Nut Free, Lunchbox Friendly Muesli Bars

For quite sometime, I have been thinking about changing the way I make my Muesli Bars. I find that the baked ones are sometimes perfect and cut into nice muesli bar shaped pieces and other times they crumble, so I wanted to make a reliable muesli bar, one that cuts perfectly everytime, and here we have it!

img_2068.jpg

This muesli bar does not need to be baked, it sets in the fridge and it is also nut free, meaning it is suitable for kids to take to kinder or school, and perfectly safe for those allergic to nuts, which is great. You can, of course, add nuts in in place of some of the seeds if you wish, which I personally think makes them better and also makes a more solid bar when cut.

img_2069.jpg

It took me a couple of goes to get these right and there are a few key things to note:

  1. Coconut oil, alone, will not set well enough to hold together, it needs something else, which is why I have used butter and honey.
  2. Honey that has crystallised, needs to be heated and boiled for about 1 minute in order to get the crystals back into solution to help it to hold the mixture together well. One batch I made, the crystallised honey was not heated well enough and this batch crumbled when cut.
  3. The mixture needs to be pushed down very firmly into the pan with the back of a spoon before placing into the fridge to set.

IMG_2067

Seeing as these muesli bars aren’t cooked, you can use any dried fruit. I find with the baked muesli bars that sometimes the dried fruit can go a bit too crunchy and almost burn. I have used dried blueberries and cranberries, but dried apricots, sultanas, dates or even apple would work well also. I have included some dark chocolate in these muesli bars, which melts when the hot mixture is added, making them taste a little bit like a chocolate crackle, but this is optional. You could also omit the chocolate in the mix and melt and drizzle it over the finished bar.

img_2070.jpg

My kids love my homemade muesli bars, and the first time I made a refrigerated batch, they had nuts in them and Mark tried them and said “Mum, can I take these to kinder”?, and my response was obviously “No, they have nuts in them”, which is where the motivation for these muesli bars came from.

Give these a go and you’ll probably find you won’t buy muesli bars again.

Enjoy xx

Ingredients:

  • 2 cups rolled oats, toasted
  • 1 cup puffed brown rice (rice bubbles will work also)
  • 1/3 cup sunflower seeds, toasted
  • 1/3 cup pepitas, toasted
  • 1/4 cup linseed
  • 1/4 cup chia seeds
  • 1/2 cup shredded coconut, toasted
  • 1 tbs sesame seeds
  • 1 cup dried fruit (I used 1/2 blueberries, 1/2 cranberries)
  • 70g dark chocolate, chopped (optional)
  • 65g butter
  • 60g coconut oil
  • 105g honey

Method:

  1. Preheat the oven to 200°C and line a slice tray 20cm x 30cm with baking paper.
  2. Place oats, sunflower seeds and pepitas onto the tray and toast in the oven for about 10-15 minutes until just starting to turn golden. Add the coconut for the last 5 minutes, keeping an eye on it. This adds some crunch to these ingredients, but can be skipped.
  3. Place toasted oats, seeds and coconut into a large bowl and add the linseed, chia seeds, sesame seeds, puffed rice, dried fruit and chocolate and mix.
  4. Place butter, honey and coconut oil into a small saucepan and heat over medium heat. Once coconut oil and butter are melted, bring to a gentle simmer and allow to simmer for at least 1 minute, ensuring honey has dissolved.
  5. Pour honey mixture into the oat mixture and mix well, ensuring the wet mix coats the dry mix well.
  6. Place into lined tin and press into the tin well with the back of a spoon.
  7. Refrigerate for 2-3 hours or overnight then cut into bars.
  8. Keep in an airtight container in the fridge.

