Peanut Butter Rice Crispie Bars

First up: I cannot take full credit for these bars. The recipe I used as a base (swapping brown rice syrup for honey, and chucking in vanilla and cinnamon) can be found right here: http://thebigmansworld.com/2015/09/23/healthy-3-ingredient-rice-crispy-treats/ . This blog is AMAZING for recipe inspiration, and I encourage you all to head over and have a good rummage around. Other ways I thought I could change up these bars is by adding some dried raspberries, blueberries, dates, or cranberries- or dipping them in dark chocolate. Keep your eyes peeled for that.

Fun fact: someone commented on the instagram picture said that in New Zealand they call these bubble cakes instead of rice crispie buns (when in bun form). I had my family try these bars, and though my brother was at first disgusted that I had added peanut butter to a “classic”, it didn’t stop him eating one or two. We used to make these bars in bun form with my dad, this being the only “baking” he could actually handle. And pans with burnt marshmallow and golden syrup welded onto them say that even this “baking” was a bit of a stretch. If you want, pile this mixture into bun cases instead of making bars, to really get that childhood treat back. I have to admit, I do want to see these encased in brightly coloured bun cases some time soon.

Ingredients

  • 2 cups rice crispies (I used the Kallo wholegrain puffed rice cereal)
  • 1/2 cup chunky peanut butter
  • 1/2 cup runny honey
  • 1tsp vanilla
  • OPTIONAL: 1/2tsp cinnamon

Method

  • In a large bowl combine the rice crispies with the honey, vanilla, and cinnamon (if using).
  • Place the peanut butter into a microwavable bowl, and melt slightly in the microwave; add this to the crispies too.
  • Stir until well combined, and then press into a lined baking tray, before chilling for at least 1 hour. These keep well in the fridge, and are good to go for around 3-4 days.
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Chocolate Peanut Butter Breakfast Shake

THE reason to get out of bed on a Monday morning…

This Monday morning I have a super fast breakfast (or even snack) for you to try out, which could really brighten the beginning of your week. A chocolate and peanut butter “milkshake” (it’s actually a smoothie, I know, but that super creamy and indulgent taste is just too “milkshake” to ignore). That is actually good for you. Which is great, because much as I love berry smoothies, I feel that they’re more summer appropriate- I’m still in winter mode, where chocolate and nuts are required. But I still want those chocolate and nuts to be good for me.
This drink contains frozen banana (you wont really taste it; it just adds sweetness and ice cream-like texture when blended) for one of your ‘5 a Day’, potassium, fibre, and they’re also a source of tryptophan, which is a mood boosting hormone. Cacao is rich in antioxidants, having undergone less of a refining process than cocoa. However, if you cant get hold of this, then no worries! Just use a really good unsweetened dark cocoa. Cinnamon: it helps to boost the metabolism and also balance blood sugar. And finally, peanut butter…healthy fats, fibre, protein, and just the most amazing nutty flavour. What more does your Monday need?

Ingredients

  • 1 cup plant based milk (as always, I used my coconut-rice milk; feel free to use any milk you have. Yes, that includes cows milk, although I find that when I’m using milk in large quantities, say, in a drink, plant milk lies less heavily on my stomach)
  • 1 frozen banana (chop it into chunks and whack it in the freezer overnight)
  • Dash of cinnamon
  • 1tbsp cacao
  • 1 tbsp. smooth peanut butter (I used the Meridian peanut butter)
  • 2-3tbsp ice cold water

Method

  1. Chuck everything into the blender, and blend. Pulse the blender at first to break everything up, and then for longer periods to smooth it all out.
  2. Pour it into a glass, add a straw, and sip away. Alternatively, if you have my level of finesse, then gulp it down in less than five minutes.

Tip! To make your smoothie with minimum Monday morning struggles: put the liquid ingredients in FIRST, closer to the blades, and then add in the solids and blend. The liquids lubricate everything, making the blending process easier.

