Monday, 10 March 2014

New Beginnings: Healthy banana oat bars

Last week I started back at uni again! After three long years studying undergraduate science, I have now finally made it to the Masters in Nutrition and Dietetics. I have been looking forward to this for so long - the whole of my bachelors degree was geared towards meeting the requirements for this Masters, and during those years, when people found out I was studying to be a dietitian, I would inevitably be asked for some nutrition advice. Unfortunately I didn't have enough nutrition knowledge to say much useful, but hopefully now I will be able to give some better advice!

The first week was certainly busy. It was quite intense with learning new material and with getting used to longer class hours (unlike the relatively more laid-back undergraduate lifestyle!), but it was also very interesting, especially as there is quite a practically-oriented approach to much of the coursework, including learning professional skills such as group education and counselling. We are also very lucky as we are some of the first students to use a newly built building in our university - it was only completed in December last year and it is very modern and comfortable!

Last week also marked the start of Lent, a period of penance and prayer in preparation for Easter. I always think that Lent is a beautiful time of year, as it guides us to reflect on our lives, identify areas for change and growth, and to be thankful for all our blessings. Lent is also a time of fasting or "giving up" certain luxuries. Every year, Mr Duckie and I give up meat and chocolate - Mr Duckie loves meat and I love chocolate, so we give up both in support of each other - so expect to see more vegetarian recipes coming up soon.

These bars are a perfect choice for taking to school (or work, or wherever you need to go) and are a great chocolate alternative when an energy boost is needed. They are very easy, and I dare say fun, to make, and the sweet fragrance of banana that fills the air during baking is sure to lift your mood. Best of all, the ingredients are held together by mashed banana, so there is no need for butter or sugar.

The bars are chewy and naturally sweet from the banana and dried fruits, and the nuts and seeds provide a satisfying warm crunch. This recipe works with whatever nuts, seeds and dried fruits you like - in particular, if you have a nut allergy, feel free to replace these with some more seeds or fruits. These bars can also can be frozen, so you can keep a handy store for any last minute snack emergency (I have also reheated these bars in the microwave and eaten them warm for breakfast)!

I hope that all has been well in your busy lives too and that you all have a great week! I am looking forward to trying out some more vegetarian recipes and hope to post these up soon too!

Healthy banana oat bars

Adapted from recipes from Eat Your Greens and 

1/4 cup finely chopped apricots
1/4 cup dried cranberries
1/2 cup sunflower seeds
1/4 cup chia seeds
1/2 cup nuts, roughly chopped
4 medium bananas, mashed (about 2 cups mashed)
1 cup porridge oats
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp salt

1. Grease and line a 22cm square tin. Preheat oven to 180 degrees.
2. Mix together the dried fruits, seeds, nuts and oats in a bowl. Mix in the mashed banana, cinnamon and salt. Pour into prepared tin and flatten surface with the back of a spoon.
3. Bake for 30 minutes or until top is firm and edges are golden brown. Cool in tin for 5 minutes then turn onto a rack to fully cool. Slice into bars in the size that you prefer (I made 18 smallish bars).

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