Banana Muffins with Honey and Cinnamon Cream Cheese Icing

Is it a muffin or is it a cupcake? This is a tricky one and an age old debate. From what Dr Google has told me, a muffin can be sweet or savoury, is likely to have a chunky batter and loaded with fruit, or veggies if savoury. Cupcakes, on the other hand are just a mini cake, therefore likely to be sweet and ALWAYS have icing. So, by definition, these could be cupcakes or muffins, but I think the use of wholemeal flour and sweetness being derived mainly from bananas, classifies them as a muffin.

img_9538.png

img_9524.jpg

Mark and Claire both love helping me in the kitchen at the moment. Mark helped me make these muffins while Claire was at childcare. Muffins are an easy thing to include the kids in the making of as they usually just involve putting everything into a bowl and mixing, making it quick and easy, which is good for the short attention spans of little people. Lining up the muffin patty pans is also a good task that they can complete, while I give the mixture the proper mix it needs 🙂

img_9527.jpg

Muffins are a good snack as they are filling and wholesome. These ones are made with wholemeal flour, not much sugar and bananas, which will keep both kids and adults going until the next meal. Muffins also freeze exceptionally well. They can be made with or without the icing, but who doesn’t love a good cream cheese icing? And this one with honey and cinnamon is great!

img_9531.jpg

IMG_9537

A good recipe to keep up your sleeve to use up over ripe bananas.

Enjoy xx

Ingredients:

  • 1 1/2 cups wholemeal plain flour
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar, packed firmly
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • 90g butter, melted
  • 2 large over ripe bananas, mashed
  • 2 eggs, lightly beaten
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla extract

Honey & Cinnamon Icing

  • 150g cream cheese
  • 90g butter
  • 3/4 cup icing sugar
  • 1 tbs honey
  • 1/4 tsp ground cinnamon

Method:

  1. Preheat the oven to 180°C and prepare a muffin tray for ~15 muffins.
  2. Place flour, sugar, baking powder and baking soda into a medium sized bowl and stir to combine.
  3. Place the banana into a bowl and mash.
  4. Add the banana, beaten eggs, melted butter and vanilla into the dry mixture and mix well until all ingredients are combined.
  5. Spoon ~1/2 a cup of mixture into muffin tins and level out.
  6. Place into pre heated oven and bake for ~25 minutes or until a skewer comes out clean when inserted into the top. Allow to cool.
  7. Once the muffins are completely cool, prepare the icing.
  8. Place cream cheese and butter into the bowl of a stand mixer and beat until smooth. Add icing sugar, honey and cinnamon and beat until combine.
  9. Place a good tablespoon on each muffin and smooth out.
  10. Refrigerate or freeze until needed.

Hot Cross Buns

IMG_9364

With only 2 weeks until Easter, I thought it was time to do some recipe development and come up with a delicious hot cross bun recipe.

img_9351.jpg

Hot cross buns are quintessentially Easter, along with the chocolate eggs, and I know that a lot of people dislike the fact that they are available from Christmas, but I think, if they sell, then make them. They are delicious and a great little snack to keep you going. I personally prefer the smaller ones as they can be enjoyed daily as part of a healthy balanced diet, whereas the big ones can be a bit ridiculous and often as many calories as a mars bar.

img_9353.jpg

The key to hot cross buns is the spice and I’ve found over the years that a lot of the recipes don’t have enough spice. I have included cinnamon, nutmeg and mixed spice in this recipe, but you could use whatever spices you like, such as ginger, star anise or cloves as well. This batch of hot cross buns makes 32 small buns, however, you could make them bigger and make about 20-24.

img_9355.jpg

I have also had a bit of a play around with flours and have ended up using a combination of wholemeal flour (for some added fibre), plain flour and bakers flour, which helps to make them a bit more light and fluffy due to the higher gluten content of bakers flour. Dried fruit is another key element to hot cross buns. I think that mixed peel is essential in hot cross buns, but a lot people dislike it. I have paired it with sultanas and currants, but once again, you can use whatever dried fruit you like or even make them into chocolate chip hot cross buns if you wish.