Banana, Maple & Peanut Butter Baked Oatmeal

Just LOOK at that gooey banana-peanut-maple goodness…imagine waking up to that. Well, I can’t make you breakfast in bed (that would be a bit creepy), but I can give you the instructions as to how to make yourself breakfast in bed.

This recipe is super simple (as usual), and you can pick up the ingredients easily. Chia seeds are now available in Tescos, Asda- even Home Bargins. I got a massive bag for about £2 from the latter. You can omit them, but they swell up and give a really great cookie-dough-esque texture when combined with the banana. In baked oatmeal banana is amazing for adding sweetness and moisture, as well as providing one of your 5 a day, a bunch of potassium, and being crammed full of fibre. Combined with the oats, also rich in fibre, this breakfast will keep you full all morning long. Creamy peanut butter adds in a great source of fat, and the maple syrup acts as a wonderful background flavour to bring out the nuttiness. Delicious and down right good for you.

Have I managed to convince you to give this a go? Well, if I have keep on reading…

Ingredients (serves one)
1 ripe banana (you want to have little brown freckles all over the skin, and no green), cut into slices
1/2 cup oats
1tbsp peanut butter (smooth OR crunchy, either will work well. I always use Meridian, because its my die-hard favourite)
1tbsp pure maple syrup (I used Clarkes, because I stole it from my brother’s pancake making stock, and that’s his favourite)
1/2tsp baking powder
1/2-1tsp cinnamon (I used 1tsp, but use a lot of cinnamon in my cooking. If you aren’t used to adding this in then go for 1/2tsp)
1/2 cup plant based milk (I opted for a coconut-rice milk as its my favourite, but feel free to use almond, cashew, oat, straight up rice milk- even cows milk if that’s what you have. I mean, use unicorn milk if you can get it)
1tsp chia seeds (or, if omitting this, reduce the milk by 1-2tbsp)

Method

  1. Preheat the oven to 190*c (that’s for a fan oven; for a normal oven heat it to 200*c), and grease an ovenproof dish (I used some cooking spray to do this, as its what we have a home)
  2. In a bowl combine all but half of the banana, and mix together thoroughly. Mash the banana a little, but make sure you leave some decent chunkage. Pour into the oven proof dish.
  3. Use the remaining banana slices to decorate the top of your oatmeal; this caramelises slightly in the heat of the oven, and makes this oatmeal taste just that bit better. Plus the fact, it looks, y’know, fancy.
  4. Whack it into the oven for 25 minutes, until risen and golden brown, before removing from the oven and allowing to cool for 3-5 minutes, thus avoiding any burnt-mouth disasters.  Enjoy!

Snickers Balls

I am a massive fan of salty-sweet tastes. I love combinations that bring sweet and savoury together (by the way, has anyone else tried dark chocolate chilli? It’s the bomb). Which meant that these snickers balls made me one very happy person, as they hit on the salt vs. sweet balance perfectly.

I used the Meridian peanut and coconut butter, which they very kindly sent me, and is going to be launched in the shops in January. In this recipe you can’t taste the coconut, but it does give the balls a great texture (as they set better), and apparently coconut oil is great for digestion. If you can’t get hold of this in January, or can’t wait until its released, then you can definitely use good old peanut butter- chunky or smooth. If you can’t get hold of cacao then go for unsweetened dark cocoa powder- cacao is just subject to less of a refining process.

These are incredibly easy to make, you can get hold of all of the ingredients between Holland & Barratt’s and any supermarket, they’re roughly 80kcal each, and keep in the fridge for up to 4 days. Although everyone in my house wanted to get their hands on these balls, and so they did not last anywhere near as long as that.

