Friday, 23 November 2012

Banana and Coconut Blondies - good for lunchboxes

School day lunches - what do you do? School dinners? Packed lunches? Our school menu is pinned up on the board in our kitchen for careful perusal at the beginning of each week. It's planned on a 3 week rotation and the kids study it intently, because I will only let them have 1 a week. It would in some ways be much easier if I let them have school dinners every day - there are very few days where neither the meat nor the vegetarian option appeals, but I would still have to cook in the evening - even if it is just a good wholesome soup - because they rarely choose to have their school meal on the same day. Of course, if they had school lunch every day, that wouldn't be a problem, but here is the real rub: the lunches cost £2 a throw, and frankly, while the kids love them (they really do) when they have them, they always come home hungry. There is no differentiation in portion size between those, like Pink, who can, if pushed, survive on nothing more than 2 slices of cucumber and an oatcake, and Blue, who frankly eats like a horse. I can tailor a lunchbox so that there's enough in it to keep them going, according to appetite.

So 4 days out of 5, I send them in with lunchboxes. They are creatures of habit, and both like different things, so Blue gets sandwiches which include salad, tomato etc, while Pink, who has always been a little bit high maintenance, if I'm honest, and very much an 'on the side' kinda gal, gets little bits to pick at. She is never happier than with some bread sticks made with left over pizza dough, or some cold leftover pasta, some chunks of cucumber, some little bits of red pepper and spring onion. Protein will be a hard boiled egg or some chunks of cheese. I have long since given up sending Pink in with actual fruit, so she gets her portion in a smoothie. Blue eschews smoothies because he had a bad squirting incident once, but then, he will eat fruit till it comes out of his ears. 

Yes, I know what you're thinking, the tough love 'eat it or leave it' mummy at home panders horribly to their little foibles when it comes to packed lunch. I hold my hands up to that. But the bottom line is that they still have an afternoon of school to get through and I need to know that they will have eaten. It's all very well sending in something that will impress the dinner ladies, but if Pink won't eat it, she will be foul all afternoon, and I have to deal with that at pick up. On the other hand, if they don't eat what I give them for tea, I can hurry them into bed, and there's always breakfast the next day...

And then there is 'pudding'. I'm a big believer in giving them a little bit of something sweet, not once a week on a 'treat day', but every day. I know my kids mostly eat a good balanced diet and I have no problem with them having some cake in their lunch. School seems to take a different view. It's OK for school lunches to contain cake as pudding, because they are a carefully balanced meal equating to 1/3 of all the nutritional intake a child needs. I, of course, a mere parent, am not capable of feeding my child a balanced diet over the course of a day, so I should not be sending cake in with lunch boxes.

I ignore those letters.

Anyway, (I am getting to the point) balanced meals or not, school has a very strict policy about nuts, and while I am a little irked about this - my kids love nuts and they are a great source of nutrition, I understand about allergies enough to appreciate that there is a ban on nuts in school for a good reason. However, there has been a minor breakthrough this week - coconut is NOT a nut, and can therefore come into school.

This means Coconut Blondies are on the menu.  

Not a brownie (none of the melted butter and chocolate), less wholesome (I'll admit) than flapjack, but tasty and moist. There's condensed milk in there to satisfy my addiction to the stuff, and you can freeze the resultant squares, individually wrapped, ready to just pop into lunch boxes. I know it sounds horribly smug, and not a little OCD, but it is a top tip, and it will also prevent you from eating the lot and then having to do some more baking. Not  that that would be a bad thing, but I know my limits as far as will power is concerned, and sometimes freezing the cake is the best option, for my thighs if nothing else.

Best of all, those of you that are reasonably regular here will know that in my book, anything with oats and fruit in it pretty much counts as a health food (you're buying this, aren't you?).

150g porridge oats
50g dessicated coconut
100g plain flour
1/2 tsp bicarbonate of soda
100g butter, soft
1 squishy banana (if you don't have a squishy banana, use 150g butter instead of 100g and forget about the banana)
100g light muscovado sugar - actually, yesterday, I had to mix dark and light - it doesn't matter.
1 x 397g can condensed milk
1 egg, beaten
100g white chocolate chips

You need an average sized baking tray - mine is about 26cm x 16 cm but don't worry about it too much - something in that sort of ball park will be fine. Line it with foil.

Combine the oats, coconut, flour and bicarb in one bowl.

Cream together the butter, banana and sugar. It may look a little split/curdled, but go with it, it will be fine. Slowly pour in the condensed milk while continuing to beat - this is definitely easier with a mixer. If you're beating by hand; add the condensed milk a little at a time. Once the condensed milk is all combined, slowly beat in the oats, coconut, flour & bicarb mixture, then the egg and finally stir in the chocolate chips.

You get quite a lumpy batter which you need to scrape into the foil-lined tin, and then bake for about 30-35 minutes. The top will look cooked and quite golden brown with the edges starting to come away from the tin, but it will be quite wobbly underneath. Go with the wobble - it will firm up as it cools and stay moist and chewy.

It's quite tricky to photograph a wobble...

When cool, peel off the foil and cut into squares.

You can substitute away with this recipe - it's great with dried cranberries or sour cherries, you can use dark chocolate chips or milk ones - it's very versatile so check out the cupboards and experiment. The kids will only thank you.


  1. I'm buying into it - it's health food, but no surprise there! You had me at condensed milk to be honest. These looks gorgeous.

    1. They are (she says herself) very good. And I haven't frozen them yet... soup for lunch? or blondie?

  2. Good for lunchboxes? Then these will have to be tested on my baby nieces!

  3. They look great - I can totally understand you wanting to make sure P and B are not starving come hometime. How irritating that school lunches can include cake and you're not supposed to... quite right ignoring their letters!!!

  4. I can only imagine how delicious that cake would be.

    1. Make them - then you won't need to imagine!

  5. Mmm. That sound tip top. Like a giant Anzac biscuit cake thing. With added chocolate chips.

    1. Not sure - I know I've eaten Anzac biscuits before but can't remember what they are like. This is very good though!


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