Tuesday 9 February 2010

Fruit and nut bars - take 1!

I really like to think that I do my best to feed my family good healthy real food. Breakfast for my Joe and my son is either muesli or fruit & fibre, and I even bake the bread that goes into their sandwiches for lunch which I always manage to pack loads of salad into, and we all eat the same thing for dinner which is invariably cooked from scratch by either myself or Joe (mostly me though, I *love* cooking, it's really therapeutic).

However, as my meals tend to be small and frequent and I am mother to a teenage son who is growing at a ridiculous rate and have a boyfriend who is training for a particularly arduous mountain-based cycle race in France - we need fuel to keep us going in between these meals!

We don't have crisps, chocolates, sweets, biscuits, cakes etc in the house. I just refuse to buy them and therefore they're not expected to be there so that's cool and not an issue.

However, in addition to the yoghurts and fruit in our fridge I do buy fruit and nut cereal bars. My son's current faves are Kellog's Nutri-Grain Elevenses in Raisin.

"Great" I thought, full of fruit, no chocolate etc etc...

But I recently looked at the ingredients list and this is what I found:


Cereals (36%) (Wheat Flour, Rolled Oats), Invert Sugar Syrup, Raisins (10%), Glucose Syrup, Apple, Sugar, Vegetable Oil, Skimmed Milk Powder, Emulsifiers (E475, E472e, Soy Lecithin), Raising Agent (E500), Flavouring, Modified Starch, Salt, Cinnamon, Molasses, Stabiliser (Guar Gum), Barley Malt Extract, Antioxidant (Ascorbic Acid), Niacin, Iron, Vitamin B6, Riboflavin (B2), Thiamin (B1), Folic Acid, Vitamin B12.

Three E Numbers! And does it really need all the rest that's in it? Okay so sugar isn't the *highest* ingredient but it's damn near close in 2nd place! Oh, and look what comes 4th - Glucose Syrup!!

If that wasn't enough, they've thrown in a little bog standard 'Sugar' later on... just for luck I assume, it obviously wasn't sweet enough already ;-)

Oh, and what *exactly* is 'Flavouring'? Which flavouring? Is that not the most ambiguous ingredient going - it could be treacle or turd for all we know!! (I'm assuming it's not the latter else they wouldn't sell many bars but still... case in point!)

Hmm, this ostensibly innocuous healthy bar may not be all that it seems.

Of course, you can get bars that have very few ingredients which are all 'natural', but these tend to be items like flapjacks - (fat)butter, sugar (white), oats, more fat (oil), tonnes more sugar (syrup) etc etc... heh, tasty, but probably not something you want to eat every day!!

So, inspired by my recent foray into the world of wonderful cold-pressed only-natural-ingredients yummy bar goodness courtesy of such companies as Wholebake and Natural Balance Foods, I thought I'd give it a bash at making my own, at least then I know EXACTLY what has gone into them and therefore what I'll be putting into myself and family - sweet!

So I did a load of research of cereal/granola/fruit/nut bars on the internet but couldn't seem to agree on one particular recipe so what I did was took a little bit of everything I found that sounded nice and then guesstimated the amounts and threw it all into the melting pot to see what would happen...

And, without wishing to blow my own trumpet I think I did rather well considering it's the first time I've ever made anything like this ... but then I have two biased fellas living with me, and me - well I'll eat just about anything!

(I'll definitely tweak the recipe next time by quite a bit - i.e. adding more peanut butter, less nuts, more fruit, less honey, more sugar, less heat, more cooking time etc etc... not worked it out yet but I'm pretty happy with my first attempt.)

And here, for your reading pleasure, it is:

First thing first, here's what I elected to put into my Fruit and Nut bars

* 50g Rolled/Quick oats
* 75g Puffed Rice (I used Organic Puffed Wholegrain Rice from a fab organic foods company called Rude Health)
* 50g Quinoa
* 50g Dried chopped Dates
* 50g Dried soft Apricots
* 50g Demerara Sugar
* 150g Clear Honey (acacia is best if you only want a subtle flavour)
* 50g Whole Almonds
* 50g Plain Cashew Nuts
* 50g Whole Hazelnuts
* 50g Walnuts Halves
* 25g Sunflower Seeds
* 25g Pumpkin Seeds
* 150g Crunchy Peanut Butter

Here's the method, it really couldn't be easier!

(apologies for not photographing everything but I was getting carried away by the fact that I hadn't immediately failed on my first attempt!!)

