Yet again we’ve had an absence of posts. Do you think I simply need to stop apologising? Cease to spout excuses? It appears as though the trend towards scattered, and for that matter scatty in general, posts is going to become the norm. Hmmm. Bu-ut. Yes, there’s always a but, isn’t there? If one had to justify the severe lack of posts over the past two weeks, it could be attributed to college rowing. An experience that slowly takes over your life, like that obsession with finding the perfect chocolate chip cookie recipe, consuming it bit by bit until you’re eventually reminded by others that there is in fact a world outside of your well insulated bubble. Once the regatta (or if we’re still using the chocolate chip analogy, you find the one) concludes you finally emerge from that all-consuming blanket of ‘rowing life’, like a rabbit blinded by headlights on a dark evening. Stunned. Disorientated.
Rowing involved food, plenty of food (carb-loading, anyone?). Why it even involved baking (homemade muesli bars are a must for any sporting event), yet what it didn’t allow for was blogging.
Blogging, believe it or not, involves brain-work. Needless to say one has very little brain-power remaining after arising (or ‘a-rolling’ out of bed) at 4.52am – carefully calculated for maximum sleep and adequate ‘wake-up’ time (i.e. blearily rubbing one’s eyes, trying not to walk into walls and mumbling about the absurdness of it all) prior to biking it through the still sleeping city and down to the river. That’s not to say the early mornings and significant lack of any ability to form a coherent sentence by around 8pm was an unpleasant sacrifice, in fact it was quite the contrary! But back to the more important topic for this evening…muesli bars.
You can train as hard and for long as you like, but if you fail to fuel your body right in the lead up to the ‘big event’, you’re going to struggle. Whilst food obviously isn’t the ‘one and only’ decisive factor in performance success, it sure helps. On those rides back through the city after training, covered in a substantial proportion of the Yarra, contemplating which muesli bar to bake for the upcoming regatta was an effective distraction from the current hunger situation (a side note, breakfast always tastes a bazillion times better after exercise, does it not?) This is the point where I rave about how these Peanut Butter Booster Bars fit the bill, I baked them, we ate them at the regatta, beat everyone by a million miles and all was right in the world. Ahem. Not quite the case. These Action Packed Hiking Bars were our ‘energy’ boost on the day (the decision came down to a matter of the ingredients at hand) alongside numerous bags of lollies and biscuits. That’s another perk of sweating your guts out on the river – the (virtually) guilt free consumption of sweets in the lead up to and after your event.
These Peanut Butter Booster Bars would have worked just as well – packed with nuts and seeds for protein, with dried fruit and honey for that hit of sweetness. Soft and chewy, spiked with citrus and with caramelised brown sugar undertones, these bars are an ideal, relatively healthy (though it’s all relative, isn’t it) snack, whether it be for those Monday mid-morning blues or post-work out munchies. Like most muesli bars, including these Quinoa Oat Bars, it’s wise to leave them to cool completely before setting forth with a sharp knife. Try to cut them too soon and you’ll have muesli ‘bites’ instead. The aroma of the buttery, brown sugar/honey/peanut butter/citrus combo simmering away is heavenly…try to refrain from eating all the mixture before pressing it into the baking pan! Like all challenges (rowing included), the reward from tackling them head on with everything you’ve got – or in the case of the bars, avoiding face planting into the mixture – is always that much sweeter.
Peanut Butter Booster Bars
Makes one 18x28cm ‘slab’.
125g unsalted butter, chopped roughly
150g brown sugar (or light muscovado)
125g no sugar or salt added crunchy peanut butter
75g clear honey, plus 1 tsp extra
1 orange, zest finely grated
1 lemon, zest finely grated
200g porridge (quick not rolled) oats
25g dates, chopped
25g dried pawpaw (dried apricot is a nice substitute)
10g flaxseed (linseed)
30g sesame seeds
20g sunflower seeds
40g pepitas (pumpkin seeds)
50g slivered almonds
Preheat the oven to 160C. Grease an 18x28cm baking pan and line with baking paper.
Place the butter, brown sugar, peanut butter, honey, orange and lemon zest into a small pot. Set over a low flame and leave until melted, stirring every so often, then remove from the heat.
Meanwhile, combine the flaxseeds, sesame seeds, sunflower seeds, pepitas and almonds in a small bowl. In a larger bowl whisk together the porridge oats, sultanas, dates, dried pawpaw and ¾ of the seed mixture. Pour the melted butter mixture over the top of the oaty mixture and stir with a wooden spoon or rubber spatula until well combined and no dry pockets remain.
Scrape the mixture into your prepared baking pan, smoothing the top with a rubber spatula to ensure an even surface. Sprinkle with the remaining seeds/nuts and drizzle with the extra teaspoon of honey.
Bake for 25 minutes or until the centre is golden and the edges are slightly darker.
Set the pan on a wire rack and leave the slice to cool completely. Don’t try to remove from the pan or cut it into to bars before it has cooled – it may fall apart!
Once cool, transfer to a cutting board and use a sharp knife to cut into bars or squares.
Will keep for 5 days if stored in an airtight container in a cool, dry place. Also freezes well.
Source: Barely adapted from River Cottage Every Day.