Date and pecan muesli… are you cereal?

Making your own home-made muesli is ridiculously easy and what’s great about it is you can customise it to include all your favourite fruit and nuts, lots of healthy stuff and leave out all of the bits you don’t like.

There are a few basic types of muesli – toasted, untoasted and bircher and I am a firm fan of the toasted variety. I know people look at it in terms of calories in the added sweeteners and oil but when you make it yourself you can control all of that and it’s still better for you than pre-packaged sugary cereals. Plus, rolled oats are really, really economical. For about $1.50 you can get 750 gm of oats – that’s a lot of muesli!

I was making this muesli as part of a birthday present so, rather than adding lots of healthy seeds like I normally would I decided to keep it sweet and decadent as a bit of a treat. I originally wanted to make maple-pecan muesli but my local supermarket didn’t have maple syrup! Still, this honey version is delicious.

Ingredients

7 cups of rolled oats

3/4 cup honey

4 tbsp sunflower (or other vegetable) oil

2 cups of whole pecans

2 cups whole dates

1 1/2 cup shredded coconut

1/2 cup dried currants

Method

Pre-heat oven to 160ºC

On a large tray lined with baking paper, toast the pecans for 5 minutes but don’t let them brown

While the nuts are toasting, put the oats in a large bowl and set aside. Measure the honey and oil into a microwave safe glass jug and heat for 30 seconds until the honey is runny. (or in a saucepan on the stove). Whisk lightly and pour over oats and stir until the oats are evenly coated

Take the pecans off the tray and set aside to cool. Spread the oats on the tray as evenly as possible and put in the oven for 15-20 minutes or until they are golden and the edges of the tray are starting to brown. Stir the oats every 5 minutes during the cooking time. Once done, leave to cool

While the oats are cooking chop the pecans (roughly in quarters is a good size). Do the same with the dates. Your cooled oats may be stuck together so use a spoon or your hands to break them up. Put them back in a large bowl and add the pecans, dates, currants and coconut and mix well.

And that’s it – it’s so super easy to have delicious muesli every day for a lot less than some of the fancy-schmancy muesli on offer at the supermarket or food halls of department stores and it makes a great gift that you can personalise to the taste of the lucky recipient.

You could try lots of different combinations like dried apple & cinnamon, macadamia & cranberry, apricot & almond, tropical fruit & coconut and walnut & raisin – yummo!

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I’m a lumberjack and I’m a cake

That’s how the Monty Python song was meant to go!

It’s still only Autumn in these parts but the chill has already set in. Rhubarb is everywhere and for me, it’s always one of the more enjoyable signs that the cold winter months are upon us.

Winter is the time for hearty meals of stews and roasts and good old-fashioned desserts. On Sunday we had family over for dinner and I made lemon and dill seafood pies (of which we ate before I remembered to take a photo so they will not be featured in this blog!) and an apple and rhubarb lumberjack cake. Lumberjack cake is traditionally made with apples and dates and is delicious just like that but there isn’t much that can’t be improved by the tangy sweetness of rhubarb.

This recipe was adapted from an article in The Age newspaper and has the tick of approval from my Quality Assurance Team (aka the people in my office).

I doubled this recipe (but still only used 2 apples) and got one 18cm round cake, 6 muffin-tin sized cakes and 12 cupcake sized cakes, although I wouldn’t recommend this cake for cupcakes. It is meant to be moist and dense and there is just not enough volume in a cupcake to get that inner moisture. Mine were a little too dry. I also increased the amount of coconut as I found the 60g in the original recipe wasn’t enough. If there are any leftovers I think it could be made into little biscuit shapes and baked on its own. Yum!

Cake Ingredients

125g butter, plus extra for greasing cake tin

2 medium Granny Smith apples

2 stalks of rhubarb

185g dates

1 tsp bicarbonate of soda

1 cup boiling water + ¼ cup

1 cup castor sugar + 1tbsp

1 large egg

1 tsp vanilla essence

1½ cups plain flour

½ tsp salt

Topping Ingredients

½ cup brown sugar

60g butter

⅓ cup milk

100g shredded coconut

Method

Preheat oven to 180C. Butter and line an 18cm round cake tin allowing an extra 5cm of baking paper above the height of the tin. This will ensure the coconut topping does not run down the sides when cooking. Wash rhubarb well and slice into ½ cm slices. Put in a small saucepan over medium heat with 1tbsp of castor sugar and ¼ cup boiling water, stir and cook until just stewed (about 4-5 minutes). Strain and discard liquid. Peel, core and cut the apples into small pieces. Chop the dates and mix with the apples and bicarb soda. Add rhubarb and mix. Pour 1 cup of boiling water over the top and leave to cool until lukewarm.

Cream the butter and remaining castor sugar with an electric mixer until light and fluffy. Add the egg and vanilla and beat well. Sift the flour and salt into a separate bowl.

Alternating between the two, add flour and apple mix to the creamed mixture. Pour into the tin and bake for 1 hour or until cooked when tested with a skewer.

For the topping, mix the sugar with the butter, milk and coconut in a small saucepan over a low heat until the better is melted and everything is combined. Spread over the cooked cake.

Return the cake to the oven and bake for another 15 min until topping is golden and crunchy.

Allow to cool before removing from tin.

While it’s not the prettiest cake, what it lacks in good looks it makes up for it extreme yumminess!

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