Tag Archives: Oats

A snack fit for a hungry hobbit

Happy Waitangi Day for yesterday to any New Zealanders out there – I hope you all enjoyed your day off and had the same beautiful weather as we did!  I was actually in the lab trying to fix up some of the cameras I need for my experiments.  It might not sound like the most thrilling way to spend a public holiday, but at least it didn’t require too much intense thinking and I knew that I’d be going for a lovely long swim once I got back.  Until a tsunami warning was put out after the earthquake in the Solomon Islands.*  Having to stay away from beaches and out of the sea thwarted my plans for a swim somewhat.  So instead,  I made a slight dent in the backlog of blog posts from the safety of our hilltop house.  Because blogging and exercise are totally interchangeable, right?

This post has nothing to do with tsunamis by the way.

Today’s recipe dates back from Kat was visiting over New Year’s.  (What blogging backlog?)  I’ve previously mentioned that we went on a little trip to Hobbiton whilst she was here.  Neither of us survive day trips without some sort of snack to keep us going – much like any self-respecting hobbit, actually – so we decided to make some homemade granola bars to take along with us.  I have a jar of raisins permanently soaking in rum, so we decided to dig into that and throw some into the granola bars.  Because why wouldn’t you?  Adding rum to granola bars obviously means that we’re winning at life.

Why would you use normal raisins when you can use rum-raisins?

Oats, nuts and (rum-soaked) dried fruit all contribute to a good snack that keeps you going, and we added some dark chocolate chips just because.  We threw in some macadamia nut butter that I had loitering in my cupboard, which turned out to be a rather excellent idea.  If you don’t happen to come across some on offer at a farmers’ market, I’d suggest almond butter or even peanut butter (although peanut butter would have a much stronger flavour).  These granola bars are pretty soft so they may crumble a little with transport, but if you wrap them up well in baking paper, it won’t be a problem.

We had planned on taking photos of the granola bars in Hobbiton…  But we got a little distracted and forgot.  Woops.

Almond, ginger & rum-raisin granola bars

Makes 12 bars
Adapted from BBC Good Food

The great thing about these bars is that all the ingredients are easily changed – substitute different nuts, different dried fruit, more (or fewer) chocolate chips or crystallised ginger, etc.  If you don’t have macadamia nut butter (I only have some because I came across some at a farmers’ market), almond butter would work well, as would peanut butter (though peanut butter will have a stronger flavour).  I used manuka honey for the flavour, but use whatever you’ve got available (or a mixture).  Soaking the raisins in rum is obviously optional, but highly recommended (unless you’re making these for kids, obviously…).  The bars are best wrapped in baking paper to transport them (they won’t stick to the baking paper), and will keep well for a few days in an airtight container (they’ll probably last longer actually, but we ate them all…).

Ingredients

100g raisins
Spiced rum
200g oats
100g slivered or flaked almonds
50g butter
50g light brown sugar
50g macadamia nut butter
3 tbsp honey
1 tsp ground cinnamon
¼ tsp ground cloves
¼ tsp ground nutmeg
50g crystallised ginger
50g dark chocolate chips (at least 70%)

Directions

1.  Add the raisins to a bowl or jar and cover with spiced rum.  Soak for at least 1h, but the longer the better (top tip: I always keep a jar of raisins soaking in rum.  You know, for emergencies…).

2.  Line a 25 x 19 cm baking tin with baking paper (otherwise you won’t be able to get the granola bars out afterwards).  Pre-heat the oven to 160°C/fan oven 140°C.

3.  Add the oats and almonds to a roasting tin or lipped baking tray, stir and toast for 5-10 mins in the oven, until fragrant.  Leave the oven on.

4.  Meanwhile, add the butter, macadamia nut butter, brown sugar and honey to a large saucepan and melt together.  Once smooth, stir in the spices, then add the toasted oats, chocolate chips, chopped crystallised ginger and raisins.  Stir together until well coated, transfer to the prepared tin, press down evenly and bake for 30 mins.  Allow to cool fully in the tin before cutting into bars or squares.  Wrap in baking paper to transport.

Enjoy!

Granola bars with rum.  Winning at life.

*The warning was eventually cancelled and no tsunami turned up, so nobody panic.

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Breakfast Club #18: Banana & hazelnut porridge

It seems that the only recipes getting posted this month are those that I’m submitting to blog challenges, and this one is no different.  But I have the excuse that I’m relocating to the other side of the world (in precisely two weeks today!!) so I’m a little bit busy with other things at the moment.  Today’s blog post is no different – it’s my entry to this month’s Breakfast Club, being hosted by Aimée at Food, Je t’Aimée, who has chosen the theme of “January detox” to compensate for all the Christmas over-indulgence.  Now, the thing I associate most with detox is a smoothie.  Probably because it’s usually packed full of fruit and super healthy.  But all the berries that I would normally look for in a smoothie are completely out of season and I really don’t like smoothies for breakfast anyway, mostly because I get hungry about an hour later.  So, I decided to go for something vaguely healthy but filling, which is always good, because it means you don’t snack before lunch.  And what could be more filling and wintery than porridge?

