Homemade oatmeal and dried fruit bars are perfect for breakfast or as a mid-morning snack when it's just too early for lunch. So much better than the shop bought cereal or granola bars.
“When you wake up in the morning, Pooh,” said Piglet at last, “what’s the first thing you say to yourself?”
“What’s for breakfast?” said Pooh.
A A Milne
So indeed, what's for breakfast?
You can have a scrambled egg. Boring, I know, but it's good for weight watching if you have no bread just egg, the strict way.
You can have cereal out of the packet or, infinitely better, homemade granola.
Or my favourite combo of soft fruit mashed up with a fork and a good dollop of fromage frais or yoghurt and a drizzle of honey.
You can have a hipster smoothie which is free of everything that tastes of something. Or, on the opposite end of the spectrum, a full fry-up which is naughty.
You can also have a breakfast bar, bought from Pret a Manger or the train station on your way to work. It a/ is tasty, b/ makes you feel good about yourself (healthy! cereal! seeds!) and c/ it is the easiest thing to tear open a packet and feel like you're eating a Mars bar in the morning.
But as pretty much everything with minor exceptions (erm... Coca Cola?), homemade stuff trumps shop-bought. And it's stupidly easy to whip up a tray of cereal bars made with oats, nuts, seeds and dried fruit.
These oat bars are delicious little things, so nice that you can’t have just ONE for breakfast. In fact, as I tell myself, one would simply not be enough to keep me going until lunch, so I usually have three.
How to make cereal bars
I've found the recipe in Good Food magazine and tweaked it a little, adding seeds and nuts.
It is not much more complicated to make them than to mix your own muesli bowl. All the dry ingredients go into a large bowl. To that you add all the liquid ones and it's not even necessary to mix them together beforehand. Just stir in one after another, the melted butter, the golden syrup, eggs and orange essence.
Then pack the mix into a tin - I line it with parchment because I'm too lazy to wash it up - and slip into the oven. They are ready when the surface of the mix is set.
Can you make vegan bars?
Of course you can: just replace the butter with either dairy free butter or with coconut oil.
They will be a little more crumbly in that version so you might want to add a teaspoon more flour to the mix.
What fruit and nut mix to use?
The store cupboard is your oyster. You can use only raisins and be boring like that, or clear out said cupboard of whatever nearly empty bags of fruit you want to get rid of.
I sometimes pack them with the dried fruit I like the least because I know the bars will taste divine anyway regardless of the specific contents. They are magic like that.
Likewise with nuts and seeds: use whatever you have, whatever you like or whatever you like not so much. It will work.
More cereal recipes
Homemade granola is the best. This one is crunchy clusters of banana-flavoured oats and nuts, with cinnamon and nutmeg spicing.
When you want it dairy-free, or just because you fancy a change from milk, try coconut porridge made with coconut milk and toasted raw coconut flakes.
Toasted crunchy oats with summer fruit compote, topped with Greek yoghurt, are perfect for breakfast.
More breakfast bar recipes
Flapjacks are the ultimate in breakfast bars, chewy, squidgy and a little crunchy around the edges. Orange and ginger? Or maybe you'd prefer lemon and blueberry?
Here's something a little different: rice flake bars lightly sweetened with maple syrup and a lick of apricot jam.
A riff on St Louis gooey butter cake, traditionally eaten there for breakfast: gooey butter cake bars with raisins and almonds.