img_9359.jpg

The kids absolutely love hot cross buns, so making them myself is really a no brainer, and they freeze exceptionally well and ready with a 15 second zap in the microwave or toasted in the oven or toaster. The kids helped me roll the dough into balls and thought they were pretty clever. They also found the process of adding the cross to be quite entertaining.

img_9360.jpg

img_9362.jpg

img_9363.jpg

If you haven’t tried making hot cross buns before, give them a go for Easter this year. They are a bit time consuming, but pretty easy overall.

img_9369.jpg

Enjoy xx

Ingredients:

  • 1 1/2 cups plain flour
  • 1 1/2 cups bakers flour
  • 1 1/2 cups wholemeal plain flour
  • 2 tsp mixed spice
  • 2 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/4 tsp nutmeg
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 3/4 cup currants
  • 3/4 cup sultanas
  • 30g mixed peel, finely chopped
  • Zest of 1 orange, finely grated
  • 1 tbs dried yeast
  • 1 1/2 cups lukewarm milk
  • 1/4 cup brown sugar
  • 50g butter, melted
  • 1 egg, lightly beaten

Crosses:

  • 1/4 cup plain flour
  • 4 tbs water

Glaze:

  • 1/3 cup castor sugar
  • 1/4 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/3 cup water

Method:

  1. Place lukewarm milk, 1 tbs of the brown sugar and the yeast into a small bowl, stir and set aside for 5 minutes or until it becomes foamy.
  2. Place flour, spices, rind, salt, dried fruit and remaining sugar into the bowl of a stand mixer with a dough hook attached.
  3. Once the yeast mixture is foamy, add to the stand mixer and turn speed to medium to combine. Add butter and lightly beaten egg and mix until dough comes together. You may need to stop the mixer occasionally to press the dried fruit into the dough.
  4. Beat for about 5 minutes, or knead by hand for ~ 8 minutes.
  5. Lightly oil a large bowl and place the dough into the bowl, cover with cling wrap and place into a warm spot for 1.5 – 2 hours a or until the dough doubles in size.
  6. Knock the dough down and knead on a lightly floured surface for 1-2 minutes.
  7. Divide the dough into 32 pieces for small buns or 20-24 pieces for larger buns. Roll each piece into a smooth ball and place onto a baking tray about 1cm apart. Cover and place into warm spot for another 30 minutes.
  8. Preheat the oven to 180°C and prepare the mixture for the crosses by mixing the flour and water together into a smooth paste. Once the 30 minutes have passed, apply the crosses by putting the flour mixture into a zip lock bag. Cut the corner off the bag to make a piping bag. Carefully apply the crosses then place buns into oven and cook for 20-25 minutes or until they sound hollow when tapped on top.
  9. While the hot cross buns are cooking, prepare the glaze by mixing sugar, water and cinnamon together in a small saucepan over low heat until the sugar dissolves.
  10. Once the hot cross buns are cooked, remove from the oven and brush glaze over the buns.
  11. Enjoy straight out of the oven or store in an airtight container or in the freezer.

 

Sweet Potato and Corn Fritters

The inspiration for this meal was literally too many sweet potatoes in the fridge and lots of corn that needed to be eaten, growing in the garden.

IMG_8827

Fritters are such a versatile food. They are quick and easy to make and they make a great breakfast, lunch, snack and even dinner. They are a great way to get in a good dose of vegetables and can be topped with a poached egg or bacon or tuna to add a quality source of protein to make a meal. Consider popping some of these fritters in kids lunch boxes as well, they are still quite delicious when cold.

IMG_8829

I have made these particular fritters twice in the past few weeks and the kids have really enjoyed them, which makes me really happy as fritters have been hit and miss in the past. Today Mark said to me “Mum, I love your fritters so much. I want you to make them for lunch everyday”…high fives for me!

