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
  

In which I am a genius and bake a cake

Perry-Final

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*

Continue reading

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.

IMG_4683.JPG_picmonkeyed
Really? Not even “Happy Birthday Jill”?

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 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.

Continue reading

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.