Lunchboxes with Love!

Ours is an equal household. I definitely spend more time in the kitchen than Mr OC but I work less hours than him, and it’s my preference over having to fix, maintain and clean the car – which he does 99.5% of the time. It’s not like he doesn’t help with the cooking and dishes even though it is primarily in my hands – he definitely does his bit and if a steak needs cooking it is always his job.

Most days I will make Mr OC sandwiches to take to work – it all started because I noticed his vice – if he’s catering for himself in any way, despite the fact he can cook perfectly well, he will choose the quick option. Either junk food, or at least takeaway meals of some description. He also loves his fizzy drinks. Tsk.

I want him to eat a balanced diet – he needs tons of energy in his job (arborist)so he’ll take a couple of rounds of sandwiches etc. and I make an excuse to bake every week now so he gets a sugar kick too.

Each week I bake something different but then loop back round again. His work buddies have taken a liking to these sweet treats – in particular the good British tradition of the flapjack. So I thought I’d share the recipes of my most successful lunchbox treats. Most are taken from recipes I found online and adapted to ingredients I had in the cupboard, and/or how well they cook in my oven, and lastly… just how we like them best.

Banana, Oat ‘n’ Choc’ Chip Muffins

Oats and bananas for lots of long-lasting energy!

  • 1 cup mashed bananas
  • 1 ½ cup flour
  • 1 cup rolled oats
  • 1 cup buttermilk
  • 1 egg
  • 2 tsp bicarbonate of soda
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp vanilla essence
  • 1 cup brown sugar
  • 1 tsp cinnamon sugar
  • 1 tsp mixed spice
  • ½ cup chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 150 degrees.

Spray 12 regular muffin cups with non-stick cooking spray.

Mix together 1 cup of flour, the sugar, baking powder, oatmeal and spices.

Add the bicarbonate of soda to the buttermilk and stir. Then, in a separate bowl from the dry ingredients, whisk together the buttermilk, mashed banana (I blend mine), egg and vanilla essence.

Pour wet ingredients over dry ingredients and stir just until blended. Add choc chips and mix in.

Now test the mixture – can a spoon stand up in it? If not gradually add some of the additional flour until it does

Spoon batter into muffin cups and bake until lightly brown and a toothpick inserted in centre comes out clean, approximately 15 to 20 minutes.

Allow to cool in pan on wire rack for 15 minutes, then turn out onto rack and cool completely.

Chocolate, Peanut Butter, M&Ms Brownies

Definitely a treat – kids love these too!

  • ½ cup peanut butter
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 cup brown sugar
  • ¼ cup butter
  • 1/3 cup plain flour
  • 1/3 cup cocoa
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • ½ cup M&Ms

Preheat oven to 150 degrees. Grease an 8-inch square baking pan or similar (I use a rectangular one!)

In a large mixing bowl, cream together the peanut butter and butter. Add the brown sugar, vanilla and eggs and beat until light and fluffy. Combine the flour, cocoa, baking powder, and salt in a separate bowl. Add to the butter mixture and mix until well blended. Stir in the M&Ms.

Spread batter evenly into pan and bake for 25 to 30 minutes or until toothpick comes out clean. Let cool on wire rack and cut into squares (or thereabouts… I normally make about 9, but you can cut them smaller especially if cooking for the kiddies).

Decorate with icing sugar sprinkled through a sieve or tea strainer.

Traditional Flapjacks

A cheap and reasonably healthy treat – a great British tradition!

  • 200g unsalted butter(3/4 cup)
  • 75g brown sugar (about ½ cup)
  • 6 tbsp golden syrup (about 1/3 cup) – see here for a list of alternatives
  • 450g rolled oats (5 cups)
  • Optional – sultanas/raisins – ¼ cup

Preheat the oven to 150C (if you prefer crispy flapjacks then go for about 180)

Don’t line the tin with parchment, there is enough butter that they shouldn’t stick, and I find whenever I use baking paper it sticks and we end up eating paper as well as flapjacks – yuck. But lightly grease your tin too. If later you find your flapjacks aren’t welding together it’s because of the high butter content – we’ll troubleshoot that later on.

Melt the butter in a small pan with the sugar, syrup and a pinch of salt (or stick in the microwave but don’t overcook – usually a minute). Stir well to combine, then take off the heat.

Stir in the oats and raisins/sultanas if using.

Press the mixture evenly into the tin.

Bake for 25 minutes for chewy, 30 minutes for crunchy, or until set and golden. Then pop onto a cooling rack still in the tin.

Allow to cool completely in the tin – don’t be tempted to touch them too much  – just mark out the squares a few minutes after they come out of the oven, before they harden – also take the knife around the edge of the tin to loosen and stop them sticking.

Troubleshooting! If like me you have had trouble with the consistency of the flapjacks when you’ve removed them from the oven (i.e. if they do not stick) together take a large (larger than your current tin) flat baking tray/any tray and hold flat against the flapjack tin and flip upside down gently.

Still being very careful, remove the flapjack tin – you should see a lot of grease flowing out onto the larger tray and a lot of grease on the bottom side of the flapjacks. Let this flow out a bit, then put the flapjack tin BACK onto the flapjacks and reserve the flip so the flapjacks are now back in their tin.

Pop back in the oven for 5 minutes and dry them out a bit more. I also sometimes add a TINY bit of extra golden syrup to make them glue – but go easy, too much liquid won’t help!

If you have any comments or suggestions – please don’t hesitate! Idea sharing is great for recipes.

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