Ingredients

  • 1/2 cup oats
  • 3tbsp peanut and coconut butter (feel free to use plain old peanut butter- smooth or chunky.)
  • 3/4tsp salt
  • 5 Medjool dates
  • 1/4 cup coconut milk
  • 1/4tsp cinnamon
  • 1tbsp cacao (feel free to substitute in regular unsweetened dark cocoa; cacao just tastes a bit richer, and doesn’t go through as much of a refining process. I used the Choc Chick cacao powder, which I got at Holland and Barratt’s)

Method

  • Begin by tearing your dates into chunks, and removing the pit, if it hasn’t already been removed. Place into a small dish with the milk, and allow to soak for at least 2-3 hours.
  • Throw everything into a food processor, and pulse. Following this continue to blend for longer periods, until it starts to pull together into a loose ball.
  • Carefully remove the blade from the food processor, and place to one side. Form into 10 balls, rolling between your fingertips until smooth.
  • Place your perfectly spherical balls into the fridge for at least 30 minutes, then dig in… although if you’re anything like me, then a lot of the mixture may have gone missing during the making process.

Monkey- Nut Overnight Chia Pudding


One super easy breakfast idea for you guys, using two of my favourite staple ingredients: banana and peanut butter. Plus the addition of some chia seeds for all of you health nuts out there, and some maple syrup for anyone with a little bit of a sweet tooth, but wanting a more natural alternative…



Ingredients

  • 1/2 cup oats
  • 1/2 cup Greek yoghurt (I used Total because it’s so thick)
  • 1/4 cup plant based milk (I used Alpro coconut, as usual)
  • 1tbsp chia seeds
  • 1 medium banana
  • 3tsp chunky peanut butter (I used Meridian)
  • Dash of cinnamon
  • 1/2tsp maple syrup



Method

  • In a bowl mash half of the banana until creamy and smooth.
  • To this add the oats, milk, chia seeds, cinnamon to taste, and Greek yoghurt, before giving everything a good stir. Add 2tsp of chunky peanut butter to the mix and whisk this in too, along with the maple syrup.
  • Slice the remaining banana up, reserving three coins for decoration, and then fold into the pudding. Empty the mixture into a smaller bowl, top with the remaining banana coins and peanut butter, then place into the fridge overnight.

In the morning simply grab and go!

New Meridian Bars?!

Following my review of their nut butters and existing bars (read it here: http://ecstaticallyem.blogspot.co.uk/2015/08/my-nut-butter-collection.html ), Meridian Foods were kind enough to send me some nut butters to play around with, and also some of their newest bars. Now I had seen these bars in Holland and Barratt’s magazine, but never on the shelves. As all of you who know about my nut butter obsession can imagine I was pretty frigging excited to try these out, and now I’ve munched my way through nearly all of them I feel ready to give you guys a review…

The bars are all based around the classic peanut butter bar Meridian make, which thankfully is probably my favourite one. They created three new bars pairing the PB with berries, banana, and cocoa. All of the bars clock in at just under 200kcal, they all taste great, all are suitable for vegetarians and vegans, pack in the protein, and manage to retain the peanut flavour alongside the other ingredients added. Each has roughly 7g protein per bar, and also an impressive amount of fibre for their size (the cocoa one has 2.4g, the berry one 3.4g, and the banana one I believe about 2g- I don’t have a wrapper to check because I ate them all). Each bar is also made up of 48% nuts and above. I’ve eaten these as snacks, pre and post workout boosts, desserts…they’re just too good to say no to. I’ve also microwaved them for a few seconds (not sure if this is Meridian approved- be careful with kitchen appliances kids), and they take on a warm, gooey, melting texture that is going to be perfect for me as it gets colder outside.

So, to the bars individually: I had the feeling going into trying them that my favourite would be the peanut butter and banana, followed by the cocoa, and last of all the berry. In fact, I wasn’t expecting to like the berry one very much at all. However, Meridian surprised me on this one, and my favourite actually ended up being the cocoa, followed by the berry, and the banana came in at last place…

Peanut Butter & Cocoa
This one is perfect for people who love the flavour of a Reese’s peanut butter cup; imagine this but much less artificial and sugary. This bar is rich, not sweet. It wasn’t too strong on the cocoa, but had just enough to give it an intense hit of chocolaty-ness. The first thing that actually struck me was how it looked: this bar has a shinier finish to it than the peanut bars, which are matte in appearance. You can also see the generous nut chunks more prominently in this bar, as they contrast the cocoa that gives this snack its colour. If you like a chunky texture to your PB then definitely check this bar out. The final thing was that the bar wasn’t as dry as expected it to be, having incorporated cocoa; it retains the classic chewy texture of Meridian’s peanut butter bars.

