Brunch Bars – the cereal bars of your dreams

Cereal bars seem to be big news. I don’t buy them (it’s rare to find a nut and dairy-free cereal bar) and don’t often venture down the ‘bar’ aisle of the supermarket. I happened to wander down it the other day and was utterly overwhelmed by the amount and variety of bars on offer. They really must be a ‘thing’ for lots of people.

I certainly get the point – a mid-morning snack with a healthy vibe (whether that is true or not is another matter!) must be a good idea. It stuck me that maybe we needed a friendly cereal bar in our lives, one to act as breakfast on the hoof or as an interesting addition to these daily triple packed lunches I seem to be making.

This recipe took a while to evolve, but the wait was worth it, these bars are seriously good. I’ve been eating them all week, and I’m not a cereal bar eater! They combine granola (homemade in this case) for flavour and texture with rice crispies for crunch. This is enrobed in a delicious mix of sugar, syrup and biscoff spread. Nut or seed butter would work wonderfully and give a ‘nutty’ undertone if you can tolerate it. Don’t worry if you don’t have safe granola just sub for oats (ideally toasted) and a handful of dried/freeze-dried fruit of choice. There must be some shop bought dairy-free and nut-free granola available, but I’ve not come across it. Do let me know of any recommendations.

I definitely recommend the chocolate drizzle – not only does it look nice but it also gives a touch of luxury. Besides, chocolate is always a good addition!

Brunch Cereal Bars

(dairy-free, egg-free, nut-free, sesame-free, can be soya-free, vegetarian and vegan)

makes 6 large bars

100g granola

25g rice krispies

60g caster sugar

90g golden or maple syrup, or use honey

50g Biscoff spread (or nut/seed/wow butter of choice)

20g dark dairy-free chocolate

  1. Melt together the sugar, syrup and biscoff spread until you have a thick smooth mixture
  2. Stir in the granola and rice krispies and stir until everything is coated in the rich caramel sauce
  3. Press into a baking tin lined with parchment. I used a 2lb loaf tin which is perfect for the amount quoted about. If you want to make more, double the quantities and use a standard square baking tin.
  4. Place in the fridge or a cool place to set.
  5. Melt the chocolate and drizzle over, leave to set.
  6. Cut into 6 bars.

Confetti Traybake

Easy, tasty and pretty what more could you want from a cake recipe? I needed to make a quick after-school snack and thought something pretty was what was needed with the May sunshine shining through the windows, and surely no-one can resist a colourful sprinkle strewn traybake when they return home from a long and busy day at school.

I think the combination of vanilla sponge, baked with sprinkles stirred in for a colourful ‘funfetti’ effect, vanilla buttercream and a topping of more sprinkles is as pretty as a picture. The added bonus is that this recipe can be whipped up in about 40 minutes, which includes cooking and cooling time, you can’t get much quicker than that for a wow-worthy cake.

Confetti Traybake

(dairy-free, egg-free, nut-free, soya-free, sesame-free, vegetarian and vegan)

200g self-raising flour

100g caster sugar

pinch of salt

100ml sunflower oil

150ml dairy-free milk

1/2 tsp bicarbonate of soda

1/2 tsp lemon juice

1/2 tsp vanilla

2 tbsp sprinkles

  1. Preheat the oven to 180 degrees Centigrade/Gas mark 5
  2. Line a square baking tray with parchment
  3. Sift the flour, bicarbonate of soda and salt into a bowl. Stir in the sugar.
  4. In a separate bowl, mix together the dairy-free milk, lemon, vanilla and oil.
  5. Pour the wet ingredients into the dry and gently mix, until well combined. Stir through the sprinkles.
  6. Pour the mix into the lined tin, level off and bake for 20-22 minutes, until lightly golden and a knife comes out clean.
  7. Cool on a wire rack.

for the buttercream:

3 tbsp dairy-free margarine
1 tbsp vegetable fat
around 2 cups icing sugar
a splash of dairy-free milk

  1. Whisk together the fats
  2. Whisk in the icing sugar, 1/2 cup at a time, adding a splash of dairy-free milk. You may not need all the sugar, just keep checking the taste and texture
  3. Spread the buttercream over the cooled traybake and scatter liberally with sprinkles

St Clement’s Marmalade (orange and lemon flavour)

Oranges and lemons, Say the bells of St. Clement’s.You owe me five farthings, Say the bells of St. Martin’s. When will you pay me? Say the bells of Old Bailey.When I grow rich, Say the bells of Shoreditch. When will that be? Say the bells of Stepney. I do not know,Says the great bell of Bow. Here comes a candle to light you to bed, And here comes a chopper to chop off your head!

Oranges and lemons have such a fresh, vibrant flavour that they’re prefer for injecting some colourful sunshine into these dark January days.

What’s your opinion on marmalade? It definitely divides people, that is unless you are Paddington and then you think everyone must love it!

