Wednesday, 10 April 2013

Freedom - and chewy fruit bars

One of my favourite things to do is to drive into the sunset. Usually on a Friday evening, heading west down the A303. Who cares that it's usually choccablock with bad feeling and stress emanating out of the other vehicles as thick as the exhaust fumes around us - we have a van and the coast is calling. Passing Stonehenge, skirting Salisbury Plain, into Wiltshire, North Somerset, usually ending up somewhere on the Dorset/Devon coastline. Freedom.

So, yes, you've guessed it, Daisy is back on the road and I have itchy feet.

Never mind the steely skies - we want an adventure!

For 6 months of the year, I am without wheels. The Husband needs the car for work and Daisy is too much of an old lady to be out on the roads in winter. That's OK - I work at home, the children go to school in the village, and if necessary, I can get everything we need for day to day living locally - veg from a local box scheme or the back garden, meat and fish from the butcher, eggs from our own chickens, a Co-Op, a couple of gift shops. The Husband travels a lot, but me? I stay put. I can go for what seems like WEEKS without leaving the village - apart from walking the dog, when I might stray into a neighbouring parish. By February, I'm starting to twitch and by mid-March, well, stir crazy would be a good place to start.

But then, as the end of March approaches, the prospect of Daisy's release from her winter quarters. Will she start? Will she make it up the hill to the garage for her MOT and service? This year, as she has for the last 2 years, all has been well. A tense time charging up the battery, the need for a new thermostat and advice to 'keep an eye on the water level' - a panic of a SORN notice and she's back on the road.

She wasn't taxed till 1 April, and a visit from my mother in law last weekend, work commitments - and, frankly, the appalling weather, has kept us as yet uncamped, but I've been desperate to get out in her - and even more so for the first trip to be a fun one rather than something dull like going in to town to get new school shoes.

Fortunately, today was the day, and I rounded up the kids and Fred the dog and headed East to the great forests of Bracknell to meet up with 2 of my greatest friends, their respective gorgeous children, and Barnaby the yellow labrador. Not a night away - not just yet - but a fun afternoon. And I can't tell you how fantastic it felt to be back behind her wheel, chugging up the M3 at 56 miles and hour with an eye on her ever temperamental petrol gauge. Happy days.

The Look Out was heaving - the car park and play/den making areas at least, but once assembled, we headed off into the Crown Estate woods which surround the Discovery Centre, at which point the children formed a pack and went rampaging off, sticks in hand, into the undergrowth.

See any children? Me neither - marvellous
Just what they need. Freedom.

Of course, all this activity requires sustenance, and my contribution to proceedings were some chewy bar things that I got out of the Hairy Dieters book that I borrowed from the library earlier in the week. I wasn't sure how they would be received, but I had some rice krispies supermarket own brand unsweetened puffed rice cereal that needed using up, and this has loads of dried fruit and oats in it too. Definitely healthy. Blue and I made it this morning - it was very easy to throw together although there's a sticky porridgey moment that required adult involvement. We didn't have any flaked almonds (almost a national emergency in the RJ household) nor enough maple syrup, so we made substitutions of pumpkin seeds and runny honey.

According to the Bikers, these will last 5 days in an airtight tin. You'll have to take their word for it - with 9 feral, wood-rampaging offspring to fuel, they didn't last a day. And if you cut it into 24 pieces (equal pieces, that is) each one will be 82 calories.

25g pumpkin seeds
40g dried apricots, chopped small
40g dried cranberries
40g raisins
75g unsweetened puffed rice cereal
40g dessicated coconut
100ml maple syrup
50ml runny honey
400ml cloudy apple juice
125g porridge oats

20x30cm brownie tin - lined with greaseproof paper

Pre-heat the oven to 190C and roast the pumpkin seeds on a baking tray for 5-6 minutes.

In a bowl, mix together the roasted seeds, dried fruit, cereal and coconut

Put the maple syrup, honey and apple juice into a large pan, and warm for a couple of minutes, stirring occasionally. Tip in the oats, stir and bring to a simmer over a gentle heat. Keep stirring for 4-5 minutes till the mixture thickens, then remove from the heat and stir the porridge into the dry ingredients.

Spoon the mixture into the lined tin, flatten well, then bake in the oven for about 45 minutes. It will be golden brown and the surface crisp.

Leave to cool for about 30 minutes before cutting into squares and removing from the tin in the paper. Peel off the paper and leave to go cold.

Chewy and fruity and the kids loved them. And did I get my drive into the sunset - well yes, as we headed back west from Berkshire to the RJ corner of Hampshire, I almost felt the rays of a sunset glowing around us. Before the rain started, that is...


  1. What chewy and tasty looking bars!

  2. Brilliant -the open road beckons. Enjoy! The bars look fab too RJ, I'm impressed at how you got them to levitate! :)

  3. Sounds wonderful and glad you got your sunset drive - can't wait to have a proper outing in Betty . At 56mph you'd leave us standing! She's such a slow old lady.
    I do like a day trip in the camper - happy childhood memories of going to Lough Neagh, running along the paths through the trees and by the water's edge and then back to the van for food and a game, all of us squeezed around the little table. Here's to a half decent summer and more happy memories x

    1. Oh I know - can't wait. Hoping to squeeze at least one overnighter in over the next couple of weeks, but may not be till the first bank hol that we get a proper trip in her. here's to a good summer!

  4. I am so on your page! Looks like it is warming up a bit now. Hurrah. We are desperate to get back out there!

    1. I know - can't wait. And thanks for the recommendation - we may well try it out. Fancy a guest post review on your blog?

    2. Absolutely! Give me a shout once you've been.

  5. Happy camping! Those bars look fabulous!

    1. :-) they are great - I will definitely make them again. I was worried they might be too sweet with the apple juice and male syrup but they were fine and would take all kinds of messing about with to accomodate what's in the cupboards.


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