Thursday, 21 June 2012

:: Muesli Magic ::

Megann’s Healthy Muesli Bars
:: Megann’s Kitchen ::

:: Megann's Healthy Muesli Bars - perfect to make on a rainy day ::

I have fond memories of Uncle Tobies muesli bars in my school lunch box as a child. They were either pierced with delicious dark chocolate chips or topped with dehydrated yoghurt. I distinctly remember eagerly peeling back the paper covered foil wrapper, rummaging through the sticky muesli snack & eating the choc chips/yoghurt top - leaving the bar behind! Oh how times have changed! Now, it is the health benefits of the actual Muesli bar that makes me go weak at the knees, knowing all the goodness that is going into my body.

These bars are a Megann’s Kitchen creation of my favourite things in muesli. This health snack could easily be a breakfast bar for people on the run or an afternoon snack to cure the 3:30pm munchies. I add seeds for extra goodness & energy, which I find delicious. The rice bubbles give a smooth & crunchy texture that just makes this health snack delightful.

binding ingredients
150g good quality butter
50g brown sugar
Tbs golden syrup
2 Tbs honey
1 tsp vanilla bean paste

base dry ingredients
50g desiccated coconut
180g rolled oats
50g rice bubbles
2 Tbs wholemeal self raising flour (optional)
1 tsp cinnamon

flavouring dry ingredients
80g dried apricots, chopped
50g dried pears, chopped
30g dried cranberries (craisins)
30g sultanas
25g pumpkin seeds/pepitas (optional)
25g sunflower seeds (optional)

Preheat oven to 160°C (320°F). Line a lamington tin with parchment paper. Place the binding ingredients - the butter, brown sugar, golden syrup & honey - in a small saucepan & melt whilst stirring until just foaming. Once melted, set aside & assemble the dry ingredients – the desiccated coconut, rolled oats, rice bubbles, dried apricots, dried pears, dried cranberries, pumpkin seeds/pepitas, sunflower seeds, flour & cinnamon - into a large bowl. Add the binding ingredients to the dry ingredients & mix through. Tip into the prepared tin & press with the back of a spoon or spatula. I then use a smooth glass on its side & roll over the top, pressing down firmly & smoothing the mixture. Bake in the oven for 20 minutes. Remove from the oven & smooth over with the glass again. Allow to cool for 30 minutes then cut with a sharp knife into your desired bar sizes. Place into the refrigerator & chill.

:: section your baked muesli into bars, then drizzle with chocolate ::

Kitchen Notes
:: Change it up! You can add any kind of dried fruit, nuts, berries or seeds that you like. Keep the base dry ingredients & swap out the flavourings.
:: Another option, for a muesli bar more like the one from my childhood, is sprinkle some dark chocolate chips on the top of the mixture once you have tipped it into your prepared tin & squished it with a back of the spoon. Continue to roll over the top of the mixture with a smooth glass until firm & continue with the cooking process. Parents be warned – they will be eaten first!
:: If you like a harder, crunchier muesli bar – simply extend the cooking time in the oven for another 5 minutes.
:: I once made these with broken/smashed Arnotts Marie Biscuits (a plain, sweet cookie) in lieu of rice bubbles. I have also added leftover water or ritz/savoy crackers. This added a biscuity crunch & is oh so tasty!
:: For a gluten free option, simply leave out the flour. It acts as an additional binder, however it isn’t essential.
:: In order to stop your muesli bar crumbling all over the floor at the first bite, store it in an air-tight container in the fridge with parchment paper in between each layer. Fresh & tasty! This is a tip from my sister’s web site, We Love Pancakes on Sunday.

:: a great snack with a glass of milk ::

Style & Serve
:: After finding out the fat content & nutritional benefits of white chocolate vs meltable dried yoghurt were not that dissimilar, I have been using white chocolate. I sometimes melt 65g of Nestle White Plaistowe Chocolate or Lindt 70% dark cocoa chocolate over the top. Place the melted chocolate into a zip lock bag, cut a tiny hole off the corner & drizzle over the cut muesli bar in the tin then place it into the fridge to harden. Re-cut through the lines before portioning. This adds a creamy smoothness to the bar. Delicious!

Quick Kitchen
:: Store portions in zip lock bags & freeze for a quick snack or breakfast on the run.

:: biting into the healthy snack - Megann's Muesli Bars ::

Calorie Kitchen
:: Counting Calories? I don’t, but many do. I have the personal view that many foods have health benefits & great nutritional value that go beyond the calorie content – so I put it into perspective. Take the 50g of seeds & 170g of oats in this recipe, together they add up to 924 calories but there is no question that they benefit your body from anti-cancer properties to being a natural anti-inflammatory. Amazing, huh? I love the miraculous health properties of food!
Entire Recipe: approximately 3378 calories without the white chocolate drizzle
approximately 3712 calories with the white chocolate drizzle
Divided into 16 large bars: approximately 211 calories per bar without the white chocolate drizzle
approximately 232 calories per bar with the white chocolate drizzle
If you have a calorie count to make in a particular day, portion the recipe appropriately. You know what they say, everything, even health foods, in moderation.