I’ve never been a fan, finding it too bitter and grown up, but as it’s January and everyone makes marmalade in January, I thought I’d give it a go. It turns out, that after much taste testing, I do actually quite like it. What’s that theory with children and new tastes? It’s something like 17 tries before a new taste is accepted. Well, maybe my experience with marmalade is this theory in action, or maybe I just make awesome marmalade! 😉

This version used half normal oranges and half lemons (hence the St Clement’s theme and nursery rhyme at the top of the post), so I used jam sugar for added pectin. If you use the more traditional Seville oranges then no pectin is needed.

I loosely based my recipe on Nigel Slater’s one as he strikes me as someone who would be great at preserving and the results are pretty delicious. Go on, give it a try, you might like it too (and it’ll probably come in handy in some recipes coming up soon 🙂 ). It’s also pretty easy to make and if you don’t like it everyone loves a jar of something homemade as a present.

St. Clement’s Marmalade

(dairy-free, egg-free, nut-free, soya-free, sesame-free, gluten-free, vegetarian and vegan)

makes 4 small jars

4 oranges

4 lemons

up to 2 litres water

750g jam sugar

  1. Wash the fruit, then pare off the peel, Trim off any excess white pith and finely chop. This takes a while!
  2. Squeeze the fruit. Pour the juice into a saucepan and top up to make 2 litres of liquid. Add the chopped peel. Wrap the discarded pith and flesh into a muslin (or a clean j-cloth), tie tightly and submerge into the liquid.
  3. Cover and set aside for at least a day in a cool place. I left mine for 2 days.
  4. Bring to a rolling boil and then reduce to a simmer. Cook for 40-60 minutes until the peel is soft and translucent.
  5. Remove the cloth filled with the fruit, add the sugar and once again bring to a boil. Simmer for 40-60 minutes until the marmalade has darkened and thickened. If any scum comes to the top, skim off. It’s useful to keep a sauce in the freezer for the skin test. Drop a dollop of the marmalade onto the cold saucer, if it quickly forms a skin the marmalade is ready.
  6. Pour into sterilised jars and immediately put on the lids.

 

Biscoff Caramel Crispy Bites

Wow, this summer has been such a proper heatwave it’s be a struggle to do much baking. You’ll have noticed a distinct lack of new recipes in recent weeks; somehow even turning the oven on is the last thing I want to do when the temperature is in the 30s. Don’t worry though, there are plenty (and I mean plenty!) of recipes in the pipeline 🙂

As an allergy family always looking for something new and interesting, I still make goodies in a heatwave, preferably without turning the oven on. Step forward the magic no-bake recipe, an absolute winner in a midsummer heatwave, and perfect for getting the children involved.

These Biscoff caramel crispy bites were inspired by a current craze for Lotus Biscoff spread at Little S’s school and a need to avoid chocolate due to the unfortunate habit it has of melting in the heat! Sadly, chocolates and heatwaves just don’t mix.

These mini bites are sweet, crunchy, crispy and terribly moorish. You could make them bigger but they’re seriously sweet treats and so I think small is good. Be prepared to dive in for another though 😉

Not only do they not melt, they travel well making them perfect for picnics and keep for up to a week in the fridge. Pretty ideal if you have a summer holiday jam packed full of activities and not a moment to bake!

 

Biscoff Caramel Crispy Bites

(dairy-free, egg-free, nut-free, vegetarian and vegan)

makes about 30 mini bites

200g golden syrup

100g caster sugar

100g Biscoff spread

2 tsp caramel essence

100g rice Krispies

  1. Line a baking tray with non-stick parchment
  2. In a saucepan, mix together the syrup, sugar, Biscoff and essence. Gently heat until the sugar has dissolved and you have a smooth thick mixture.
  3. Stir in the rice krispies and mix well
  4. Pour into the lined tray and level off. Leave to set in the fridge for at least half an hour.
  5. Cut into cubes

Maple Syrup Flapjacks and the stress of being an ‘allergy family’

Flapjacks must be the ultimate energy giving treat, packed full of oats and sugar and easily transported, they’re definitely the bar to take when snacks will be hard to find, or pure energy is needed due to strenuous activity. I’ve tried many flapjacks recipes and believe me, there are a lot of bad ones out there which resemble sweet sawdust more than an indulgent treat. This recipe on the other hand, is knockout, resulting in such wonderful sweet gooey bars, you’ll definitely be reaching for another one!

If you follow me on FaceBook you may be aware of my recent additional stress from being an ‘allergy mum’. At age 14 we have finally agreed for Big S to go on her first foreign school trip. It has always felt like too much of a responsibility to hand to the staff before, but she’s growing up fast and we had to say yes sometime. Obviously when the trip was first advertised I had a long conversation with the lead teacher about Big S’s requirements. She’s only allergic to milk but they’re going to Northern France where dairy is used in lots of cooking. I was reassured that the hotel had been spoken to, she would safely be catered for, and arrangements could be made for her not to go into an environment where lots of milk could be present in the goats cheese making farm visit. We knew that nonetheless food would still be an challenge, but so far so good.

