I’ve played with calorie counting, and now I’ve tried Healthy Snacks. I know, I know… it conjures up awful images of rice cakes and apples when everybody else is eating large wedges of chocolate cake. So I made cereal bars.
You may not be able to see too well, but they’re cut into wedges about 2.5 x 2 x 7cm. These are very easy to make. In a pan, I melt 1 large tablespoonful of butter and 1 of honey with a bag of soft toffees. I then pour this goop over a mixture of oats and cereal – I like to use rice krispies with a few bran flakes in the mix. To make it extra yummy, add a packet or two of yoghurt coated fruits (my favourites are apricots and pineapple). You will have to use a lot of cereal with this amount of toffee – approximately half or three quarters of a rice krispie packet and at least half as many oats. It may seem at first as though the amount of cereal far outweighs the toffee, but after vigorous mixing the stuff should even out and pressing it into a tray causes it to glue together satisfactorily. Cut the bars out when set. Oh, and for those still counting, these are 85 calories a bar.
I also had a go at banana loaf, using this recipe from the reliable BBC Good Food Guide (my favourite source of online recipes).
I did, however, make a few changes… as usual.
For a start, I decided that cutting down the sugar was a good move. I’ve recently bought some sweetener, and used it in a cake-like recipe to see what the result was. Suprisingly, I had to add most of the carton, and although the sweetness was right, the texture was incredibly crumbly, filling a space somewhere between scones and biscuits.
For the banana loaf, I had wised up. For 8oz of sugar, I used 6oz, plus 1oz of the sweetener to supplement. End result? No problem with the sweetness, and texture as normal.
But I also did a couple of other things.
My wonderful grandma makes a delicious banana loaf, the recipe for which I can’t find or never had, using nuts and raisins, so I wanted to have nuts and raisins in my banana loaf! A scout about the shops uncovered walnut halves at Home Bargains for £1.29, which I crushed into smaller lumps using a pestle and mortar. The best value raisins I could find were 99p “Flame Raisins” at Holland & Barrett (where I went for my yoghurt-coated fruits for the cereal bars). These had been reduced to half price.
I’m still unsure quite how they differ from conventional raisins.
The final difference made to my banana cake was raising agent. I used self-raising flour and half the amount of raising agent suggested in the recipe. Banana loaf can be quite dense and stodgy, so I wanted to give it a little extra lift (like a good bra) to make sure it went a bit further and took us longer to eat up. However, it’s important to ensure that you don’t overdo raising agent: too much can cause the cake to rise and then rupture, collapsing back down to form a kind of cakey biscuit best used for the base of a cheesecake. Worse, you can incorporate a nasty salty flavour into your baked goods, which can often surprise you with good and bad “patches”.
The addition of my extra raising agent meant that a 2 egg banana loaf was good for one long AND one ordinary loaf tin, although the smaller loaf tin was not entirely full and gave me a lower/shorter bread.
230 calories a slice.
I’ve also been thinking carefully about my breaddy snacks. A single slice of bread is 119 calories, seemingly a lot for something so staple. Bread can also leave you bloated and feeling full after rather than during a meal.
At home, we often stock up on crackers. Tesco do a 25p own brand pack and we also pick up good deals at Home Bargains, or various pound/99p stores. I eat crackers with cheese, cream cheese, hummous and even peanut butter. Sometimes I have them with salad, just with butter, or dry. They also work well with coleslaw or pates.
Another favourite of mine is oat crackers. I’ve always loved oats, and these very filling high-energy release biscuits are good with much the same things as ordinary crackers. Some people also eat them as a healthy substitute for biscuits and they can work well with sweet things as well as savoury. My preferences is for the plainer, simpler biscuits, but you can also buy oat crackers with seeds and other additions to make them more exciting.
These are part of my usual diet, but the other day I went out and bought some extras.
At 99 and 69p respectively, Ryvita Crackerbread and Abbey Crisp Bakes are 40 and 21 calories per slice, providing fun alternatives to ordinary bread. I’m yet to try the crackerbread (tomorrow for lunch I will be trying them out with guacamole dip), but the crisp bakes have already proved entertaining. I’ve used them like sandwich bread, but I’ve also used them for something creative: the bread bun around a giant courgette fritter topped with egg mayonnaise and salad: a very yummy lunch of about 410 calories – just over 1/5 of a woman’s daily recommended intake and nearly 1/6 of a man’s.
My final breaddy product is wraps. I LOVE wraps. Anything I can put in a wrap instantly becomes awesome. Obviously burritoes are the best – in my first year at uni I could cook spicy veg, dump them in a wrap with cheese and salad and have a hot lunch complete in about 15 minutes. They’re much thinner than ordinary bread and go further, complementing hot and cold food. I also use wraps with falafel, bean dishes, cheese and tomato, cheese salads, and ginger and lemon grilled or fried veg. You can have them for lunch or dinner, and if wanted supplement with rice to include more carbohydrates in your diet. I don’t have any in my freezer right now, so I can’t give you their calorie count. If you’re desperate, I’d recommend google.