Trail Mix Picnic Bars (aka Trail Mix Stay at Home Bars)

When I originally created this recipe for trail mix picnic bars it was for those days when you’re getting ready to head outside for a  weekend full of adventures; these days, it’s more a case of trying to make days at home seem fun, interesting and different!

Whatever the scenario, these bars  are always perfect. They’re bursting with all the energy giving goodness (and fun) of trail mix packed into gooey chocolate crispy bars, perfect for sustenance at home or on the go. I’m thinking of serving these after a good hour or so in the garden to make it feel like we’re having an outdoors adventure!

The pretzels add a salty, savoury note to the biscuits and cereal. You could almost say these along with a large drink of water could replace the sugars and salts lost during strenuous exercise (which right now might just be the daily Joe Wicks morning PE class!) – then again you could just say they’re yummy!

The great feature of this recipe is that the bars are fun and exciting, don’t need any flour (as that’s currently like gold dust round here), and the recipe can basically be adapted to use up the contents of those half bags and packs of biscuits, cereal and pretzels that are lying around in the larder! Perfect when you can’t leave the house 🙂

Ideally made the day before, these bars can also be made at the last minute as long as they have some setting time in the fridge or freezer.

Trail Mix Picnic Bars (aka Trail Mix stay at home bars!)

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

makes 16 small but perfectly sized bars

40g salted pretzels, roughly crushed

30g biscuits, roughly crushed (I used Lotus Biscoff)

60g cereal of choice

30g dried fruit of choice (optional)

100g golden syrup

50g Lotus Biscoff spread

25g sugar

85g dairy-free dark chocolate

Handful of sprinkles

  1. Line a 2lb loaf tin
  2. Melt together the syrup, sugar and biscoff spread until it’s a smooth caramel consistency
  3. Mix in the crushed biscuits, 30g of the crushed pretzels, the cereal and any dried fruit
  4. Tip into the lined loaf tin and press down, making the mixture nice and level. Place in the fridge to set.
  5. Melt the chocolate and spread over the set mix. Sprinkle on the extra pretzels and a handful of sprinkles. Return to the fridge. When the chocolate has fully set, cut into 16 even sized bars.

Cucumber and Rice Noodle Salad

I don’t know about you, but when we’re all at home (and obviously thanks to Covid-19 that is ALL the time right now) I struggle with lunch ideas the most. The other meals and snacks I find I can think up ideas, be creative and non-repetitive, but for some reason lunches often stump me. I guess it’s just one meal too many each day.

However, as I now have plenty of time to get creative with the contents of my fridge and pantry I’m trying to have at least part of each lunch as an exciting, fresh, healthy new idea.

This rice noodle salad is loosely inspired by an Ottolenghi dish; it’s fresh, tasty, easy to make with mainly store cupboard ingredients. Perfect for these days when popping to the shops is a dim and distant memory.

Cucumber Rice Noodle Salad

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

serves 2 as a main, 4 as a side

100g rice noodles

1 tbsp olive oil

30ml vinegar

15g caster sugar

1/2 shallot, finely chopped

thumb size piece of ginger, julienned

3 mint leaves, finely shredded

1/4 red chilli, finely chopped

small bunch of coriander, roughly chopped

1 tbsp poppy seeds (optional)

1/4 cucumber, sliced in half, seeds removed and cut into half moons

  1. Place the noodles in a bowl, pour over boiling water and leave to sit for about 15 minutes
  2. In another bowl combine the sugar, vinegar and shallot. Stir to dissolve the sugar.
  3. Add the julienned ginger and finely sliced shallot to the vinegar mix and leave to infuse
  4. Drain the noodles once soft and mix with the olive oil so they don’t clump
  5. Add the chilli, cucumber and noodles to the vinegar mix, stir well and leave for 10 minutes for the flavours to mix
  6. Add the herbs and poppy seeds if using, toss and serve

Mini Double Chocolate Muffins

These are my recreation of those mini muffins people buy in tubs from the supermarket! They’ve always looks so useful and appealing, but are sadly not suitable for us.

Both girls tried to eat school lunches for ages, but we came to realise that whilst the schools really tried, the lack of choice and the fact it often wasn’t to their taste, meant they both hardly ate any lunch. I think the difficulty is that the schools have to cater for everyone and so there ended up being one generic ‘free-from’ meal which hardly compared to the exciting options everyone else was tucking into!

So we have moved to packed lunches which means they both definitely eat something, but it is hard to find interesting, different things to include (especially as they generally like different things!). There’s so few shop bought options, and luckily since I love to bake, I try and make a variety of different tasty sweet treats to add. These muffins totally fit that bill; not only are they lunch box sized, but you can also freeze them and add them frozen to defrost for lunch time – a total godsend on busy work/school days!

Mini Double Chocolate Muffins

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

makes about 36-48 depending on the size of your mini-muffin tin

2 cups plain flour

2/3 rds cup caster sugar

1 tbsps baking powder

1/4 tsp salt

2 tbsps cocoa powder

1/2 cup melted dairy free margarine

2/3 rds cup dairy free milk

1 cup dairy free yogurt

1/3 cup dairy free chocolate chips or chopped chocolate

  1. Preheat the oven to 190 degrees centigrade. Line a mini muffin tin with paper liners.
  2. In a large bowl mix together the flour, sugar, baking powder, cocoa powder and salt. Stir in most of the chopped chocolate/chocolate chips
  3. Combine the wet ingredients; melted margarine, milk and yogurt. Pour the wet into the dry and gently mix until it is just combined with no lumps of raw flour remaining.
  4. 1/2 to 2/3rds fill each muffin case (depending if you want a muffin top or just a domed mini muffin) and then top each with a couple of choc chip/lumps of choc to give an appealing finish
  5. Bake for 12 minutes until they are puffed up and a knife comes out clean.
  6. Remove from the oven and cool on a wire rack. One cool eat, keep in a tin or freeze.

