Lately it seems that dietary guidelines are switching back to advice that our grandparents would recognise: make food with ingredients you understand, and then eat it. And when you’re full, stop eating.
Of course this makes me extremely happy. I’ve lived through enough restrictive dietary trends to know that they don’t make me anything but miserable.
(Full disclosure: I once gave up chocolate for a month to prove that I was not a chocoholic. I’m not sure why I thought that was important, but I did it. And the result was that I gained weight. Hmmm. Let’s think about this: give up chocolate and GAIN WEIGHT. Could it be that I was I trying to satisfy my craving and was overcompensating with other foods? Perhaps. But in that case, why not just have chocolate? Why eliminate one wonderful food only to replace it with inferior things? What is the point of that? But I digress.)
Of course there is still the problem of allergies and intolerances, which are not so easy to dismiss. But now I have recently read this article, which says that contrary to advice given by the US and the UK governments over the past 15 years, peanuts (long the bane of mothers and teachers everywhere) are okay as long as you start children on them at a very young age:
“It is fair to say that in part the rise in peanut allergy can be explained by the fact that we have become peanut-avoidant as far as babies and young children are concerned… .”
Eggs, milk, sesame and fish are also pinpointed as foods that can be introduced early with allergies possibly prevented.
This is big news! Of course, it’s a little late for some people, many of whom it seems are in The Twins’ age group. Since the two of them started at primary school over 5 years ago, letters have regularly been sent home asking that parents refrain from sending children to school with anything containing the things that some kids are very allergic to. The list goes like this:
- sesame seeds
- chick peas
- sesame oil
I have been able to concoct lunches that omit these things. (I’ve been particularly good about the horse hair… ) But this lack of nuts and seeds has been tricky for the Poppet, our chewing-averse child. In the years leading up to primary, it seemed like she subsisted purely on hummus, peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, porridge, and bananas. Now she has to make do with påté. Poor child.
These granola bars are gluten free and vegan, so they satisfy some allergy and dietary requirements. Hopefully, with time, the nuts and sesame will cease to be a problem, and children everywhere can finally have the protein of their choice, both at school and at home.
Fruit and Nut Granola Bars
Adpated from Deb Perelman’s blog, smittenkitchen.com
Makes 16-26 bars, depending on how you cut them! (I like mine quite small, as they are very dense.)
The wonderful thing about this recipe, as Perelman notes, is that it is so adaptable – you can swap nuts and seeds and dried fruit all you like and have a different bar every time. I found a ratio that I think works particularly well, so I stick with that for the most part, but if I’m out of any particular ingredient, I just switch to something else and no one complains!
Another great thing about the recipe is that it is extremely easy to scale up. I made these recently at work, and all I had to do was multiply the recipe to feed 95 people. The hardest part was figuring out which pans to use – but then, that always is.
- 80g (just under 1 cup) oats
- 40g (1/2 cup) oat flour (or oats, processed till finely ground)
- 130g (2/3 cup) brown sugar
- 1/2 tsp salt
- 70g EACH of the following: sesame seeds, sunflower seeds, chopped almonds, chopped cashews, chopped dates, chopped apricots (just under 1 pound total)
- 90ml (1/3 cup) sunflower or rapeseed oil
- 80ml (1/4 cup or 4 TB) golden syrup
- 3TB tahini
It helps to first prepare your pan. Lightly grease an 8×8″ baking sheet and then line with parchment paper. Set aside.
In a large bowl, mix all the dry ingredients together. I often “chop” the fruit in the food processor, so it ends up in big clumps and I have to really work it into the oats and sugar with my fingertips to get it well combined.
Add the oil, golden syrup and tahini and mix in well. The mixture will be quite crumbly, but don’t worry, it will all come together in the oven.
Tip the mix into your prepared pan and press it down very firmly with your hands. Bake for 30 minutes at 170C until it is lightly browned and perhaps even bubbling slightly at the edges. Remove carefully (it is still quite liquid and hot at this stage!) and leave in a cool spot before cutting.
I usually do the cutting in 2 phases: the first phase is about 30 minutes after I remove the bars from the oven. Because the mix is still warm, the bars tend to meld together again, so this ends up being more of a “score” than a cut. It helps the bars to cool more quickly, but you will still have to wait a little bit! Then, when they have cooled completely, I cut through the scores firmly with a sharp knife. This creates a nice clean cut.
It’s worth noting, if you are the impatient type, that if you remove these from the pan before they are cold, they will crumble. (Now how would I know that?) But they are still delicious, and they are perfect over yogurt or ice cream.