Fruit and nut flapjacks (granola bars)

Would you like a granola bar with that flapjack?

I love granola bars. I ate a bucket load when I first moved to London because Starbucks has awesome granola bars and free wifi. Handy for the hungry, unemployed traveller.

Then, once I was employed I went to a local café and asked for a granola bar and was looked at like I had two heads. Turns out that there is a lot of international debacle about what is a flapjack and what is a granola bar.


Call them what you like, they’re awesome oaty-fruity-nutty goodness. I’ve eaten a lot, but I like Starbucks ones the best. I tried to recreate them – there is a Starbucks recipe on line, don’t be fooled, it’s NOTHING like the in-store version – and after three tries I’ve come up with this recipe.

Ingredients
70 grams butter
2 teaspoons of vanilla essence
300 grams honey/golden syrup or 150 grams of each. You can add more for extra moistness
1/2 cup oat bran (not the cereal, this is found with the oats in the supermarket)
2 cups of oats
50 grams sunflower seeds (1/4 cup)
50 grams pumpkin seeds (1/4 cup)
90 grams almonds (about 1 cup, or mix it up with half-half hazelnuts and almonds)
200 grams dried fruit (I used glazed apricots, coconut, dates, sultanas)
Dash of cinnamon and ginger
2 spoonful of peanut butter

Method

  1. Preheat oven to 180 C and grease a 18cm square tin.
  2. Melt butter, vanilla essence and honey/syrup in a small saucepan, bring to a simmer over a low heat.
  3. Mix everything else together in a large bowl.
  4. Pour hot butter mix into bowl, stir well.
  5. Spoon into prepared tin and bake for around 20 minutes, until golden on top.
  6. Once pulled out of the over, flatten mix with rolling pin to pack the mixture tightly, if not packed well enough it won’t stick together. Leave to cool for 10 minutes, then cut up while still warm.

The flattening of the mix with the rolling pin/tin/bottle (I found a cider bottle worked well) is key here. There are two ways to make flapjacks, I’ve tried both and find the below method (which doesn’t get baked) produces a slightly chewer, firmer bar. But the above is more like Starbucks and my preference. Take your pick and let me know.

A handy rolling pin, and a reward for baking done!

Alternate method
Same recipe. Preheat oven to 180. Mix together oats, oat bran, seeds and nuts. Mix ingredients thoroughly and place on a tray lined with baking paper. Toast this mixture in the oven for approximately 8 minutes tossing the mixture every 2 minutes so it doesn’t burn.

Meanwhile melt butter, vanilla essence and honey/syrup in a saucepan, simmer on low heat. When the oat mixture is done toasting, place in bowl and add hot butter mixture. Mix and transfer to a baking tray. Then, place wax paper or baking paper over the mixture and press down to pack the mixture down tightly. If not pressed down tightly enough it won’t stick together. Allow to cool for 10 minutes, then cut up. Leave in pan to cool completely.

Healthy? Cut into about 20 or 24 squares you’re looking at about 180 calories a square. But it’s dependent on what fruit and nut you use.

Gluten free? Yep. Just use the GF oats. If you can’t find GF oatbran, substituting normal oats, or quick oats will work fine.

Storage: In an airtight container. No eggs means it’ll last for ages.

Don’t: Just add more fruit and nut because it’s yummy. Been there, done that, had it all fall apart on me.

Carrot cake muffins with cream cheese icing

As with a heap of the recipes on here, this is a more-is-more kind of recipe. I just couldn’t find a recipe with enough stuff in it, and for me, a carrot cake should have pineapple, sultanas, nuts and some great spices, minimum. This recipe is loosely based on a breakfast muffin (hence the oats), which also keeps it good and moist.

Ingredients

For the muffin
1 1/2 cups flour
1/2 cup oats (not instant of quick cooking)
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
Pinch of salt
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ginger
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
1/2 cup firmly packed brown sugar
1 egg, beaten
1/4 cup olive oil (you can swap this out for plain natural yogurt, works well)
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 cup low fat milk
1 x 225 gram can crushed pineapple (if you can’t get that – as I’m finding in the UK –  just get normal pineapple in a can and resign yourself to cutting it up best you can)
1 1/2 cups grated carrot (about 2 medium carrots)
1/2 cup sultanas
1/4 cup walnuts, chopped (optional)

For the icing
½ cup light cream cheese
½ teaspoon vanilla essence
Pinch of salt
1 ½ cups icing sugar (approx.)
Orange or lemon rind (optional)

Method for muffin
Preheat oven to 180 C. Grease a 12 cup muffin tin or line with patty cases and spray with cooking oil.

Whisk flour, oats, baking powder, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, ginger and nutmeg in a large bowl.

In a medium bowl stir brown sugar, egg, oil, vanilla essence and milk until well combined. Stir in pineapple, carrots and raisins.

Add wet ingredients to dry and mix until moist.

Spoon into the prepared muffin tin and bake for 20-25 minutes or until a skewer comes out clean and muffins are golden and spring back when pressed. Makes 12

Cool on wire rack. Once completely cooled, spread on icing.

Method for icing
Mix cream cheese, salt and vanilla essence with a fork, then keep adding icing sugar until it’s thick enough to hold its own shape. You’ll end up adding over a cup and a half of icing sugar. A small amount of orange or lemon rind makes the icing extra special.

Healthy? You’ve got a couple of options, without the walnuts and icing, they come in at 190 (and 155 if you swap oil for natural yogurt). Otherwise they’re about 290 as written above, with a good generous serve of the icing, which is how I usually make them. They’re super filling!