Peanut Butter & Berry
As I said I was expecting this to be my least favourite bar. The increasing horror I had at tasting artificial strawberry flavouring lasted as long as it took to read the packet. These bars contain raspberries, and cranberries. And they beat strawberries hands down. Think of this bar as a grown up PB & J. The redcurrants give a tartness to the bar that prevents it taking on that cloyingly sweet flavour I was expecting. The colour of the product was a light pink-red, again with that IG worthy peanut chunkage. Along with the peanut pieces you get bits of raspberry and cranberry scattered throughout, which actually makes this bar taste pretty refreshing.

Peanut Butter & Banana
This is another classic combo (which is what Meridian seems to have gone with with all of the bars), and it didn’t disappoint. There was no tacky foam banana flavour (all the bars do well with providing natural flavours), and the sweet banana punch you do get works brilliantly with the almost savoury PB. The smell of banana hits you immediately when you open the packet of this bar, and it did make me wary as I suspected it could taste slightly artificial- but don’t worry about that at all guys. This bar was my least favourite purely because the other two taste so amazing, and I would have to recommend those before hand. Plus the fact, you can recreate this combo using a fresh, very ripe, banana and a tbsp. of Meridian’s chunky peanut butter anyway, and this is how I prefer to get my PB and banana fix. Do give both that snack, and this bar, a try though.

 

So there you go, my review of Meridian’s newest bars- once again thank you to Meridian for sending me them; I definitely be re-purchasing once they’re in the shops. I can see myself snaffling these at the back of a lecture theatre this coming year at uni…

My Nut Butter Collection

I have a slight problem with hoarding nut butter. I don’t know what it is about the creamy, salty/sweet, nutty, rich, and stick-your-mouth-together-ness of nut butters, but I eat at least 1tbsp per day. Usually on my morning porridge, where it melts into all the little gaps in between the fruit. It raises my happiness levels more that is probably normal when I get a spoonful of purely nut butter and thick, dense, oats. *has to leave to eat a spoonful of nut butter and then returns*.

I can’t completely remember when I switched to Meridian nut butter, but this is probably one of the longest lasting food relationships in my life so far. When I first began eating nut butter I, naively, purchased the own brand low fat peanut butter. Although it tasted okay, all of the palm oil, added sugar, salt, preservatives, stabilisers etc. were not good for me. Or my digestive system. I moved on to Whole Earth full fat peanut butter, and although this brand is still great, was later pointed towards Meridian peanut butter. Which is purely nuts, and sometimes a pinch of salt. You know how they say when you finally fall in love you get a feeling like you’ve never had before? Things are suddenly different, the world is all rainbows and unicorns, and glitter falls from the sky etc? I had that moment. With this nut butter.

Once I’d tried the peanut butter my nut butter collection suddenly exploded, as Meridian grind up many different innocent nuts into butters. So I have accumulated a ridiculous amount of nut butter. I have actually walked out of stores with my bag making such a chinking sound, attracting curious looks from security, that people assume it is filled with vodka for a hardcore pre-drinking session. In fact I am preparing for a hardcore nut butter eating and DVD session. I am about to share with you below every nut butter I own, along with what I think of each. Meridian also make nut butter bars, great for snacks on the go, and I have some mini reviews of these at the end…

Smooth Peanut- £1.99 (Tesco)
I use this (and my beloved chunky PB) in recipes regularly:

It’s strong on the peanut taste, a 100% pure peanut taste, not created by peanut flavouring. The smooth peanut butter is slightly runnier than the chunky, as is to be expected, but this only makes it even more ideal for spreading, adding to baking, smoothies, and sauces. I often whisk this with a little soy sauce, hot water, chilli flakes, and lime juice, to make a wonderful satay-style stir fry sauce, or salad dressing.