Using skimmed milk makes this porridge a little healthier, and the banana is a portion of fruit, which is always good.  The hazelnuts add a lovely little crunch, plus nuts are healthy (can you tell that being healthy isn’t my strong point?  Ya, nuts are healthy, there’s fruit, use skimmed milk: totally counts as a detox!).  If I’d been really organised, I could have tried this out for breakfast yesterday and posted it for Burns Night, since porridge is vaguely Scottish and all (as are bananas, ahem.  In some alternate universe…).  It would have been slightly less of a tenuous link than my honey, lemon and chocolate muffins for Chinese New Year.  But I wasn’t organised, and plus I’m not really a fan of Burns Night.  Well, that’s not really true, it’s an excellent excuse for a dinner party, but other than that, I’m not really going to go out of my way to celebrate it.  Anyway, I digress.  This made a rather delicious breakfast – porridge might not be your first choice for a detox, but at least you won’t be snacking before lunch, and it’s not a fatty or super-sugary breakfast either.  And it’s important to have a proper breakfast to start off the day anyway!

Banana & hazelnut porridge

Serves 1
Adapted from BBC Good Food

I used whole milk, but skimmed or semi-skimmed milk would work fine as well if you want to make the porridge slightly healthier.  Adding raisins or seasonal fruits at the end would work well, too, and up the fruit content.  Everybody likes their porridge to be a different level of sweetness, so the honey will be very much to your taste.

Ingredients

35g porridge oats
200ml milk
1 banana
1-2 tbsp chopped hazelnuts
Clear honey, to taste
Cinnamon, to taste

Directions

1.  Thinly slice the banana.

2.  Add the oats and milk to a small saucepan, along with half the sliced banana and simmer over a gentle heat, stirring occasionally (apparently stirring anti-clockwise brings bad luck – I haven’t tested the theory, but you’ve been warned, duhn duhn duhn…) until thickened to your liking.

3.  Remove from the heat, pour into a bowl, top with the remaining banana slices, a drizzle of honey, the chopped hazelnuts and a light dusting of cinnamon.

Enjoy!

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Of penguins and porridge

I have serious issues with the Scottish weather.  This isn’t a new development, far from it, but I was particularly reminded of this over the weekend.  At the beginning of March, we had beautiful weather (and in fact at the end of February too, since I managed to end up with a sunburnt nose whilst fieldworking) – granted it wasn’t 25°C let’s-hit-the-beach-in-our-bikinis weather, but it was still warm enough during the day to swap my boots for ballet flats.  This is a major thing for me, because I get cold really easily.  The weather last week was a bit iffy – mostly sunny during the day, with a few unexpected rain showers in the evenings, but the main issue was the cold wind (and associated occasional horizontal rain).  St Andrews is coastal, so it tends to be quite windy anyway, but there were several days where walking down the street felt like you were participating in some sort of wind tunnel experiment.  Consequently, not only did I have to switch back to boots, but I spent most of last week sporting what can only be described as a bit of a macaroni penguin (Eudyptes chrysolophus) hairstyle.  In case you don’t know, this is what a macaroni penguin looks like (from National Geographic Stock):

I know, I know, it’s a HOT look.  Though I didn’t have the yellow-and-black thing going on (how impressive would it be if the wind could do that?!), just the crazy side tufts.  And this is coming from somebody whose hair is usually always at least a little bit messy, and accepts it as such.  So anyway, despite the macaroni penguin hair, at least it was still mostly sunny.  Now I know it can’t be sunny forever, but it’s very nearly officially Spring, and I was quite a fan of this whole it’s-getting-warmer-let’s-pretend-it’s-nearly summer thing.  However, the weather clearly had other plans, because the temperatures dropped and it rained the entire weekend.  In true Scottish style, we were treated to every possible kind of rain – fat rain, misty drizzly rain, sideways rain, etc.  I even got caught in some upwards rain at one point (apparently Scottish weather hasn’t got the hang of gravity yet).  Oh and it briefly hailed, too.

This return to wet, wintry weather resulted in a sudden craving to have porridge for breakfast.  This happens to tie in rather well with this month’s Breakfast Club, hosted by Taste Space, who has chosen the theme “Whole grains.”  I hadn’t really decided what I wanted to do for the challenge yet, but porridge fits the bill perfectly, because guess what?  Porridge oats are whole grains, hurrah!  I get the impression that “Whole grains” were chosen because they are healthy, and we were probably supposed to come up with a healthy breakfast, which this might have been, if I hadn’t been slightly over-enthusiastic with the quantities of honey and whisky that I added the first time I made this (resulting in a great start to the day!).  Oh well.  It’s still whole grain-based.  And whisky is made from barley, and that’s a whole grain, too…  So ya, heather honey and whisky porridge – whole grains all round!  Oh and it’s yummy, too – it’s still raining (torrential at the moment) so I made it again for breakfast today (with slightly more sensible quantities of everything, as in the recipe below).