Gluten free? I’ve made these with GF flour and GF oats and you never would have known the difference. They adapt really well.

Storage: They freeze well, icing and all. Otherwise keep in airtight container and are best eaten in two days.

Do: Eat the leftover icing and feel sick for doing it. It’s still worth it. Or, the icing freezes well if you make too much – as I often do. Then you have some stored for next time.

Chickpea and vegetable salad – with chicken

This recipe is so much more than chickpeas and vegies. If it would fit, I’d like to call it ‘chicken, chickpea, roast vegetable, fresh peas, avocado with yoghurt salad dressing which is super healthy’ just so people would really get how great this is. I often make this without the chicken, and it’s still very tasty. Perfect to take to the park in summer with a bottle of sem sauv. Which is what I’m about to do as soon as I’ve this quick pic.

Preparation time: 45 minutes
Serves: 4 hungry people

Ingredients
300 grams chicken
1 medium sized aubergine
1 courgette
20 closed cup mushrooms
2 tins chickpeas
Good handful or peas, shelled
1 carrot, peeled into slices (or grated)
4 good handfuls of baby spinach
Small punnet of cherry tomatoes, quartered
½ avocado, peeled and diced
Tablespoon of chopped coriander (optional)

Dressing
1 ½ cups fat free natural yoghurt
2 tablespoons light mayonnaise
1/4 smoked paprika
1 tablespoon lemon juice
2 teaspoon honey
Salt and pepper

Method
Cut the aubergine and courgette in roughly 2cm cubes, quarter the mushrooms. Place baking paper on two baking trays and place the cut vegetables on them. Spray with olive oil, sprinkle with salt and bake for 15 minutes, take the mushrooms out. Bake for another 5 minutes, remove aubergine and courgette; allow all vegetables to cool slightly.

Place chickpeas, peas, carrot, baby spinach, cherry tomatoes and avocado in a large bowl. These vegetables can easily be swapped with things in your fridge, or whatever is in season. Add cooled aubergine, courgette and mushrooms to bowl.

Dice chicken, fry in a little olive oil and cracked pepper. Remove from heat and add a dash of lemon juice. Add to your bowl of vegetables and mix together. In a separate container, mix together all the ingredients for the dressing.

Place salad in serving bowls and add a good dollop of the dressing to each. Top with chopped coriander.

Healthy? About 480 calories a serve.

Gluten free? Check your mayonnaise, but otherwise fine.

Storage: Does not freeze, best eaten within 24 hours.

The best chocolate chip cookies. Ever

Best chocolate chip cookies

I love making these as a gift for people. In lieu of the traditional bottle of wine or box of chocolates, filling up a tin with these is lovely. This weekend just gone I made them to thank some friends for having us in Gloucester. BUT, then they made flapjacks and had homemade marmalade for us to take home! The English countryside sure does food well.

But I digress, these cookies are great, here’s the recipe…

Ingredients
125 grams butter
1 cup soft brown sugar
1 teaspoon of vanilla essence
1 egg, lightly beaten
1 tablespoon milk
1 3/4 cups plain flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
250 grams (1 1/2 cups) dark chocolate chips

Method

  1. Preheat your oven to 180C, line a couple of baking trays with baking paper.
  2. Cream the butter and sugar with electric beaters in a large bowl. I’ve done it by hand with a whisk if you don’t have beaters.
  3. Mix in the vanilla essence and gradually add the egg, beating well. Stir in the milk.
  4. Add the flour and baking powder and fold in to the batter.
  5. Stir in the dark chocolate chips. You’re not really in danger of over mixing them, so make sure you get all those flour pockets out.
  6. Roll into balls, or drop level tablespoons of the cookie mixture onto the baking tray, leaving about 4cm between each cookie. Then lightly press each one with a floured fork. Makes ’em look all professional like.
  7. Bake for 10-15 minutes, turning the tray around half way through. They’re done when the bottom of them is just turning brown. They’re nice soft, so don’t overcook.
  8. Cool on a wire rack. Makes 30.

Best chocolate chip cookies

Healthy? I often switch out the butter for olive oil margarine for those watching cholesterol. About 100 calories per cookie if you make 30.

Gluten free? No, they’ll crumble if you try and adapt them. There will be GF cookies to come though.

Storage: In an airtight container. I doubt they’ll last longer than they keep.

Raspberry and white chocolate muffins

This is a classic and an easy crowd pleaser. You really can’t go wrong…

Raspberry and white chocolate muffins

Ingredients
2 cups plain flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 cup caster sugar
1 egg
1 cup milk
50 grams butter, melted (or half-half butter and natural yoghurt for a slightly healthier version)
1 cup frozen raspberries
1 cup (180 grams) white chocolate chips

Method

  1. Preheat the oven to 190 C. Grease a muffin tin or line with patty cases and spray with cooking oil.
  2. In a large bowl mix flour, baking powder and sugar.
  3. In a small bowl whisk together egg, milk and butter.
  4. Add wet ingredients to dry ingredients along with the raspberries and chocolate.
  5. Using a large wooden spoon mix until just combined.
  6. Spoon into the muffin tin and bake for 20-25 minutes or until a skewer comes out clean and muffins are golden.

Healthy? 240 calories a muffin (with all butter)

Gluten free? I’ve used gluten free flour in this recipe and it worked white well. Keep the full amount of butter though, to keep it moist.

Storage: They freeze well, otherwise best eaten within a couple of days.