Then, it all went pear-shaped 😦

Last week we had the presentation about the trip. There was mention that on the final day the children will have to buy their own supper at the shopping centre, or on the ferry on the way home.  I started to feel a bit stressed, her command of French isn’t huge and while we can pack her off with ‘allergy cards’ to show, would she even understand the reply to be confident enough to eat the food? So many worries….

Then it got worse….. I spoke to the lead teacher and she said there was a problem. GULP! The hotel has refused to provide any food at all for Big S. To compensate, the school, has arranged for them to eat supper in a local restaurant which knows of the milk allergy and is happy to cater for her. BUT, she will not be provided with any breakfast or lunch for the entire trip, that’s 4 days! We’ve been given a slight refund and she can take her own snacks, or buy her own food in France. That’s all very well, but how can you take enough food for 4 days? We also know from experience that ready to eat food that is dairy-free is hard to find in France. She’s also a teenager who desperately doesn’t want to stand out as different. So much stress and worry on so many levels! We’re going to have to make plans, research and be extremely organised! I know she will survive (she’ll be very hungry) and still have a wonderful time, but it’s awful to think of sending my daughter to another country with little food provided and little ability to buy much there.

I’ve spoken to many people in the past few days as I’ve been so very stressed and rather tearful about the whole thing, and it’s made me realise that non-allergy families have no idea of the stress we live under all the time. My FaceBook community who ‘get it’ have been extremely supportive, understanding and helpful. Others, who don’t see the issues, much less so. It’s been suggested that i just send her with a few cereal bars and she’ll be fine. Yes, she’ll be fine, but how would they feel about sending their daughter to another country with only a few cereal bars? She can’t go and buy a bar of chocolate to keep herself going. She can’t join her friends in eating a McDonald’s hamburger or buying a crepe in the market when they get hungry. She’ll survive, but a cereal bar doesn’t quite cut it! I guess, as an allergy-mum and in writing this blog, creating safe-recipes etc. I’ve made it my priority to ensure my children are well catered for; it goes against everything I stand for to send her away to such unknown!

Anyway, I will send her with cereal bars (and much much more!), and some of these devilishly good flapjacks. Hopefully she’ll share them with her friends and they’ll provide a good hit of home-made energy and goodness!

Maple Syrup Flapjacks

(dairy-free, egg-free, nut-free, soya-free, sesame-free, can be gluten-free, vegetarian and vegan)

makes about 24

200g dairy free margarine

200g demerara sugar

100g golden syrup

100g maple syrup

400g oats (preferably not giant oats)

1/2 tsp salt (preferably fleur de sel)

  1. Preheat oven to 180 degrees Centigrade. Line a 30×20 cm (approx.) baking tray with foil
  2. Melt together the dairy free margarine, sugar, syrups and salt
  3. When the sugar has dissolved mix into the oats and spread into the lined baking tray
  4. Bake for 15-20 mins until golden
  5. Cool well before cutting into bars/squares. Or freeze whole and cut when defrosted.
  6. Try not to eat too many!!

Mexican Chocolate Earthquake Cookies

I love these cookies – they’re rich, chocolaty, soft and scrumptious! I had a brief time before having children when I wanted to start a cookie business and back then these were some of my absolute favourites.

It does sometimes surprise me which recipes are most popular on my blog. Out of the 500+ recipes, it so often comes back to the same ones again and again. There are many winning recipes that don’t seem to get a second chance, maybe they’re just less known about and therefore less searched for? I first posted this recipe when I initially set up my blog in 2012, and I still absolutely love these cookies. Here I’ve added a variation using aquafaba, so you have a choice of aquafaba or flaxseeds as the binder. Do eat these cookies quickly, they’re best eaten warm for the oven. Or reheat for a couple of minutes before eating to enjoy the crisp exterior and soft cakey centre.

Mexican Chocolate Earthquake Cookies

 (dairy-free, egg-free, nut-free, soya-free, vegetarian, vegan)

makes about 24

3/4 cup granulated sugar

1/3 cup melted dairy-free margarine

2 tbsps golden syrup

1 tsp vanilla extract

use either:

1/3 cup oat milk and 1 tbsp ground flaxseeds

or use; 1/4 cup dairy-free milk and 3tbsp Aquafaba

100g melted dairy-free chocolate

250g plain flour

2 tbsps cocoa powder

3/4 tsp baking powder

large pinch of salt

1 cup of icing sugar to roll dough in

  1. Preheat oven to 180 degrees centigrade. Sift the icing sugar onto a plate and set aside
  2. In a bowl mix the sugar, dairy-free margarine, syrup, vanilla, oat milk, flax seeds (or aquafaba) and melted chocolate
  3. Sift in the flour, cocoa powder, baking powder and salt. It should produce a soft dough
  4. Take tablespoons of mix and roll in the icing sugar. Place on a lined baking sheet and press down slightly
  5. Bake for 12 minutes. Cool for a few minutes on the baking sheet before transferring to a wire rack.
  6. Best eaten straight away, or next day will do (invite people over or send into school/work!)