:: these muesli bars are jam packed full of goodness ::

Health Benefits of Pepitas/Pumpkin Seeds & Sunflower Seeds
:: The health benefits of seeds continue to amaze me! I love the fact that so much is packed into such a tiny portion. Just some of the benefits of pumpkin seeds include: the promotion of good prostate health, anti-inflammatory benefits, the promotion of lowering cholesterol, a good source of protein, high in omega 3, packed in anti-oxidants & also high in iron.
:: Like pumpkin seeds, sunflower seeds are also a powerhouse food. They have many benefits in small amounts & should be added to anything & everything possible! Just some of the benefits include: assists in lowering cholesterol, a good source of protein, high in anti-oxidants, help reduce blood sugar levels by reducing breakdown of glycogen in the liver, high in B vitamins & folic acid (great for fetal development!)… now, how can you afford to not add this to your muesli bar!!!

:: Need a good slice tin? I use Bakers Secret Lamington Pan that is 30cm x 19cm. You can easily source this from your favourite kitchen supply store, supermarket or online at Kitchenware Direct.
:: Pumpkin Seed info came from various web sites, including the Pumpkin Seed site.
:: Sunflower Seed info came from Nutrition & You. 

:: a healthy snack with loads of health benefits ::

These are one of my Megann's Kitchen favourites...


Sunday, 10 June 2012

:: The Biting Crunch ::

Megann’s Oven Baked Crunchy Chips
:: Megann’s Kitchen ::

:: the best ever recipe for my oven baked crunchy chips/fries ::

Studying at Uni, I was a typical poor student surviving on whatever I could afford, which wasn’t much. There was one vegetable that I made sure that I always had in my cupboard for energy, strength & stamina & it was the humble potato. If I couldn’t afford cheese to put on top I had butter, if I was out of butter the potato was a winner just on its own. More recently, potatoes were one of the few things that I could stomach through terrible bouts of morning (all day) sickness. Yes, the mighty potato & I have been through some memorable times together.

I know this is a kitchen basic, but oven baked hand cut chips are one of my all time favourites. I endeavoured for years to find the perfect recipe - experimenting with various flours, high temp, low temp, parboiling, steaming, even polenta for a biting crunch. However, it was when I applied my own principles of making crunchy roast potatoes that I finally had success. It is simple, really! I peel & cut my potatoes into batons & use the leftover pieces to make a mash to coat the chips. Season, drizzle with olive oil, into a very hot oven & that, my friends, is the making of a perfectly healthy home-style chip that the entire family will love.

:: season the potato batons with sea salt & cracked pepper ::

desired quantity of large potatoes
- peeled & cut into chip-like batons (saving the clean off cuts)
sea salt
olive oil

Preheat oven to 220°C (425°F). Line a baking tray with parchment paper. Cut your desired quantity of peeled potatoes into large chip batons, placing into a bowl. Insert the potato off cuts into boiling water for approximately 10 minutes, or until very soft. Drain into a sieve, then pass through that sieve into the bowl of chips with a kitchen spoon or spatula. Season with sea salt & pepper & toss to create a fine, fluffy coating for the potatoes. Once adequately coated, drizzle with olive oil & toss again. Place onto prepared baking tray & bake in the oven for about 40-45 minutes, or until golden, turning once at the 30 minute mark.

:: drain cooked potato using a sieve ::
:: promptly push through the cooked & softened potato with a spatula ::
:: add flavour properties such as chives ::
:: toss to coat the potato batons - then drizzle with olive oil ::
:: place onto a baking tray lined with parchment paper & into a hot oven ::

Kitchen Notes
:: I like to add another flavour dimension with finely chopped chives when coating the chips with the sieved potato.
:: Another great way to flavour your chips & add some extra crunch is when turning them at the 30 minute mark, finely grate some parmesan cheese over the top of them. This makes a crunchy, cheesy, dry coating. Divine!
:: When making a medley of vegetables chips, I use the same method & also coat carrot chips & sweet potato chips with the sieved potato. Just be careful of the different cooking times as carrots sometimes take longer & sweet potatoes are shorter.

:: serve in an individual bowl ::

Quick Kitchen
:: Short of time? I make this recipe as potato bravas by cutting them into cubes, which shortens the cooking time by a third.

:: serve with tomato ketchup & light sour cream - a great combination ::

Style & Serve
:: I love to serve my potato chips in an individual bowl lined with baking paper with tomato ketchup & an old individual favourite, light sour cream.

:: golden brown chips, fresh out of the oven ::

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