Lunchbox safe: nut, dairy, gluten and sugar free muesli bars – which are delicious too!!

Mr Incredible just got the following text message:

Cooked these. They’re awesome and may not be any left when you get home…. shall I save you one??

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Made with banana as a binder and whatever you have in the cupboard, these muesli bars are incredibly versatile and super duper delicious. In fact, with the fruity undercurrent and chewy texture they remind me a little of the roll-ups I had as a kid. They’re also super easy to make – no electronic equipment required except for the oven. I’ve passed this recipe on to friends who “don’t bake” as they’re really that simple and satisfying.

Thanks to a friend for sharing this incredible idea – we make these almost daily at the moment and each batch is always gobbled up faster than I can believe. I’ve adapted the recipe from Eat Your Greens.

Pick and mix Banana Muesli Bars

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup of oats
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • optional 1 tsp vanilla / honey / maple syrup
  • * 1/2 cup sunflower seeds
  • * 1/2 cup chia seeds
  • * 1/3 cup sultanas
  • * 1/4 cup dried blueberries
  • * 1/2 cup pepitas
  • 3 mashed bananas (to the puree stage)

* These ingredients are interchangeable with what you have in your cupboard – if your school allows nuts you can also add chopped almonds, cashews, walnuts etc.. You also don’t need exact measurements – again, just use what you have and ensure that there’s enough banana to cover the ingredients. To be honest, now I’ve made them so many times I’m not even measuring the ingredients out!

Method:

  1. Preheat oven to 160°C (fan-forced oven 180 for non fan-forced).
  2. Grease the bottom and sides of a 9-by-9-inch square pan (I use a silicone pan so this isn’t needed)
  3. In a large bowl, combine the dry ingredients
  4. In a separate bowl, mash the bananas with a fork until they resemble a puree and add the vanilla / honey / maple syrup to this if you want to use it (I find it’s sweet enough without)
  5. Pour the bananas over the oat mixture and stir until all the dry ingredients are evenly moist.
  6. Press mixture evenly and firmly into the bottom of the pan.
  7. Bake for 30-35 minutes, until firm and lightly browned on the edges.
  8. Cut up and place on a cooling rack (they hold quite a lot of moisture so a cooling rack is better than cooling in the pan or on a plate).

 

Cooking notes:

  • You can store them in an airtight container for a couple days, but I recommend wrapping them individually and freezing them in a freezer-safe container for up to 3 months if you don’t think you’ll eat them that quickly.
  • Mine were quite thin, If you wanted them thicker like a commercial muesli bar, you might need to add more ingredients and another banana to cover the mix. Try it as it is the first time though – then get your confidence up and experiment.
  • The chia seeds also help to bind the mixture – if you leave these out it might not work as well.
  • These are super easy to make with kids!
  • The more I make these the more I take short cuts and still have success. I now mash the bananas in a bowl first, then just top all the dry ingredients on top and mix it together – less washing and works just as well.

Signs of refreshment: Baking Everyday Oatmeal Bread from Simply in Season

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I think we all have signs that indicate we’re feeling refreshed. For some it might be having the emotional energy to make a phone call, for others it’s winding down enough to sit and read a book, for others still it might be the desire to get out the paint set or get dressed up and go out for dinner. For me I know I’m feeling refreshed when my creativity returns and I bake spontaneously or feel like writing (hello again dear blog and friends of this blog!).

After returning from New Zealand last night, I woke up with a desire to bake some bread. Not just put bread in the machine and then watch it rise in the oven, but really bake. The inspiration for this was my sister-in-law’s incredible loaf that I could have devoured quite selfishly on my own, slathered with butter and munched on with utter delight to my heart’s content. It really was that good. Not just any bread, this was a darker loaf, incredibly moist and filled with goodness. Along with wholewheat flour and oats it contains a healthy serve of molasses, which apparently has the lowest sugar content of any sugar cane product and contains vital vitamins and minerals, such as iron, calcium, magnesium, vitamin B6, and selenium (according to Healthline.com).  I also really enjoyed making this with Adventure Girl and Dash. They found the punching  of the dough especially fun!

9780836194944The recipe for this comes from the cookbook I’ll be saving up for next Simply in Season by Mary Beth Lind. It’s the sort of cookbook that informs as well as provides incredible recipes and focuses on seasonal food that’s locally grown and ethically produced. Right up my ally. It’s a compilation of different recipes which was refreshing as well. The recipe I’ve featured here for instance is not by the author but the author has given credit to whom contributed as I do below. I also liked how the book focused on seasons but successfully makes the north/south hemisphere divide. Living in the southern hemisphere I often get frustrated with the seasons being sorted by months. While I know I can simply compute that June in America or England (etc) equates to our December, sometimes I do get confused. Also, my brother and his wife are exceptional cooks so any cookbook that they use often is high on my list.

