5 a day for 5 days – Day 1: Always go before you leave the house

First meal of my 5 a day challenge was breakfast on the run, which was always going to be tricky. As previously mentioned, my breakfast has to be portable as I eat it on the way to work at silly o’clock in the morning. Also, due to the silliness of the o’clock and the general misery involved in commuting (rain, leaving the house before sunrise, shivering on cold platforms, sweating under the armpits of strangers), I need a breakfast which provides me with some degree of comfort. It’s the hardest part of my day and it’s when I’m at my worst, and treats at breakfast are my way of preventing myself from walking up to kindly looking strangers at stations and asking for a hug. 

Basically, I eat a lot of junk in the mornings. I usually bake something on Sunday nights that will see me through the week. I’ve made cinnamon rolls, cookies, I once attempted to make my own Nutrigrain bars and, yes, I must admit, sometimes there’s cake. My absolute favourite breakfast is a flapjack from the station shop, but I try to resist this temptation due to the strain it places on my wallet. To this end, I’ve also cut out my mid-journey latte. I’m still mourning this loss, mainly because the staff at Cuppa Cino were always so lovely. The point is, I now, more than ever, need comfort food for breakfast.

I was browsing butterless recipes the other day (wanted to make biscuits, had hardly any ingredients) and came across one for breakfast bars with peanut butter instead of the normal kind. Unfortunately, I’d not made a note of it, so I just went ahead and improvised. I do that a lot in the kitchen. The original recipe was based around nuts, but I found some frozen berries in the back of the freezer so I threw them in instead. My version went a little something like this:

1 cup oats

1 cup plain flour

1/2 teaspoon baking powder

1 pinch salt

2-3 tablespoons smooth peanut butter

2-3 tablespoons brown sugar

1 egg

1/2 teaspoon vanilla

1/2 cup milk

Milk chocolate chips (didn’t measure them)

Frozen berries (just put in what I had, it was a good sized handful)

Sift the flour into a bowl, mix in the baking powder and salt, add the oats. In another bowl mix the peanut butter and sugar, beat in the egg (it looks vile at this stage). Add the vanilla and milk and give it a good stir. Fold in the dry ingredients, make sure it’s all thoroughly mixed and add the chocolate and fruit.

Pour into a greased tin of your choice (all I had was a small roasting tray) and bake at 170C for half an hour. But my oven is like the annoying overachiever sat at the front of the class with its hand up, and I strongly suspect that when it says 170, it’s really more like 190. Everything cooks very fast.

I sliced them into eight bars whilst still in the tray as it just made them easier to get out. You should probably leave it to cool on a wire tray and then chop it up. Also, if I made them again I’d cook them at a lower temperature for longer, just to let the middle catch up with the outside.

To be honest, if I cooked them again, I’d quite like to use the original, tried and tested recipe, if only I could remember where I saw it. If it sounds familiar to anyone, do let me know!

They do taste pretty fantastic though, and are very cakey without being stodgy. They look a little bit like this:

photo-11

I think next week I might try them with normal butter, white chocolate and blueberries.

One more thing, I’m fairly sick of seeing the word ‘cup’ in ingredient lists. Noone seems to know what it means. American cup? British cup? Weight or volume? So, when I say ‘cup’, in this recipe or any other, I mean this cup:

photo-9

It holds about 200ml of water, if that helps.

So far so good. Wrapped one in cling film, went on my way. Had a sudden moment of doubt that the fruit content of any one bar would be enough to actually constitute one of my five a day, so chugged a glass of apple juice on the way out of the door, just to be sure. Bad idea. Had already had my morning coffee, so had consumed nearly a litre of liquid right before a two hour commute. Just made it to work in time.

I was struggling a bit about lunch, as I’m normally a ham and lettuce sandwich kind of gal – easy, fits in a bag. I’d made some mini courgette fritters for my mum’s Christmas party which had gone down quite well, so in the end I decided to beef up that idea and make a larger version. I like this kind of recipe because what it boils down to is ‘grate everything you can find and put it in the oven’. So in went half a courgette, half a carrot, half a potato and some cheese, salt, pepper, parsley and three beaten eggs. Poured it into the same roasting dish, same temperature, same time. Don’t forget to grease the pan, I did, it’s still soaking in the sink now. Cut it into four, took two for lunch, with a couple of plums for after.

photo-10

These were actually seriously tasty. If you wanted to be uber healthy, you could omit the cheese and use different seasonings for flavour instead. Conversely, I think they’d be even nicer with extra cheese sprinkled on top before it goes in the oven.

My only problem with these was that they didn’t really fill me up, and I’ve been peckish all afternoon. They’ve got about the same calorific value as a sandwich, but they just didn’t satisfy me in the same way. Afternoon is when I’m most likely to snack, so I need something a little more filling, if anyone has suggestions.

Am just about to attempt a minced beef and aubergine risotto, but would really love some other aubergine ideas. I came across this today on the Guardian, and would quite happily devour pretty much every recipe on the list, but would really prefer something that I can make using things normal people have in the house already……

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