Friday, May 6, 2011

Melt and Mix Energy Bars...

Here's a new recipe I've just invented for gluten free energy bars.

My 11 year old daughter is a busy dancer and athlete, and now that gluten products are out of the picture, I've had real difficulty finding energy packed goodies to keep her going.

She's great with inventive lunch box treats like beetroot, pineapple rings, carrot sticks, coconut macaroons, and GF pasta. But she's so active, that she doesn't always have time to eat everything we've packed.

I really wanted something, that was reasonably healthy, tasted like a treat, but was packed with energy laden ingredients so that she could just grab and run.

This is a great versatile recipe that allows you to vary the ingredients according to what you prefer or what you have on hand, so don't be frightened to make substitutions and be inventive.

So here it is...we love them...hope you do too.


Food Processor
Large baking tray...a Swiss Roll tin or Lamington tin is perfect
Large mixing bowl
Small saucepan
Measuring cups
Large knife. Serrated edged is best
Foil for wrapping and container for storing


1 1/2 cups dates (or any dried fruit or combination of dried fruit)
1/4 cup almonds (I used flaked almonds as that's what I had...but they'll go in the food processor so whole is fine too)
3 dessertspoons sesame seeds
3 dessertspoons shredded or dessicated coconut
2 dessertspoons cocoa
1/2 cup sunflower seeds
1/2 cup chocolate chips (optional)
1/4 cup white chocolate buttons or melts (optional)
3/4 cup peanut butter or any other nut butter or tahini
3/4 cup honey. You can also use rice malt syrup, golden syrup, or even molasses if you like the flavour
4 cups gluten free breakfast cereal. We use Waffle Bitz manufactured by Back to Nature. But GF rice bubbles, muesli or oats are fine too.

Line a large baking tray with baking paper. You won't be baking these, but it will prevent them sticking in the pan. Use enough baking paper to leave a bit of overhang, so you can lift the slice out easily for cutting up later.

Have a second sheet of baking paper ready to top the mixture for compressing in the pan.

Chop the dates roughly with a sharp knife first, so your food processor doesn't go into overdrive chopping them, then add the dates or other dried fruit, almonds, sesame seeds, coconut, cocoa, sunflower seeds, choc chips and choc melts (if you're using them) to the bowl of the food processor.

Pulse the processor several times to get the larger pieces chopped roughly, then put the processor on maximum speed for a minute or so. Check at 20 second intervals. You're looking for a medium fine texture with some chunks of dates and chocolate still apparent. So don't go overboard and make it too 'sandy' looking.

Tip this mixture into the large bowl, and add the breakfast cereal.

Put the nut butter and honey into the small saucepan, and heat over a medium hotplate, stirring until combined and melted.

Once melted, pour this over the mixture in the bowl and combine well. You need everything well coated in the nut butter and honey.

Once well combined, tip this into the lined tray. Using clean, wet hands, compress the mixture into the pan, spreading into the corners and making it as even as possible.

Place the other sheet of baking paper over the top of the mixture, and use a rolling pin to flatten and compress to a nice flat surface.

Chill for two hours.

Once chilled, lift the slice out and place it on the bench.

Using the knife, cut the slice into bars, sticks, or squares depending upon how you like it. We cut ours into sticks about 12mm x 120mm, and we get 32 bars this way. These are a good size as they are easy to handle and can be consumed quickly between netball matches or dance classes. But that's just our preference. I have also cut them even smaller into little cubes to just pop in the mouth, which then means they don't need wrapping and can go into individual containers ready for lunchboxes.

Now I wrap them in alfoil, twisting the ends like a lolly wrapper. You don't have to do this, but I've found it's the easiest way to store them and have them on hand for lunches and snacks. You could also store them in a container with sheets of baking paper between layers to stop them sticking.

They're best kept in the fridge, but at this cooler time of year, in the pantry is fine too.

If anyone remembers enjoying Jupiter Bars as a child, you're gonna love these!


Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Motherly Advice...Bake your own cafe' treats...Coconut Macaroons....

I recently admired some Coconut Macaroons (different to Macarons, which are the little French meringues sandwiched with flavoured creme) in a trendy cafe`.