1) Pre-heat the oven to about 140 degrees Celsius (Gas Mark 1/ 275 Degrees Fahrenheit)

2) line a baking tin (I think the one I used was 20x30cm) with non-stick greaseproof paper (then no need for extra fat to prevent sticking).

3) Weigh out the puffed wholegrain rice, quinoa and oats into one bowl, your mixed nuts into another and then chop up your dried fruit into bitesize pieces.

4) Chuck it all in a bowl together with the seeds - ahh isn't that perty :-)

(of course 3 and 4 could be done in one step but that would reduce the pretty pictures)

5) (I don't have pics of this unfortunately) mix the honey, peanut butter and sugar into a bowl and stick in the microwave for about a minute (can't remember exact time) until the peanut butter and honey have mixed into one lovely gooey runny mess (if you don't have a microwave you could heat it all in a pan on the stove for a bit until it all runs together).

6) (the fun part) mix the *whole* lot together in a big bowl, vigorously, and then (before you get tempted to take out a spoon and start eating) tip the mixture into the lined pan and press down really really firmly with the back of a spoon until it's all evenly distributed and nicely compacted.

7) bake in the oven for about 30 mins or until it's gone nicely dark golden on the top (I left mine in a little too long and frazzled the edges!)

8) Take out the oven and leave in the tin to cool *completely* (for as long as possible, you want it to be rock hard before you cut into it - I left ours out in the garden as it's so flippin cold in London at the mo!!)

9) When complete cooled, lift out onto a large chopping board and cut into rectangles (cut mine into 1/2's then 1/4's then 1/16ths)

10) Serve! Or do what I did and wrap them into individual portions and then hide them round the house so my son has one-a-day to take with him (he'd seriously scoff the lot if I left them out in his sight!!)

So there you go!

As I said I'd like to tweak the recipe and I have already bought some blueberries and strawberries for the weekend so get ready for round 2! I'm very pleased with them though, particularly because they didn't fall apart and taste pretty decent!

You can get 16 generous servings out of the recipe and each bar weighs approx 50g - just like shop bought - perfect :-)

And finally, here is the nutritional data per bar:

Calories (kcal) 247.6
Carbohydrate (g) 24.2
Protein (g) 6.5
Fat (g) 14.1
Fibre (g) 2.7
Alcohol (g) 0.0
Fruit & Veg 0.1

If you do end up making these, or something similar, please do drop me a line, and let me know what you thought/how they turned out :-)

Happy baking!



  1. I'm going to make these this afternoon, I'll let you know how they turn out :)

  2. These look so good! I gotta try them too. I have a bag of almonds about to go rancid so this is perfect! Thanks!

  3. its a bummer when you think they are healthy, I buy the littlun organix cereal bars, packs of 6 and a few different flavours no E's at all. http://www.organix.com/node/2818 they are handy as a workout snack too.

  4. Super, JAG! I hope they were nice :-)

    Annie... hmm rancid almond bars, nice?! ;-) haha seriously though I hope you found a good use for your almonds, they're such lovely nuts (ooer!), I have to hide them in my place or my son scoffs the lot!

    FtoL - those bars sound fab, I really like how they've listed the ingredients as a percentage of the whole - will have to look out for them, thanks for that! x

  5. As a doctor, I am impressed with your stance on nutrition and the way you take charge of breakfast. I really wish more people followed this type of strict regimen for their daily health. Please stop by my health blog sometime. The web address is http://healthy-nutrition-facts.blogspot.com/.

  6. How good do they look. I'm rubbish at cooking but i'm on my way to the kitchen right now mmm
    Thanks Tara

  7. Those bars look delish x x

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  9. i tried to re-creat a nakd bar.(berry)

    because it has only 4 ingredients and no nasties.
    the packet has percentages on so i mixed the ingredients as grams.
    49g dates
    31g cashew nuts
    17g raisens (i used apricots)
    3g raspberries ( i used strawberries)
    Blitz all but raspberries in processor for about 10 mins
    as soon as you add berries it becomes sticky and binds together.
    Line small tub(about 3in by 2in was right for the quanties i used) with cling film. fill and cover the film over.
    Put another container same size inside like stacking and gently press. or with spoon.
    lift out of tube and gently unwrap and turn out onto grease paper on a baking tray.
    i wasnt sure what to do about nakd bars being cold pressed so i decided to put them in a warm oven to dry out a little.(about 15 mins, didnt want to burn them)
    Take out and devide into 3 bars. my weigh about the same as the nakd bars and very pleasantly suprised how they turned out. moist and chewy like the real thing :-)) going to try choc/orange.