Tuesday, 10 February 2015

Chewy School-friendly Muesli Bars

My beloved husband believes, not without reason, that for both health and convenience reasons we need to bake snacks for our kids to take to school for recess. I'm obviously all in favour of health and convenience but I'm not entirely convinced that the chocolate banana bread or berry muffins that are our staple are really that healthy. Both are home made and therefore avoid the perils of transfats, palm oil, and oddly numbered preserving and stabilising agents, both are cheaper than buying that kind of snack food but to me they don't really seem particularly healthy. Plenty of sugar (or 'energy' as the candy bar ads so gloriously euphemise) which actually doesn't bother me that much but not high in fibre or protein, which as Megan knows, I'm a bit obsessed about

So I've been dwelling on what I can make easily, cheaply, lasts reasonably well (muffins, being lower in fat, don't last as well). It needs to have protein, fibre and be nut-free (school policy). And, obviously it needs to be whatever my fickle children consider tasty. Muesli bars (I think our North American friends call them Granola Bars) are a lunchbox staple, and I love chewy, oaty, fruity things, so that's what I decided to try.

I looked at about a hundred recipes and they tend to be variations on a theme. I asked various friends for their recommendations What I really wanted was something that gave me a ratio of wet to dry ingredients, an idea of crunchy to smooth ratios and how much fat and sugar was going to be needed to glue it all together. Oh, and I want to make sure I didn't end up with headache-inducing, rock-like crunchiness.

Based mostly on these recipes by SmittenKitchen, BakePlaySmile nd TheHealthyChef and the stuff I had kicking around in my pantry, I have constructed my own recipe and it's exactly what I was hoping for!

Dry Ingredients

  • 1 cup quick oats
  • 1 cup regular oats
  • 1 cup corn flakes (I wanted some crunchy bits and I'm not allowed to use nuts. You could use any kind of prepared cereal, puffed grains, nuts, whatever)
  • 1 - 1 1/2 cups dried fruit (I used 1 cup of diced dried apricots and 1/3 cup of diced dates)
  • 1/2 cup raw sugar (I will use brown sugar for extra chewiness next time)
  • 1 cup other dry ingredients. I used one third of a cup each flour, pepitas and quinoa flakes
  • 2 tbsp chia seeds
Wet Ingredients
  • 120g/half a cup melted butter
  • 1/4 cup honey (roughly - I hate measuring honey!)
  • 1 beaten egg 
  • half a cup stewed apple/apple sauce (I make this myself - just cooking up a heap of peeled, cored tart green apples with a little bit of sugar, water, and lemon and a heap of delicious sweet mixed spices). Those who want to make a nutty version of this could use a nut butter here, maybe loosened with a bit of oil and people who are really serious about being healthy might prefer to use tahini.
  • 2 tbsp golden syrup (because I was worried it wouldn't stick together enough)
  • preheat the oven to around 160C (fan-forced) and line a brownie tin with baking paper (spring for the fancy baking paper - it's worth it!) and give the lined pan a spray with cooking oil.
  • Mix the dry ingredients in a largish bowl.
  • Mix the wet ingredients in another bowl (I use a Pyrex measuring jug for this kind of thing - I melt the butter in the microwave with the honey and syrup then add the beaten egg, making sure it's not too hot because I don't want the egg to cook til it all goes in the oven).
  • Add the wet to the dry ingredients and mix it all up well and press it into the prepared tin, flattening it down neatly.
  • Cook it for about 25-35 minutes and let it cool completely before you cut it.
Store it in an airtight container - in the humid Sydney summer I'd suggest the fridge, if it isn't going to be eaten within a day or two. Although I could probably convince myself that this is an appropriate breakfast, morning tea and lunch, so that seems unlikely at this point.

Variations I'm looking forward to trying:
Tropical: with dried coconut, dried pineapple and pawpaw with golden syrup instead of honey. Maybe even mashed banana.
Thanksgiving/Autumn: Pecans, cranberries and maple syrup. Mashed cooked pumpkin with lots of spices instead of apple.
Summer: Dates and figs, dried coconut, some orange juice or even a drop or two of orange flower water.

Monday, 24 January 2011


Well, it's been a while since I did any real cooking, or even adapted any recipes so I'll post something closer to what I have been doing: Playdough! Home made playdough is really easy to make, it's cheap, but it doesn't last quite as long as the stuff you buy from shops. Make some for your next kids party and consider it disposable.

