True to form, I rarely if ever eat breakfast. It’s usually a handful of medication and vitamins, glass of water, lots of coffee. However, while I was off for the holidays, Hubby and I spent almost every day together, and he is one of those people that must eat at appointed times every day. So, over the two weeks, and two snow days, I got used to eating breakfast, lunch and dinner each day. I have ruined my usual routine! But, I did learn to enjoy breakfast, and how it makes the rest of your day better fueled!
In my mad dash out of the house each day, I usually can’t remember to grab anything before I leave (thanks thyroid fog), but I have been trying to make a concerted effort to at least grab something like a Kind™ bar and eat it at my desk. Enter Nigella Lawson and her delicious breakfast bars! I am obsessed with her, have been for many years, but I have never really taken to her breakfast items (with the exception of pancake mix.) When I saw her recipe, it seemed calorie laden to me, but considering she has lost a great deal of weight recently, I thought perhaps this could be tweaked in some way to suit someone that doesn’t want calorie and sugar laden food first thing in the morning!
My version is below, and it’s seriously good. I tested it out on people at work, everyone loved it. Even the Hubby, who generally likes healthy but not sweet food, has been secretly taking them when I am not looking! High praise!
You can feel free to make this with either fat free, skim or regular full fat condensed milk. It truly makes no difference, other than to the calorie count. I did figure out, these pack a punch of 276 calories for full fat sweetened condensed milk, and 190 calories for fat free. That’s not bad either way. Once again, I am offering many alternatives for your tasting pleasure. You don’t have to use sesame seeds, you can freely substitute hemp, flax or indeed any small crunchy seed. You can substitute for the pecans with any nut, as long as it’s not salted, Nigella’s recipe called for peanuts. I am not sure fond of peanuts, so I used pecans. The pepitas can be replaced by sunflower seeds, hazelnuts, etc. Dried cherries? Use raisins, dried cranberries or apricots! It’s seriously open to your own interpretation. The bonus here is also that you can add any flavoring you like, cinnamon, cardamom, perhaps anise? It all sounds good to me, and all the nuts you use are a great source of zinc.
Play around, try new combinations and let me know what you use. I’d love to try your ideas too!
- 2 1/2 cups rolled oats (NOT instant… please!)
- I cup dried cherries
- 1 cup pepitas
- 1 cup sesame seeds
- 1 cup chopped pecans (or walnuts, or any nut)
- 1 cup shredded coconut (if you can get unsweetened organic use it)
- 1 tsp spice of your choice (optional)
- 1 14 oz can sweetened condensed milk
Liberally grease a 9 X 13 baking dish, or use a disposable one. Alternatively you could line the base of your dish with parchment paper, but I don’t recommend foil, the resulting product is a bit sticky and you’ll have to peel foil off it. Preheat your oven to 250° F. In a large bowl, mix all the ingredients with the exception of the condensed milk and the spice. Make sure everything is mixed and dispersed well.
In a small saucepan, heat the condensed milk. It should just be a bit runny, no need for it to be scalding hot, and add the spice if you’re using it. Pour the milk over the oat mixture and combine until everything is completely coated. It will take some serious stirring.
Pour the mixture into the prepared baking dish and gently press it down so that it compacts a bit. Bake for 1 hour. When the hour is over, remove the baking dish and allow it to cool for about 15 minutes. Here is the critical thing, don’t leave it any longer than that, I learned that the first time I made them. If you leave them out too long, they dry out and are virtually impossible to cut.
Cut the whole into quarters, then cut those into quarters, you will end up with 16 nice sized bars out of this. Honestly, the second time I made them, I cut it into quarters, then into fifths. These are rich, and a big chunky bar is a bit much, so smaller isn’t that bad, plus it cuts the calorie count down to 221 for a full fat bar, 153 for a fat free. Not bad!