long as possible. It’s the only way they have a chance of lasting more than one day.


 Adapted from a Minimalist Baker recipe here
  
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A Week In Dinners: What We Ate Round Ours.

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As part of a look at what ‘real’ families eat, Sinéad over at Bumbles of Rice started a ‘Week In Dinners’ linky. I’m always interested in what other people are chomping down on, and I think it’s important to represent for the veggie contingent here in the Properfud house.

Monday: I concocted something with bulgar wheat, chickpeas and a creamy nutty dressing which was FINE but a bit forgettable. It got eaten by everyone but the leftovers are still in the fridge. I suppose I should chuck them now.

Tuesday: A random walk through the Marks & Spencer food hall meant some items threw themselves in my basket like Cheese Tasters, overpriced dark chocolate and stem ginger cookies (for a trip to a friends house), a Nutty Superfood Salad and a Sprouted Bean Salad.  For dinner the husband cooked up some quorn pieces with red pesto, a little stock and frozen spinach and we ate that served with the salads. The boys picked the bits they wanted out of the salads and we ate the rest. I didn’t even try to make them eat any more than they wanted because I wanted it all to myself.

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Me, when I get my hands on Cheese Tasters

Slim-With-TinaWednesday: I got my hands on the Slim With Tina book a couple of weeks ago. You can find out more and buy it here.

I’m not slimming (see above), but I do really like Tina’s approach to health and fitness and this book includes lots of great meal ideas. I learned to run properly on a Run With Tina group course, and have had a strong social media friendship with her since.  My ever-popular pancake recipe even made it into her book with some healthy modifications! I was like a proud mammy when I saw that in there.

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Anyway, she has a delicious simple Chana Masala recipe in the book. I had run out of chickpeas so it was technically Bean-a Masala, as I used a couple of tins of mixed beans. This is a real store-cupboard meal for me, I always have the ingredients (or substitutes!) on hand. I picked at food as I cooked and then ran out the door to my Boxfit class as the boys sat down for dinner. Plates were cleaned!  I also did some grilled aubergine and courgettes on the side because I swear I get itchy if my day doesn’t have enough veggies in it. My husband didn’t even offer them to anyone so I ate them all later *burp*

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Thursday: I made both banana bread and scones on Thursday so had run out of steam a bit by dinner time. Baking with a toddler is double the work, and due to waning enthusiasm for both bonding and cleaning up obviously I dispatched him to in front of the TV while I rolled and cut them. That tiny baby bib is what he insisted on wearing as his apron. It protected NOTHING.

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Luckily I found some Lorraine Pascale marscapone gnocchi in the freezer – this stuff is so good, I always make a good big batch and freeze some. I fried that up, served it on rocket with basil pesto, avocado and yellow peppers. Plates were served according to taste preferences – that is no leaves, loads of pepper for the kids. I think Teddy robbed about half my gnocchi.

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Friday: I cooked up some fresh rice and the boys ate leftover Chana Masala. I didn’t feel so great with a crappy sore throat, and the husband had his eye on a takeaway. I eyed up an avocado smoothie recipe in a bid to make myself feel healthy. Then I thought about the Cheese Tasters for a bit. Curse you M&S and your tasty snacks! I relented and made the smoothie (and it was delicious). Did I have takeaway later? You’ll never know…

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Don’t forget to look at all the other Week in Dinners posts over here!

In which I am a genius and bake a cake

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Inspired.  That’s what I am.  This year we threw caution to the wind and outsourced the birthday party to a play centre. No more tidying the house pre-party, being anxious about all the people arriving and being all squished in our tiny house with it’s tiny living room and tiny kitchen. Then no trying to calm down overexcited kids after it’s all over so we can clean up the mammoth mess. Well, not til next year: there’s no way we can afford to do play centre for every party, but it was nice to push the boat out for once. I didn’t wake up stressed with a  list as long as my arm the morning of the party.  I had one job for Dominic’s birthday, and I didn’t fail.  *High-fives self*

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Octonauts and the Great Birthday Cake Adventure

Do you know what we love in our house? Quinoa. And tofu, and green veg. But do you know what else? Sugar. I won’t lie. I have a desperate sweet tooth.  Every now and then though I take a figary and make some fabulous date-based treat from Susan Jane White’s Extra Virgin Kitchen book, then I promptly eat a row of Dairy Milk Fruit and Nut directly after. My willpower is not strong in this regard.

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Really? Not even “Happy Birthday Jill”?

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Silly Fancy Bottom Pizza.

Twelve full seconds of silence. Watch them.  See the contented chewing and nodding and not hitting each other.  This could be your house too.  Read on! Continue reading

In which a cake nearly breaks my heart but turns out well in the end.

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The elder child went and turned 4. Despite my protests that I’m only about 20 I appear to have 2 cats and 2 sons and am Quite Grown Up really. So it was about time we bit the bullet and hosted a party for him and his buddies from Montessori. For birthdays so far we’ve stuck with family affairs except for his 3rd where I was so busy feeding a small baby I was never going to entertain anyone at home. The young lad had a little party in playschool surrounded by friends and everyone was happy. Honestly I think parties could be banned til age 5 at least and kids wouldn’t really notice.

…became this.  This is Bucky.
(image courtesy of disney.wikia.com)

The other small boy is a different affair because he has a July birthday so we got to go to the park for his 1st birthday and invite absolutely everyone we wanted with kids to come along because we didn’t have to squish them in our tiny house or clean up afterwards.

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