IMG_8832

A lot of people aren’t so keen on sweet potato and would rather stick with pumpkin and potato, however, sweet potato has a lot of health benefits. It is a low GI carbohydrate, meaning it won’t spike blood sugar levels like regular potato will, making them suitable for individuals with Diabetes. Sweet potato is also an excellent source of vitamin A, vitamin C and dietary fibre. So, if you aren’t a fan of sweet potato, I recommend that you try it again, starting with these fritters.

img_8836.jpg

Enjoy xx.

Ingredients:

  • 400g sweet potato, peeled
  • 1 corn cob, kernels removed
  • 1 small zucchini, grated
  • 2 tbs coriander, finely chopped
  • 1/2 red onion, finely diced
  • 3/4 cup SR flour
  • 1/4 cup milk
  • 1 egg
  • Salt and pepper
  • 1/2 cup natural yoghurt
  • 1-2 tsp sweet chilli sauce

Method:

  1. Place the sweet potato into a steamer basket and cook until tender. Mash and set aside to cool.
  2. Place sweet potato, zucchini, corn, onion, coriander, egg, flour and milk into medium sized bowl and mix well to combine. Add salt and pepper to taste, mix well.
  3. Heat a non stick frypan over medium heat. Place heaped spoonfuls of mixture into the frypan and cook for 3-4 minutes on each side. Repeat with remaining mixture.
  4. To make the sauce, mix natural yoghurt and sweet chilli sauce together.
  5. Serve fritters as they are, with salad or poached egg and bacon.

Fritters will keep in an airtight container in the refrigerator for 4-5 days or will freeze well for up to 6 weeks.

IMG_8837

 

 

Choc Orange Bliss Balls

Bliss balls are a great snack, they are super easy and quick to make and freeze well. I made this batch last week to stock up the fridge in preparation for the arrival of our 3rd child. So, I am writing this as I sit here on my ‘holiday’ in hospital while little Elise Ivy sleeps…

img_8520.jpg

Even though all the ingredients in these little balls are healthy and whole foods, they are still calorie dense little morsels, so portion control is essential. If you know you are going to have more than one, then make them smaller, but if you are satisfied with one, then a ping pong sized ball is fine.

img_8521.jpg

IMG_8524

The taste of these are initially a chocolate flavour, but the orange rind and zest gives more of a jaffa or choc orange after taste, which is delightful! I happily give these to the kids, but as with the adults one is enough and I’ll often make some smaller ones for the kids – they love them.

img_8522.jpg

You can use whatever nuts you have for this recipe, but flavour wise, I would recommend almonds, walnuts or hazelnuts, or a combination of the three.

img_8525.jpg

img_8527.jpg

Give them a go!

img_8530.jpg

Enjoy xx

Ingredients:

Makes 15-20 ping pong sized balls

  • 15 medjool dates, pit removed
  • 1 cup of nuts (I used almonds and walnuts)
  • ½ cup shredded coconut, toasted
  • Zest and Juice of 1 orange
  • 2 tbs chia seeds
  • 2 tbs cocoa powder
  • ½ cup rolled oats
  • Dessicated coconut to roll

Method:

  1. Toast the coconut, by heating a small frypan over medium heat and adding the coconut. Stir regularly until golden brown.
  2. Place nuts into food processor and blend on high for ~30 seconds or until nuts are crushed but not so fine that they resemble a powder. Add in the dates and pulse to break down. Add the coconut, oats, chia seeds and cocoa. Blend on high for ~20 seconds to combine ingredients.
  3. Add zest and juice and blend on high until all ingredients come together.
  4. If the mix appears too dry, add some water and if too wet, add some more oats.
  5. Refrigerate for 30 minutes.
  6. Using wet hands, roll mixture into ping pong sized balls then roll in coconut. Repeat with remaining mixture.
  7. Store in the refrigerator.