Heather honey & whisky porridge

Serves 1
Adapted from BBC Food

You could use clear honey and spiced rum instead of the heather honey and whisky.  Or any other combination of flavours.  I suppose the whisky (or rum) is optional, but why wouldn’t you want to add it?  I used Glenfarclas 10 year, because I think it tastes a bit like fruitcake, and I decided that was appropriate for breakfast.

Ingredients

40g porridge oats
2 tbsp double cream, plus extra to serve
200ml whole milk
1 tbsp soft brown sugar
1 tbsp whisky
1 tbsp Scottish heather honey

Directions

1.  Add the oats, cream, milk, sugar and whisky to a small saucepan and simmer over a gentle heat, stirring occasionally (always clockwise if you’re a purist.  Before you ask, I have no idea why.) until thickened to your liking.

2.  Remove from the heat, pour into a bowl, stir in the honey and drizzle a little bit of extra double cream over the top.  If you like your porridge really sweet, sprinkle a pinch of brown sugar over the top.

Enjoy!

PS – Dear Scottish weather, could you please stop raining now?  Thanks ever so much.  Yours, etc., M.

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Too exhausted to write up lecture notes? Make muffins!

On Monday, I spent most of my day fieldworking for my Marine Acoustics module, which involved going out on the boat for a few hours to take recordings being transmitted from a loudspeaker broadcasting from the base of the pier as well as doing an echosound transect and then chilling out monitoring the loudspeaker equipment on the pier whilst the other group went out on the boat.  We were incredibly lucky with the weather – it wasn’t too cold, there was fantastic sunshine, hardly any wind (very unusual for St Andrews) and the swell was pretty minimal.  I even managed to acquire a sunburnt nose.  In Scotland.  In February.  Ya, I know, who would have thought?!  Just in case you don’t believe me, here’s proof of the sunshine:

This was followed up by a joint event between the university’s French Department and the French Society, which involved Jean-Yves Laurichesse, a French professor and novelist, reading from two of his novels followed by a Q&A session afterwards.  As President of French Soc (not nearly as impressive as it sounds), I was asked to chair the discussion, and for some obscure reason, I agreed.  I’m dreadful at (and slightly terrified of) public speaking, and I’ve never chaired a discussion before.  As a Zoology student, I’m not particularly used to literary discussions (probably my only exposure to them is the Edinburgh Book Festival – ya, I’m THAT cool).  Needless to say, I was pretty panicky about the event beforehand.  Oh, and the whole event was to be conducted entirely in French (I realise I’m fluent, but the prospect stressed me out further).  Thankfully Professor Laurichesse was very friendly, everybody was keen to ask questions and the whole event went smoothly (the wine provided by French Soc may have helped…).

I realise that our fieldwork sounds like it was a bit of a doss, but I’d forgotten quite how exhausting it is to spend long periods of time outside, particularly on the boat.  This combined with my serious stressing over the whole discussion-chairing thing, meant that by the time I’d had dinner, I was utterly drained.  I was supposed to be writing up lecture notes about thrilling things like krill, but I just couldn’t concentrate, and decided to be realistic: clearly I was getting nowhere with the krill, but it was still a little too early to go to bed.  Since the recipe seemed straightforward enough to follow in my pathetically knackered state and I happened to have all the ingredients, I decided to try out these muffins.  A brilliant decision, because they turned out rather tasty and wonderfully moist.

Apple & raisin buttermilk muffins

Makes 16 muffins
Adapted from Jane’s Sweets & Baking Journal

If you don’t have any buttermilk, just use 225ml of normal milk and add 1 tbsp lemon juice, mix and allow to stand for a few minutes.  Then just add it as instructed (though sieve it first in case any lemon pips snuck in).  I have a permanent stock of raisins soaking in rum, so I decided to use them and they added a subtle taste of rum, but normal raisins would work just as well.

Ingredients

100g porridge oats
225ml buttermilk
90g all-purpose flour
½ tsp baking powder
¾ tsp bicarbonate of soda
Pinch of salt
1 tsp ground cinnamon
2 eggs, lightly beaten
115g granulated sugar
85g unsalted butter
1 small apple
50g raisins
Cinnamon sugar for sprinkling (optional)

Directions

1.  Mix the buttermilk and oats together in a large bowl.  Leave to stand for 20 mins.

2.  Meanwhile, prepare the rest of the ingredients.  In a medium bowl, stir together the flour, baking powder, bicarbonate of soda, salt and cinnamon.  Melt the butter in a small saucepan.  Peel and dice the apple (dice it quite finely, but not too much – you still want chunks in the muffins).

3.  Pre-heat the oven to 200°C.  Line a muffin tin or set out 16 silicone muffin cups.

4.  Once the oats and buttermilk mixture has stood for 20 mins, add the lightly beaten eggs, sugar and melted butter and mix well.

5.  Add the flour mixture and stir until just combined.  Add the apples and raisins and incorporate until just evenly distributed.  Don’t over-mix.

6.  Spoon the batter evenly into the prepared muffin cups/liners, making sure not to fill them more than ⅔.  Bake for 14 mins.

7.  Allow the muffins to cool in the tin or cups for a few minutes before moving them to a wire rack.  Sprinkle the tops with a little cinnamon sugar for decoration.

Enjoy!

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