Chunky Peanut- £1.99 (Tesco)
Texture wise I actually prefer this peanut butter for spreading onto things; the chunks make it a satisfying eat on toast, rice cakes, and oatcakes. There is a generous amount of nutty chunks scattered throughout this nut butter, unlike other brands who give you one nut distributed throughout the whole jar. The peanut butter is possibly the most savoury tasting of the nut butters, which means it goes well both in savoury dishes, and to complement sweet fruit such as berries and apple.

Almond- £2.79 (Tesco)
If you like a little saltiness to your nut butter then head straight for this jar of goodness. Almond butter goes really well with pear in particular, as it tastes slightly earthy, and in desserts or baking. It’s also high in protein, and so ideal for any vegetarians or vegans. I would say that this is the smoothest, and most liquid of all of the nut butters; make sure you give it a good stir up. It is also possibly one of my favourites, and makes an appearance nearly every day on my porridge, particularly if I’m adding ginger to the oats. Ginger and almond butter were made for each other, whether they know it or not.

Cashew – £2.79 (Tesco)
Following on from the saltiness of the almond butter, this is for anyone with a sweet tooth. I wasn’t expecting cashew butter to taste this sweet, but it is- in a pleasant way though, not a cloying and sickly affair. I use cashew with banana awful lot, and in baked oatmeal. It’s smooth and easy to spread, and so would be ideal on toast or rice cakes as well. If you do use this in baking, I recommend paring it up with coconut or raspberries.

Hazelnut – £6.69 (Holland & Barrett’s)
Okay then nutella lovers, this one’s for you. Mix this with a little cocoa and drizzle on to yoghurt or toast, and it tastes like nutella, I swear. My first thought on licking a spoon covered with this was that it tastes exactly like ferrero rochers. It was magical. This nut butter has a smooth base, and then a good smattering of chopped hazelnuts. Hazelnuts are a pretty expensive nut, and so this jar did cost me slightly more than the other nut butters. An eye-watering amount to a student (okay, about £4 more). It was a definite treat, and not something I would repurchase too regularly due to the price, but I feel this is worth a try if you’re a hard-core nutter.

TIP! When stirring up the nut butter get your spoon right down to the base of the jar, this prevents those last few spoonfuls being harder than cement to spread.



And now the equivalent of licking the leftover nut butter from the spoon, that extra little review of the Meridian bars…

The bars contain more ingredients that the butters, obviously, otherwise you would simply be pouring nut butter from the wrapper into your mouth. However, they are still better than the additive laden cereal bar alternatives. They also contain up to 8 grams of protein.

Cashew Butter Bar- £1.49 (Holland & Barrett’s)
This is the sweetest bar, and a pale golden colour. There is a generous amount of chopped cashews throughout, and I reach for this when I want to nix a sugary food craving.

Peanut Butter Bar-  £1.19 (Holland & Barrett’s)
This is the densest of the bars, again with a good chunkage rating. I reckon that it’s also the most filling, and so perfect for my mid-afternoon snack.

Almond Butter Bar- £1.49 (Holland & Barrett’s)
For some reason I used to choose this bar post workout class (when I was at uni, where workout classes were readily available. Unlike here at home). Something about the taste just speaks to me post workout. It’s also the highest protein of the bars, and so perfect to get those muscles repaired.

TIP! If you want to feel like your bar is a bit more of a treat, then why not shape into nut truffles? Break the bar into four and roll each piece into a ball…

Meridian have just released three new nut butter bars, although I haven’t seen them in the shops yet. The flavours include peanut and cocoa, peanut and banana, and peanut and berry. Each and everyone sends my mouth directly into extreme watering mode. The first two in particular. I can’t wait to get my hands on them, and add them to my collection. Then let you all know what they’re like up here.

But, to finish up, here are some of my nut butter’s finest moments…