They were $5 each. I nearly fainted. Because these have to be one of the easiest things ever, to make at home. NO flour is required, so they're gluten free, and they are so delicious, that once tried, you'll be hooked.

Don't be afraid to add other ingredients to your macaroons too. Things like chocolate chips and mini M&M's are usually a big hit.

They're also super pretty tinted with food colouring and packaged in cellophane bags for Easter.

Moist and yummy coconut macaroons
Makes about 36

2 eggs
½ cup caster sugar
½  cup icing (confectioners) sugar
1/8 teaspoon salt
3 cups shredded or dessicated coconut

Preheat the oven to 180C.

Line two baking trays with baking (parchment) paper.

Beat the eggs in a medium bowl.

Add the two types of sugar, and the salt, and mix well.

Add the coconut and stir, ensuring all the coconut is well coated.

Spoon small teaspoonfuls onto the baking trays. These do not spread, so you don’t need to leave much room between them. Mound them up so they look like little mountains.

Bake for 15-20 minutes until golden and firm.

Store in an airtight container.

Will last up to 7 days in the refrigerator (well, not around here they don't, but you know...we live in hope), and will become more moist and chewy with storage.

You'll love 'em!


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The Charm of Home

Tranquil Tuesday...Time in the kitchen...

On my Tray of Bliss today is some 'me time' in the kitchen.

Cooking is indeed one of my great life passions and a day in the kitchen without interruption is a true indulgence.

I've been growing finger eggplants (aubergines) and I'm eating them for breakfast, lunch and dinner at the moment as there's so many of them and no-one else eats them...well not as a vege anyway.

So I'm on a quest to find ways to make them more attractive to the non-believers in the family!

Here's my Eggplant (Aubergine) Relish that I made yesterday... smells and tastes so earthy and 'home made-ish' that it's hard not to eat it straight from the jar.

I served it last night with our melt-in-the-mouth Corned Beef, some steamed baby potatoes and a rainbow salad, and the sighs and mmm-mmm's were enough to tell me I'd struck a winner!

Here's the recipe. This makes just one jar, unlike many relish recipes that make enough for 10. Feel free to multiply it to increase the yield. It will respond well.

Eggplant (Aubergine) Relish

3 finger eggplants or 1 large, chopped roughly
½ red capsicum (pepper), diced
2 small tomatoes, diced
1 small onion, diced
2 tablespoons olive oil
½ teaspoon each garlic (one clove), powdered ginger, allspice, paprika and salt
¾ cup sugar
1 ¼ cups vinegar – Apple Cider vinegar gives a good result but it really doesn’t matter too much
1 dessertspoon cornflour
2 tablespoons water
1 recycled sterilised jar with lid, about 400mls capacity (around 1 1/3 cup). You need the kind that has a little pop-up button in the middle.

Sterilise your jar by scrubbing it well with hot soapy water, rinsing in hot water, then drying in a low oven. Do not use a dishtowel or teatowel to dry the inside or you will reintroduce bacteria into your jar and it will not be sterilised.

In a non-stick pan, heat the olive oil over a medium high heat.

Add the diced onion to and stir fry until translucent but not brown.

Add the eggplant, capsicum and tomatoes, and continue to stir fry until softened, about 3 minutes.

Add the spices and stir well.

Add the sugar and stir.

Add the vinegar and bring to the boil, stirring well.

Reduce the heat to low, and simmer until the liquid is reduced by about half and the mixture looks thicker. This takes around 20-30 minutes. Give it a stir occasionally to stop it sticking to the bottom of the pan.

Remove your dry jar from the oven, using oven mitts as the jar will be quite hot.

Mix the cornflour and water to a smooth paste in a small cup and add to the mixture in the pan, stirring constantly until it thickens…about 20 seconds.

Spoon the relish carefully into the jar, and seal firmly.

Turn the jar upside down for 2 minutes to activate the airtight seal, then right way up. The little button should invert automatically or within a minute or so, giving you a vacuum seal.

Lasts up to three months in a cool pantry or up to six months in the refrigerator. Once opened, use within a month.

Absolutely delicious with cold cuts, roasts, as an antipasto accompaniment, with cheese and crackers or mixed with natural yoghurt, cream or cream cheese as a dip.

What's on your Tray of Bliss today?