Storebought muesli bars aren't as healthy as the homemade variety – Photo courtesy monsterandme.net
Storebought muesli bars aren't as healthy as the homemade variety – Photo courtesy monsterandme.net

Eating healthy isn’t always as simple as, in reality, it should be: especially when it comes to such things like a hasty breakfast — devoured on the run — a midmorning ‘snack’ to maintain energy and concentration levels or that permanent mother’s headache of ‘something nutritionally healthy yet tasty enough to meet the exceedingly difficult palettes of school-going youngsters’.

Enter ‘The Crunch’ — the answer to a mother’s prayer!

It is, depending on budgetary matters, a simple matter to purchase boxes of commercially manufactured muesli bars in various flavours but, aside from not always being quite as healthy — due to the presence of those notorious ‘E numbers’ — as advertised, they can, if more than one person is hooked on them on a daily basis, work out surprisingly expensive.


####Rather than depend on commercially manufactured items what about experimenting with recipes at home

The solution to this, of course, is to conjure up your own: a task which, thankfully, is surprisingly easy, plus, you can vary the ingredients too.

Jam-packed full of essential vitamins, minerals and many other naturally good things in life, homemade muesli bars — carefully wrapped of course — can be a life-saver as they provide a healthy boost, a very rapid yet lasting one, due to the sugars, dried fruit, nuts and seeds they contain.

Recipes are for playing with: something to be fiddled around with until they meet personal — and the all important family — tastes and homemade muesli bars withstand a lot of playing around with.

Basic recipe

1 cup (and please remember that the cup size can vary all depending on the amount of muesli bars you wish to make) of raw oats — not oat meal — such as are used in the making of porridge.

1 cup shredded coconut

1 cup ‘kishmish’ (raisins / sultanas)

1/2 cup wheat germ or bran

1/2 cup sesame seeds (till)

1/2 cup sunflower seed kernels

1/2 cup pumpkin seed kernels

1/2 cup goji berries

This means, in addition to the essential oats, a total of four cups of ‘something’ chopped small and which complement each other. Here in Pakistan we are incredibly lucky to have, at reasonable cost, a wide assortment of dried fruits and nuts, mostly indigenous, to choose from and the following are all ideal for using in muesli bars: dried apricots, figs, dates, plums, almonds, walnuts etc. but do please, if possible, include the sesame seeds, sunflower kernels and kishmish as these are ultra-healthy ingredients.

Dried orange, lemon or grapefruit peel, cut into matchstick sized pieces, can also be used and they add an interesting, Vitamin C packed, tang.

125g of butter (increase this up to 200g if you decide to measure with a mug)

1/2 cup honey

1/3 cup brown sugar — use raw cane sugar, (shukar) if you can as this has not gone through any chemical or bleaching treatment.

Method

Figure out, depending on how much of the muesli bar mixture you are making, a suitable, shallow container of a size to take all of the mixture and which will easily fit into the fridge.

Line the selected container with one of the following: greaseproof / waxed paper, aluminium foil or simply an opened out, spotlessly clean, plastic bag.

Put all of the dry ingredients into a mixing bowl — chopping up anything which needs chopping into smallish pieces and removing any fruit stones in the process.

Place the butter, cut into small pieces so that it melts fast, the honey and brown sugar / shukkar into a thick-bottomed pan and heat it, slowly and stirring all the time with a wooden spoon, until it reaches boiling point.

Turn the heat down very low and — without stirring — simmer the mixture for no more than five minutes at which point, it should, if a tiny drop is submerged in cold water, form a soft ball.

When it reaches this stage, pour it into the mixing bowl containing all the other ingredients and mix thoroughly.

Empty the mixture into the lined container and — using either the back of a wooden spoon or washed hands, press the mixture down as hard and as evenly as you possibly can.

Place in the fridge to chill for a couple of hours or so and then turn out onto a wooden chopping board or other suitable kitchen surface, and cut — this may take quite a bit of effort — into squares or bars and there you have it: The Crunch!

Store, preferably in the fridge, in a sealed container and, unless it is gobbled up rapidly, it will keep for up to two weeks when, no doubt, you will want to magic up some more!

Tip: Using 100 per cent organic ingredients makes them even healthier!

Published in Dawn, Sunday Magazine, December 6th, 2015

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