Homemade Yoghurt

Yoghurt is a staple in our house, and most weeks we will go through 2-3kg between the four of us, which becomes costly, spending at least $15 per week on yoghurt alone. So, late last year, I decided to purchase a yoghurt maker, it was around $50 and to make 1kg costs about $1.50 plus electricity, so it has already paid itself off.

img_8446.jpg

The yoghurt maker I bought was this one from Little Green Workshops, a company based in Queensland. A yoghurt maker is pretty much just a temperature controlled vessel, and is designed to keep the yoghurt at a set temperature for the culture to develop for a period of time. You could do this without a yoghurt maker and use an oven or similar, but a yoghurt maker is much easier.

img_8442.jpg

img_8438.jpg

IMG_8444

The ingredients are simple, milk and starter culture. You can use any type of milk you like, but so far I have only used full cream milk, but from what I have read, coconut milk makes a really good coconut yoghurt if you have issues with dairy or are vegan. You can buy starter culture or you can use a bought yoghurt that contains culture or use some of the previous batch, which is what I do. I have a designated jar that I put ~1/2 a cup of yoghurt into as soon as it is made and store it in the fridge for the next batch. This minimises any contamination from spoons being dipped in and out of the tub.

IMG_8443

Getting a nice thick yoghurt can take a bit of practise. A lot of recipes will say to add in 1/2 cup of milk powder per batch to thicken it up, which works, but I prefer the taste without the milk powder (as do the kids). Another option is to strain the yoghurt through a tea towel or muslin. This allows the whey to strain out, leaving a thicker yoghurt, which is how Greek style yoghurt is made. I usually only strain it for 5-10 minutes, but if you want a really thick yoghurt, strain it for longer. I have used the strained whey in bread and it makes no difference to the loaf, just adds a bit more protein.

img_8449.jpg

img_8451.jpg

img_8452.jpg

Each batch I make is ~2kg. I will divide this into 2 x 1kg tubs, one which is left as natural yoghurt for cooking and for the kids, and then the other tub has some flavour added to it. The flavour can be anything you like, but my go to flavours are raspberry, apple and cinnamon, mixed berry or vanilla bean.

img_8461.jpg

If you have considered purchasing a yoghurt maker, I highly recommend it, you will not only save money, you will also realise how easy it is to make yoghurt just as you like it.

Enjoy xx.

Ingredients:

Makes 2kg

  • 2L full cream milk (or other milk)
  • 1/2 cup bought yoghurt or yoghurt from a previous batch

Apple and Cinnamon Flavour (per kg)

  • 1/2 cup stewed apples
  • 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon

Raspberry/Mixed Berry (per kg)

  • 1/2 cup fresh/frozen berries
  • 2 tsp pure maple syrup

Vanilla Bean (per kg)

  • 1 tsp vanilla bean paste
  • 1 tbs pure maple syrup

Method:

  1. Pour milk into a large saucepan and heat over medium heat. Using a digital thermometer, bring the temperature to 88°C.
  2. Carefully pour the hot milk into a large bowl. Place the bowl into a sink full of cold water to cool the milk down. Using a digital thermometer, reduce the temperature to below 43°C.
  3. Once cooled, pour the milk into the yoghurt maker, along with 1/2 cup starter and stir gently to combine. Place the lids on the yoghurt maker, turn on and leave for 8-12 hours.
  4. Remove from the yoghurt maker and immediately scoop out ~1/2 a cup of yoghurt and place into a sterilised glass jar to use as starter for the following batch. Refrigerate starter and yoghurt.
  5. Once cool, if you would like to increase the consistency of the yoghurt, place a tea towel or muslin cloth over a colander and place the colander in a bowl. Pour the yoghurt into the cloth and allow to strain until desired consistency is reached. Place into tubs, flavour as desired and refrigerate until ready to eat.
  6. Apple and Cinnamon Flavour: Using a stick mixer, blend the stewed apples and cinnamon to a puree. Mix through the yoghurt
  7. Raspberry/Mixed Berry Flavour: Using a stick mixer, blend the berries (if using frozen, allow to defrost) and maple syrup to a coulis and mix through the yoghurt. Add more maple syrup if desired.
  8. Vanilla Bean Flavour: Place the vanilla bean paste and maple syrup into a bowl and mix well to combine, then mix through the yoghurt.