I wonder what signs you have that you’re in a relaxed state of mind? I’d love to hear so feel free to comment below!

Everyday Oatmeal Bread by Janet Steiner (from Simply in Season)

Ingredients and Method (combined as within the original recipe)

Recipe makes two large loaves

1 1/2 cups boiling water
1 cup rolled oats (or whole oats, or 12-grain cereal, etc)
Combine and let stand 30 min.

3/4 cup molasses (or maple syrup)
3 Tbsp butter or oil
2 tsp salt
Stir into oatmeal.

2 cups lukewarm water
1 Tbsp active traditional yeast
Mix in a large bowl until dissolved. Add oatmeal mixture. [Note: do make this a large bowl as it’s what you’ll be using to form your dough in]
6 cups bread or all purpose flour
2 cups whole wheat flour
Work in flour to make a medium-soft somewhat sticky dough. Knead 8-10 minutes until smooth. Place in greased bowl and let rise until doubled about 1 hour. Keep covered with damp cloth while rising. Then punch down. Divide into two, and shape into loaves. Embellish tops of loaves with seeds (sesame, sunflower, hemp, etc) if desired. Place in greased loaf pans. Cover and let rise again, about 45 min. Bake in preheated oven at 400 F/200C/180C (fan forced) for 5 minutes and then reduce to 350F/180C/160C ( about 30-35 minutes until they sound hollow when tapped.

Notes:

  • If you’re trying to cut down on carbs this is NOT the recipe for you. The very smell of this bread cooking was enough to make me salivate
  • You can increase the wholewheat flour ratio if you prefer (I used 3 cups wholewheat and 5 cups unbleached white bakers flour)
  • According to other blogs featuring this recipe, it also works well with adding in nuts, seeds and grains or using a grain mix instead of the oatmeal
  • This really is a recipe you can make with kids (at times!). Involving them in the punching of the dough or giving them their own piece to kneed/use like play dough is a fun and contained way of involving them.

 

Edible, Cookable Play Dough : Wholemeal spiced cookies

It’s school holidays here. It doesn’t affect our little family much except for one thing, the parks are SO much more crowded. Big kids having a wonderful play can be a bit daunting for Adventure Girl and Dash so we tend to avoid our usual haunts and either go to BIG open spaces to ride bikes, the beach, or make more fun at home. We’re making fun at home today with my version of play dough. The cookable, tasty kind that I can bring out at various times during the week for little hands to hold, roll, squish, shape and cut. We then bake them and have the most delicious snacks. The recipe I adapted these from calls for sugar, I leave this out entirely but do add maple syrup in replacement for molasses. Without the egg it’s edible in a raw form and could possibly be made with GF flour, although I haven’t tried this. I should though, Mr Incredible always comes home to a house smelling of cinnamon and ginger and feels quite left out that he can’t share in the treats!

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Wholemeal Spiced Cookies

Adapted from http://wholesomekids.com.au/spelt-and-chia-ginger-cookies-nut-freeegg-free/

Ingredients

  • 300g wholemeal flour
  • 150g butter
  • 50g maple syrup
  • 1 tbsp chia seeds + 3tbsp water
  • 2tsp ground ginger
  • 2tsp cinnamon
  • 1/4tsp bicarb soda
  • pinch salt

Method

  1. Combine chia seeds and water in a small cup and let sit for 5 minutes to gel.
  2. While this is happening, in a food processor cream butter and maple syrup
  3. Combine all ingredients, including chia gel, in the food processor and mix well till a nice dough ball forms
  4. Cover dough a refrigerate for half an hour to make it easier to handle while rolling.
  5. Preheat oven to 180 degrees.
  6. Roll dough out to a thickness of roughly 4-5mm and cut desired shapes, transferring onto a baking paper lined tray.
  7. Cook in the oven for 12-15minutes, still should be slightly “cushiony” when ready, and will crisp up as they cool.

Cooking Notes

  • On occasion I’m so focused on cooking with the kids and forget to do step one separately and instead add the flour in the first step… don’t worry if you do this! It will still work out fine 🙂
  • The dough can be portioned out over a few days. Don’t feel like you need to use it all at once, just break off what you want to use for a moment of play and keep the rest chilled until the next day.
  • These are egg free, nut free and can be made to be gluten free.