Stollen (egg-free, dairy-free and nut-free)

I have a fondness for Stollen and it’s been on my Christmas recipe to-do list for some years. Somehow it’s always felt a little out of reach to make it friendly enough for the family. Clearly any yeasted dough filled with marzipan doesn’t fit the nut-free criteria! Then I came across this recipe for nut-free marzipan and all the pieces fell into place – friendly Stollen here we come!

Stollen

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

 

makes one Stollen

100g mixture of dried fruit and candied citrus peel

90ml apple juice

1 tbsp fast-action dried yeast

250g flour

50g caster sugar

1/2 tsp cinnamon

1/2 tsp mixed spice

pinch of salt

1 tbsp dairy-free margarine

60ml dairy-free milk

125g marzipan or nut-free marzipan

1 tbsp melted dairy-free margarine

icing sugar to dust

  1. Soak the dried fruit and citrus peel in the apple juice for at least half an hour
  2. Mix together the flour, sugar, yeast, salt and spices. Rub in the dairy-free margarine until the mixture resembles breadcrumbs. Stir in the dairy-free milk and dried fruit and the juice they’re soaked in. Bring to a dough and then knead until smooth.
  3. Cover the bowl and leave double in size which will probably take an hour or two.
  4. Knock back and roll out to a rectangle. Roll the marzipan into a sausage and place in the middle of the rectangle of dough.
  5. Fold it up and then use the side of your hand to make an indentation down the length of the dough. Transfer to a lined baking sheet.
  6. Cover and leave to rise for at least half an hour.
  7. Preheat the oven to 180 degrees Centigrade
  8. Bake for about 40 minutes until risen and golden all over.
  9. Remove from the oven, brush with melted margarine and generously dust with icing sugar

Brandy Snaps

Brandy snaps are an essential part of Christmas – i can’t imagine eating them at any other time of year! They’re also a perfect easy recipe to make in a rush, or with the children to keep them entertained in the days running up to Christmas. We’re going to fill them with dairy-free whipped cream and devour them for a special pudding.

Sweet crunchy exterior filled with soft cream, what could be more indulgent!

 

Brandy Snaps

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

Makes about 16

75g dairy-free margarine

80g light muscovado sugar

70g golden syrup

80g plain flour

1/2 tsp ginger

Zest of 1/2 lemon

1 tbsp brandy

  1. Melt together the margarine, sugar and syrup until the sugar has dissolved.
  2. Place the flour, spice and lemon zest in a mixing bowl. Pour in the meted sugar mix and add the brandy (or use apple juice instead). Stir well to form a very sloppy dough.
  3. Line a baking sheet with non-stick parchment and preheat the oven to 180 degrees centigrade
  4. Place teaspoons of the mix onto the lined sheet, and spread into a thin circle
  5. Bake for 7-8 minutes until turning golden. Cool on the sheet for one minute and then loosely wrap around a wooden spoon handle to form a tube. Leave to cool. Repeat with the rest of the mix.
  6. Serve filled with cream (just before serving) and dusted with icing sugar
  7. These snaps keep well for a few days in an airtight container as long as you only fill them when you’re ready to devour them!

Biscoff Chocolate Truffles

I can’t think of a better time to make homemade chocolates than Christmas. They’re little cosy luxuries that fit perfectly with the festive season; either as an edible gift or simply a after-dinner (or anytime) treat.

You know, I do get my inspiration from funny places! The other week I was going out at lunchtime at work and walked past a doughnut shop. To be honest, they didn’t look too appealing, just over the top super sugary giant confections, but the chocolate and Biscoff variety caught my eye. I know it’s a winning combo and suddenly the idea of Biscoff flavoured chocolate truffles, rolled in Biscoff biscuit crumbs came to mind. I immediately started planning my experiments, working out the exact details of the recipe. I was correct, it’s a fabulous and rather morish combination. The mix of dark chocolate with sweet spicy Biscoff gives a wonderful warm hug of wintery spice in a luxurious chocolate truffle case.

It’s not easy to find nice dairy-free chocolate truffles, so I’m planning on making boxes filled with these, original and lemon truffles as Christmas gifts – i reckon they’ll go down a treat 🙂

Biscoff Chocolate Truffles

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

makes approx. 15 truffles

110g dairy-free dark chocolate

2 tbsps dairy-free cream

1 tbsp golden or maple syrup

1 tbsp Lotus Biscoff spread

6 Lotus Biscoff biscuits, crushed

  1. Melt the chocolate over a bain marie, or in a microwave. Stir until silky and glossy with no lumps.
  2. Stir in the dairy-free cream, syrup and biscoff spread.
  3. Leave in the fridge for at least half an hour to partially set.
  4. Pour the crushed biscuits into a shallow bowl.
  5. Roll into grape sized balls and coat in the biscuit crumbs.
  6. Keep covered at room temperature until ready to eat!