2 cups of plain flour (don't use self-raising - I did it once by accident and it makes weirdly fluffy, gloopy playdough)
1 cup salt
4 tablespoons of cream of tartar (no idea what this does to the playdough, but it's available in supermarkets)
2 tablespoons cooking oil
~ 2 cups of water

Traditional recipes say to mix all the ingredients over medium heat, stirring, for 3-5 minutes but I now tend to add boiling water to the other ingredients and nuke them for half a minute before stirring like crazy for about a minute. Either way seems to work fine.

Have fun.

Thursday, 4 November 2010

Almond and Cranberry biscuits (cookies)

This is almost my own recipe, it's adapted from a recipe for macadamia cookies from book called 500 Cookies by Philippa Vanstone. I keep meaning to try a variation with macadamia, orange and chocolate (or pecan and maple syrup!) but the almond and cranberry one is so good that there is just no motivation to try any others.I'm making these biscuits today to take to my inlaws for our Diwali celebration tomorrow. The biscuits come out chewy and nutty, not unlike some Indian sweets, so my father-in-law really appreciates them.

I do this recipe in two parts - I make the dough and roll it into biscuit sized balls first and put them in the fridge (or freezer!) and cook them later, usually when the oven is on for something else.


  • 150g almonds (blanched, and they can be slivered or whatever, because they are going to be blitzed)
  • 2-3 tablespoons milk
  • 100g raw sugar
  • 50g brown sugar (coz I like mine chewy rather than crunchy)
  • 1 egg
  • 75g dried cranberries
  • 150g plain flour
  • 1/4 tsp bicarb of soda
  • 75g granulated sugar (for rolling the biscuits in)
  • 1tsp vanilla essence (I sometimes use almond instead)


Blitz the nuts and milk together till they form a type of paste. You can do this with the food processor attachment of the stick blender but if I'm doing double quantities (like today) I use the food processor itself.

Add the sugar, egg and essence and beat well (I just tip these ingredients into the food processor), then I add the cranberries and give a few pulses to cut them a bit and mix them through the dough.

Sifted flour and bicarb come next. Ideally you will transfer the mixture to a bowl and gently fold the sifted ingredients in but if you are lazy or short of time you can tip them down the funnel as well, just make sure to only pulse the machine until the ingredients are combined.

Roll the mixture into balls (mine are usually about the size of a superball, slightly smaller then a walnut) and give them a little roll in the granulated sugar.

When you are ready to cook them preheat the oven to around 175C and bake for 8-10 minutes.

Monday, 14 September 2009

Tim Martin’s Classic Roast Tomato Soup

I had this lying around, I thought I better put it up here. I used to make a lot of this soup at The Rattlesnake Grill.

1 large white onion

6 large cloves of garlic

2 ribs of celery (peeled)

2 rashers of bacon (optional… almost)

Olive oil

1.2-1.5kg Ripe Large Tomatoes*

¼ bunch each thyme and oregano

150 ml cream

Salt and pepper

Bay leaf/s

200 ml white wine


  1. Pre heat oven to hot, about 240-260C
  2. Take the core out of the tomatoes, give them a toss in olive oil, sprinkle with a little S&P and put into an oven in the heaviest roasting pan you have. But do not pack them in really tightly so they have a little room to wiggle around.
  3. After about 15 minutes they should have begun to brown on the tops, if not, leave them till they do. When they have got a little colour and the skin has split open in several places, remove from the oven.
  4. While the tomatoes roast, finely slice the first four ingredients, and put into a large saucepan with a generous pour of olive oil and a pinch of S&P.
  5. Once they are quite soft, and the bacon has rendered out, pour in the wine and bring to the boil. Add the roughly chopped herbs around this time.
  6. Once the wine has come to the boil, add the roasted tomatoes and turn the heat right down. Add the bay leaf/s add let it tick over for at least 40 mins to 1 hr. Till the tomatoes are soft enough to mash with a spoon.
  7. Add the cream and bring to the boil. Then remove from the stove. REMOVE THE BAY LEAF. Now while it is still hot enough to burn you, transfer it in batches to a blender and blend the Christ out of it, making sure to hold the lid of the blender on with a cloth so it doesn't spray out everywhere and burn your face off.
  8. As one batch has blended, push it through a sieve using a ladle into a clean container/soup tureen. Taste soup for S&P, and add a tiny squeeze of lemon if it tastes a little 'flat'.
  9. Serve with a couple of baby basil leaves and a drizzle of olive oil on top.

* As tomatoes are really what this soup is about, how good it is will really depend on how good they are. At this time of year you should be able to still pick up some good, ripe late season ones. Feel free to let them sit on a bench or windowsill till they are fully ripe and have that beautiful 'tomato' smell. If you're feeling posh, wander down to Fratelli Fresh and get some Ox Hearts if they have them.