A Sweet Idea and a Bird Seed Slice

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Although we are now plunged into the deep, dark depths of winter (probably being  a bit over dramatic here but you get my drift) there is still some new, fresh green growth going on in my garden. I have various little pots of cuttings and seeds that I just managed to germinate before the Cold Snap that had us all reaching for the thermals, but the ones I’m most excited about are the Sweet Peas. I’m growing the solstice variety at the moment because these guys are tough. They are the SAS of the Flower World. They laugh in the face of short, dark days and they not only accept the challenge to Flower In Winter, they relish it! Yes! A sweet pea in winter! This is the first time that I’ve tried this variety so I’ll report back. But whether Solstice variety or Spencer variety all sweet peas need good support. Over the years I have always suffered from saggy nets (eek!) dragged down by the tenacious, snaking stems of my sweet peas. This year it’s going to be very different because I had a Lightbulb Moment. Now, these don’t come around very often so I just had to share it. I was toying with the idea of using wire to thread along the top of the netting but I didn’t have any. Rats! As I started mumbling at the dog I noticed a pile of bamboo canes that we harvest frequently because the bamboo is a complete delinquent and threatens to take over not just our garden but the whole world. They looked very light but also very solid and long. Long enough to thread through the netting and balance on top of the posts!

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And lo! The first Bamboo Curtain Support for Sweet Peas was created (as far as I know anyway!!) All looking very neat and tidy and Well Supported!

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It’s just a case of threading the cane through the squares…..

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Mr Fig banged in a couple of nails to stop the bamboo from sliding off the posts and making me really cross. He’s thoughtful like that 🙂

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We also constructed a support outside in the vege garden for more sweet peas and planted spinach, silver beet and beetroot in front.

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From the greenhouse to the kitchen….. Not sure if anyone else is doing Junk Free June but I’ve been quite keen to Have A Go. I always feel really guilty buying up processed snacks for the Figlets. I always seem to succumb to the pressure though. I’m always really shocked at the cost of them too (especially as they’re gone in a flash as soon as the Figlets find them). I do quite a bit of baking anyway so I’ve decided to up the baking and try a few new snack ideas to keep the wolves from the door and the Figlets from lynching me 🙂 Now, I’m interpreting Junk Free as not buying processed foods so the baking ideas I’ll be using do contain sugar (we’re not saints you know). First up is this gorgeous recipe from a fabulous cookery book called Ripe named after the author’s Auckland cafe. Their philosophy is… “simple, fresh, quality, seasonal, healthy food that’s good value for money.” Couldn’t have said it better myself and here’s one of my favourite recipes.

Bird Seed Slice

150g raisins
120g unsalted butter
1/2 cup golden syrup
1/2 cup brown sugar
90g smooth peanut butter
150g rolled oats
150g pumpkin seeds
150g sunflower seeds
150g sesame seeds

Preheat oven to 170c. Grease and line a 20 x 30cm tin. In a small bowl cover the raisins with water and leave for 20 minutes to soak and plump up. This helps prevent them from burning.

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Place a small saucepan over a medium heat. Melt together the butter, golden syrup, brown sugar and peanut butter stirring constantly until thick. Remove from the heat. Drain the raisins.

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In a large bowl combine the raisins with the oats and seeds.

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Pour the melted butter mixture over and stir to combine.

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Press the mixture into the tin and cover with baking parchment or foil. Bake for 15 minutes. Remove the paper or foil and bake for another 15 minutes or until golden. Cut while still warm and in the tin. Place in fridge and allow to set.

Other snack substitutes that I’m hoping will become the norm include:

Toast with honey
Yoghurts and Suckies
Home made hummus with veg sticks
Sunflower seed pate
Four Seed Crackers
Pizza Crackers
Pistachios, cashews, macadamia, brazil nut mix
Freshly popped popcorn
Fruit

Some of these we have as snacks anyway but I’m looking forward to trying the sunflower seed pate, the crackers and making my own hummus again. Always good to have a challenge. If you have any healthy snack ideas to share please do! I’ll post up the new snack recipes when I’ve tried them out. Happy gardening and baking!

 

The Muesli Bar Challenge #3

I happened upon this little muesli bar recipe in a library book. I’ve only just started getting cookery books out from the library but it’s such a great thing to do. This book was called The Homemade Pantry : 101 foods you can stop Buying and start Making by Alana Chernila. She lists three muesli bars (although she calls them Car Snacks) and this one is my favourite. Don’t be put off by the Rice syrup or Millet; it’ll be in your local health food store if it’s not in the supermarket.

Ingredients

Ingredients

1/4 cup canola oil
1/2 cup brown rice syrup
1/4 cup packed light brown sugar
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
1 1/2 cups rolled oats
1 1/2 cups puffed millet (or rice bubbles/rice krispies)
1 1/2 cups loosely packed dried fruit
1 1/2 cups toasted, slivered almonds
1 tablespoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup choc chips
(I sometimes reduce the almonds by 1/2 a cup and add 1/2 a cup of sunflower seeds)

Melt together the oil, rice syrup, brown sugar and vanilla essence. When it starts to bubble boil the mixture for one minute.

