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


  • 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


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

A Week In Dinners: What We Ate Round Ours.


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.

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.





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*




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.



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.


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…


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


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.

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.

how this…

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

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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Glut of eggs. Gleggs. Egglut.

Back on form
Back on form

How did I end up with 14 eggs 2 days ago?  By doing the most unplanned and frequent supermarket pop-ins you can imagine over Christmas, that’s how.  Dominic was at the point of eating 1 egg, scrambled in the microwave each day for lunch.  No toast, no bagel, no cheese, just an egg.  All the better for leaving space to spend the rest of the day begging for a go of his selection box or a half a candy cane.

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Starting the year the sugar filled way

I’m destined to always start the New Year on the wrong foot.   Nearly 4 years ago Bump wasn’t playing ball, and didn’t appear til January 8th, so we are bound to a life of always needing copious amounts of cake when all around are dieting.

Picking fancy cake for a growing boy
picking a fancy cake for a growing boy

Plans are afoot.  Books are being flicked through.  The boy is having his first ever not-just-cousins (much as we love cousins!) party and some of his little mates from Montessori are coming.   He is involved in the choosing of friends and of cakes.  He has sophisticated tastes and landed upon a Strawberry & Marscapone number from the Like Mam Used to Bake cookbook.  I’ve decided that I want to enjoy that one in a languid fashion and not with 10 grabby little hands nearby.  So I’ve settled on a pirate ship cake, inspired by Bumbles of Rice and I’ve ordered some Jake & the Neverland Pirates partyware.  (Cunning plan to reuse some of it for someone else’s 2nd birthday…)
Besides that there’ll have to be something not too bad for them – I’m thinking popcorn, fruit salad and cheese straws. Kids are mad for breadsticks so these cheesey ones won’t go astray. I also have a bean dip recipe that if ignored by children should keep me and husband’s energy levels up.

Then of course, there’s his actual birthday which is midweek and cannot go unmarked in ‘school’.  His teachers are wise to my baking, and will be expecting something to appear I’m sure. I’m going with tried and tested Rice Krispie Marsbies which appeared in tray bake form last year as his actual cake.

I’ve made the list, and have disgusted myself by the requirement for a kilo of butter for all these endeavours. Healthy eating starts the day after the party!

The reason I tell you this is for a twofold motivational reason:  If I tell the internet I’m doing something, then I’d better follow through.  So here you have it: I’m recreating Bucky in chocolate cake, and if I eat a mountain of baked goods I’ll be fine because I’ve also signed up to do a half marathon in a couple of months.

Wish me luck & check in again to see the results!

Mr. Old Elf, our seasonal visitor

I have a small bit of creativity in my blood.  My Mum taught primary,  Junior Infants mostly – so finger paints and leaf rubbings were par for the course in her working life. I know she’s busy knitting matching jumpers for my 2 boys as I type too.  My lovely dear departed Dad was a textile designer, so had more of an eye for design than your average straight man.  His opinions on his daughters’ clothes extended beyond “You’re not going out in that belt.  What?  That’s a skirt?”

I flit between activities and crafts, a Jill of many trades, a mistress of none.  I have a sewing machine, I have a large jar of ironing beads, I have a million tiny ziplock bags of sparkly beads, wooden beads – every kind of jewellery finding imaginable.  I’ve done a metalwork course in the NCAD and a dressmaking course in the Grafton Academy.   One year I knitted 30 tiny hats for a smoothie promotion thing, having not lifted up needles for about 20 years at that point.  It’s safe to say I’ll turn my hand to anything, but as soon as it gets difficult, my eye tends to turn to the next task.

Christmas brings out the latent craftiness in a lot of people, and for me, it ramps up a bit.  In the last couple of years I’ve made felt owls for our tree, and as gift tags for the nieces & nephew.  Last year the creche staff got individual Chocolate Biscuit Cake Christmas Puddings.  (This year they should be getting Chocolate Peppermint Fudge if it isn’t a complete disaster).

I have attempted salt dough decorations with the boys – we managed one to be precise before there was dough everywhere. The less said about that the better. But this years biggest project has been our elf.  Mr. Old Elf to be precise, which is a more imaginative name than most soft toys get in this house. He’s here to keep an eye on the 2 little boys that live here, to make sure that Santa knows that they belong on the nice list.*  I was going to wait, and post the whole month of elven activity in one go, but then I thought that some of my little tricks (none of them very elaborate) might help anyone else who’s finding themselves a little short of inspiration with barely more than a week to go.  Like me!

So here he is. Since December 1st, when Mr. Old Elf has arrived at our door – apart from a couple of forays into the kitchen he’s been knocking around the living room creating mischief and having fun.

*any and all attempts to invoke the man in red’s name as a discipline tactic have utterly failed. I cannot in good faith recommend you try and use an elf for this purpose.