(almost) Nut free Muesli Bars

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I guess the reality is that ‘back to school’ baking doesn’t really stop after the first week back. Everyone – kids, husbands, wives, mums and dads, workers everywhere – everyone needs good food week-in-week-out to keep them going. Those who plan and pack lunches week after week seeking to nourish and care for their family (or friends) perform a labour of love. I love the premise of the blog Dinner: a Love Story, but after watching my mum in the kitchen late at night (or early in the morning) for years, I know the same is true of packed lunches. Preparing food thoughtfully is always costly – and always worthwhile. Of course it is important to allow exceptions and to compromise at times of extreme busyness and exhaustion, but the choice to carefully prepare and cook healthy, nourishing food is one worth making as often as possible. So, here we are, back to school, week 2 underway and I’ve tweaked Angela Liddon’s Feel Good Hearty Granola Bars for lunches this week. Working with kids (or feeding them), it is important to try and avoid using nuts in snacks because of food allergies so I’ve tried to base this one mostly on seeds, grains and dried fruit instead. I imagine that they would work with other mixtures of seeds and dried fruit if you wanted to get creative – I probably will in time! If you chose to use gluten free oats then they would also suit Coeliac sufferers and others who need to follow a gluten free diet. They fill a crack, are quite tasty and very healthy – hope you enjoy them too!

Ingredients:
1.5 cups mashed ripe banana (about 3 medium/large bananas)
2 tsp pure vanilla extract
2 cups rolled oats
1/2 cup dates, finely chopped
1/4 cup dried cherries, finely chopped
1 1/4 cups sunflower, pepita and pinenut mix
3/4 cup buckwheat groats
1/4 cup roasted sesame seeds
1 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp salt

Directions:
1. Preheat the oven to 1750oC and line a 24x30cm shallow baking tray with baking paper.
2. Process the oats in a food processor till they become coarse and textured. Mash the banana and vanilla through the rough oat ‘flour’.
3. Chop the dates and cherries and stir these with the rest of the seeds, buckwheat and cinnamon into the banana-oat mixture. Mix till the ingredients are combined and the seeds and fruit are evenly distributed throughout the mixture.
4. Spread the mixture into the baking tray evenly so that it all cooks uniformly.
5. Bake for 23-27 minutes until firm and just golden around the edge. Allow to cool in the tray for a few minutes before transferring to a cooling rack.
6. Once the mixture is cool slice into bars – I got about 21 bars (7 rows by 3 columns).
7. Pack lunch!

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