Saucepan

Measure out the dry ingredients in a bowl.

Dry ingredients

Add the syrup mixture to the dry ingredients and mix really well until everything is coated.

Add wet to dry fter Stirring

Press firmly into a 23 x 23cm tin or thereabouts and chill in the fridge for an hour.

In cake tin

Cut into squares and enjoy! I lay the squares on a tray and freeze them individually. Once frozen I store them in a tupperware box in the freezer and pop them into my children’s lunchboxes in the morning; by Morning Tea they’ve completely defrosted and they have a lovely healthy energy snack to keep them going.

Finished Bar Close up

Taste – Lots of flavours going on in each bite
Sweetness – the cinnamon makes it quite sweet but not overly
Crunch Factor – is more toothsome than crunchy and addictively chewy
Crumble Factor – holds together so well with the odd crumb escaping here and there
Verdict from the Little People – always disappears from their lunchboxes
Overall Rating – Probably the closest you’ll get to a shop bought muesli bar but heaps tastier (and better for you) 9.5 / 10!

The Muesli Bar Challenge #2

Oaty Ginger 5

This next recipe isn’t strictly a muesli bar; it looks like a muesli bar but is, in fact, a slice. A slice is a very Kiwi Thing. In the UK we talk of fairy cakes, flap jacks, sponges but The Slice is the bake of choice in New Zealand. I’m a bit of a convert and rush to make the following slice at any opportunity. My Creative Baker Friend from Auckland gave me this recipe as her “go to” recipe for lunchbox treats. It’s supposed to have a ginger icing topping but I’ve never added it. I opted out because icing can be very messy in a lunchbox and once I’d eaten a bite unadorned with icing I really didn’t think it required anything else; it was perfect as it was.

Oaty Ginger 1

Preheat oven to 170c and grease and line your square tin. Then simply melt the butter with the sugar and golden syrup. I accidentally photographed my Self Raising Flour (oops lucky I realised in time) but just use plain flour.

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Weigh out the dry ingredients and combine. Spoon the gloriously gingery scented mix into the tin and bake for 25 minutes.

Oaty Ginger 3

If you’re going to make the icing leave to cool completely.

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Taste – sweet, gingery and more-ish
Sweetness – it is sweet but the ginger tones it down
Crunch factor – Crunchy round the edges but more toothsome than crunchy
Crumble factor – this is a crumble-free slice. Perfect for lunchboxes or snacking on the run
Verdict from the Little People – “Yay Ginger Slice!” scoff scoff, gulp, munch
Overall Rating – You’ll make this time and time again and love it more and more 9/10

Thank you New Zealand for The Slice!

The Muesli Bar Challenge #1

Tea and museli bar

I love to bake; especially for my family and friends. I bake for many reasons but one of the most pertinent ones is I like to think my baking creates memories for my children; coming home from school to the delicious smell of Mum’s Apple cake was always a delight for me as a child. My Teacher Friend summed it up recently. She said how she remembers fondly the baking her Mum used to create and how she too wanted to do the same for her children. As S. J Watson said in the brilliant novel “Before I go to Sleep”, “What are we if not an accumulation of our memories?” (page 164) so, lets start creating memories!

I’m starting with the humble muesli bar. I decided to set myself the challenge of finding the best Muesli bar recipe ever. Most muesli bar recipes call for a similar roll call of ingredients including rolled oats, dried fruit, coconut but the difference lies in the wet ingredients. The wet ingredients can make or break a muesli bar; some make for a crumbly affair and others have you ringing up your dentist for an appointment they’re so hard. I’m going to try and find the perfect one and will start with the Kiwi Classic Cook Book the Edmonds Cookery Book.

Edmonds Cookery Book

The recipe calls for ingredients that I have in my cupboard today – hurray!

Recipe

First melt the butter, apricot jam and golden syrup over a low heat.

First shot

In a large bowl measure the remaining ingredients. I used cranberries instead of raisins for a change.

Dry ingredients

Simply combine the melted wet ingredients with the dry ingredients and press into a square tin.

Mixture ready to mix

After 25-30 mins in the oven at 180c you should have something like this…..

Cooked Museli Bar

So my criteria for testing (should try and be professional about this!) are as follows:

Taste – Love the toasted nuttiness of the seseme seeds
Sweetness – perfect; not too sweet at all
Crunch factor – A bit of crunch and nice and chewy
Crumble factor – My piece crumbled (but I had just taken it out of the oven!) but once cooled they hold together well
Verdict from the Little People – scoffed half the tin so I’m taking that as a good sign
Overall Rating – I think this is a very deserving little muesli bar 8/10.

Well Done Edmonds!