Fruit Mince Pies

img_7732.jpg

With Christmas now only a week away, the festive baking is well and truly under way in my kitchen. Fruit mince pies are a must each and every year, mainly because Aaron is obsessed with anything with dried fruit – mince pies, fruit cake, plum pudding, etc, and I do like a good mince pie myself.

IMG_7735

I believe that the key to a delicious, rich mince pie is to prepare the fruit at least 1 month out and let it marinate and the flavours develop. However, most recipes, will prepare the fruit that day or 24 hours in advance. At this time of year, if you want some of these beauties for Christmas, I suggest preparing the fruit a day or two before and they will be great.

IMG_8001

For the pastry, I use Stephanie Alexanders sweet shortcrust pastry recipe, however, you can always buy shortcrust pastry to make things easier.

IMG_8003

These pies can be served as they are, straight out of the container, but my preferred way is warmed up with a dollop of cream, and if the Pura Brandy Cheer is available, that is my pick. They will last in an airtight container for quite sometime, but the chances are they will be eaten before they go off.

IMG_8004

Once Christmas has passed the remains are perfect with a cuppa or for a sweet treat after dinner.

IMG_8008

Enjoy xx.

Ingredients:

Makes ~24 pies

Fruit Mince:

  • 150g currants
  • 150g raisins, chopped
  • 20g mixed peel, chopped
  • Zest and juice of 1 lemon, finely grated
  • Zest and juice of 1 orange, finely grated
  • 1/2 tsp ground nutmeg
  • 3/4 tsp ground allspice
  • 1 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp ground cloves
  • 100g dried figs, chopped
  • 150g sultanas
  • 75ml brandy
  • 50g glace ginger, chopped
  • 1/2 green apple, grated
  • 150g brown sugar
  • 125g cold butter

Sweet Shortcrust Pastry:

  • 200g plain flour
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 tbs sugar
  • 100g unsalted butter, diced
  • 1 egg
  • 2 tsp water

Method:

  1. To prepare the fruit mince, place dried fruit, zest and spices in a bowl and mix to combine.
  2. Add sugar, juices, brandy and apple and mix well. Grate the butter into the fruit mixture and stir well to evenly distribute the butter.
  3. Place fruit mix into a glass or ceramic airtight jar or container and leave to marinate ideally for at least 4 weeks, stirring weekly.
  4. To make the pastry, place flour, salt, sugar and butter into a food processor and blend until it resembles breadcrumbs.
  5. Lightly beat the egg and water together and with the motor of the food processor running, pour in the egg/water mix until the mixture comes together. Once a ball has formed, remove from the food processor and flatten to a disc shape. Cover with cling wrap and refrigerate for at least one hour.
  6. Preheat the oven to 180°C and prepare mini pie tins. I used ~5cm diameter mini muffin tins.
  7. On a lightly floured surface, roll out the pastry and using a cutter slightly bigger than the tins (1 used a 7cm cutter), cut out 24 circles. Press into the tins. Place enough fruit mince into pastry cases until it is almost at the top. Do not overfill or it will bubble over when cooking.
  8. Using a festive cookie cutter (I like the stars), cut a suitably sized piece of pastry to top the pie – this should be large enough to slightly overhang the bottom pastry case as it does shrink during the cooking process. Press top pastry and bottom pastry together where they touch (ie. points of the stars). Repeat for all pies.
  9. Return to fridge for about 15 minutes, then bake for 15-20 minutes or until the pastry starts to turn golden brown.
  10. Allow to cool slightly in the tin, then remove from tin and dust with icing sugar.
  11. Store in an airtight container at room temperature, or in the fridge for at least 2 weeks.

IMG_8013