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I love oats and anything made with them. Put me in a room with a large quantity of flapjack or granola and there’s no stopping me. Now I know you might not think this sounds like a serious problem, oats are incredibly healthy, right? On their own yes, but we seem to forget (or more likely ignore) the blindingly obvious fact that if you add loads of sugar and fat to anything, it will be high in calorie and much less healthy. Flapjack and granola can rarely be called healthy, as they so often contain such high levels of added sugar and fat.

One of the reasons I love oats so much is they provide a very healthy (and in my opinion tasty) breakfast. I am essentially very greedy. I like big portion sizes, so I generally try to opt for lower calorie food, and lots of it, rather than tiny morsels of more indulgent food. Oats are very clever in that they expand on cooking, so the small serving of uncooked oats you might have in your muesli or granola, turns into a generous serving of porridge.

Luckily, I can get my daily oat fix in this very healthy form, but occasionally I am partial to eating, or even more dangerous, cooking, flapjack or granola and I just can’t stop eating the stuff. I generally try to make my flapjack healthier than the recipe I’m following by reducing the sugar and fat content, which hugely irritates my husband as this means it doesn’t stick together and ends up being soggy granola. He says it’s not flapjack if you need a spoon!

So I try to keep flapjack and granola for occasional treats as snack or breakfast items respectively (I have not yet been so tempted as to have flapjack for breakfast!) and for the times when I haven’t got time to make porridge or I fancy something different for breakfast, I have my homemade muesli. No, it doesn’t make the most of the oats magical expanding power, but I’ve discovered something else which makes it even more delicious, lightly dry roasting the oats.

Making your own bespoke muesli mix is especially great if, like me, you can’t eat wheat or barley, or like my daughter who can’t eat certain nuts, ruling out many retail brands of muesli. This way we have a muesli the whole family can enjoy. I also love all the bits that go into a muesli, as long as you’ve got a big enough tub you can add anything you like.

And so I created my no-added sugar (or salt) muesli. And I mean no added sugar, not just no added caster sugar, but with other sugary guises such as honey, maple syrup, coconut nectar, fruit juice, etc (these all contain sugar!!). The only sweetness comes from the dried fruit. Dry roast some chunky course ground oats, along with some fine ground oats in a hot frying pan or under a grill. This gives the oats a nutty flavour without having to add loads of sugar or fat. Throw in to a tub or jar, along with some dry toasted sesame seeds and sliced almonds, add pumpkin and sunflower seeds, ground flaxseed, ground almonds and anything else you like, raisins, chopped apricots, dates, figs, unsweetened coconut slices, nuts etc. Just watch out for dried fruit with added sugar such as dried banana, cranberries, tropical fruits such pineapple, papaya and coconut. These can be super sweet and even worse for your teeth than already very sweet, unsweetened dried fruit. I’ve found a really tasty mixed vine fruit selection from Waitrose that is packed so full of flavour. If you want to reduce the sugar content, leave out the dried fruit from the mix and either serve the muesli with fresh fruit, or serve with dried fruit that has been soaked in water, as this plumps up the fruit and reduces the sugar content.

There is no recipe as such because you can chuck in whatever you like. Add in all the things you love to get a combination of flaky, powdery, nutty, seedy and fruity bits. Personally, I don’t think it needs cinnamon or fancy flavouring. I think, especially first thing in the morning, food is best when it is kept simple and the key ingredients speak for themselves. A great way to introduce children to nuts and seeds, either with natural yogurt or alongside their usual breakfast cereal. Enjoy.

rachel

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