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This is porridge to convert non-porridge eaters!

I’m not a huge porridge fan normally.  I know oats are really really good for you – full of fibre, lower bad cholesterol, lots of  B vitamins, good range of minerals, phytochemicals, etc etc.  And the kind of soluble fibre –  beta-glucan – slows both the rise in blood glucose and the fall. So it keeps you feeling not just full but also clear-headed and energetic and not craving a sugar hit at morning tea time.  But I find ordinary porridge just a bit too bland unless you add lots of sweetener which undoes the benefits of the low GI.

Apples are right in season now, just for another month or so, and they’re hugely healthy too, with phytonutrients called polyphenols that protect against a range of diseases. I’ve topped it with pomegranate, just because I had a fresh picked one and it made it look beautiful! And home-made low fat yoghurt, yet another superfood.

It takes just 5 minutes, literally, to make in a pressure cooker, but only 10 minutes or so even in a pot.

(The Breakfast Cereal Challenge is my 2011 challenge – a year’s worth of breakfast recipes that are quick and easy enough to be a real option for weekdays, and that are preferable, in nutrition, ethics, and taste,  to the overpackaged, overpriced, mostly empty packets of junk food marketed as “cereal” .)

The Recipe:

This recipe makes one adult or teenager sized serve. Multiply by as many people as you need.

It’s the little detail bits that really make this.

  • Put ½ cup of plain rolled oats (not quick oats) in a bowl and pour over 1½ cups of boilng water. Let it soak for a minute
  • Dice 1 green apple into small but not tiny dice – about 12 mm.
  • Melt one teaspoon of butter and one teaspoon of honey in a pressure cooker.
  • Add the apple and a pinch of cinnamon, and fry for just a minute stirring just once, till the apple absorbs the butter and the bottom of the pot starts to brown. (You want caramelisation, not stewing).
  • Pour in the soaked oats, and add
    • little pinch of salt
    • little squeeze of lemon juice (a teaspoon or so)
    • a dessertspoon of sultanas (organic ones are worth it)
  • Put the lid on the pressure cooker, bring to pressure, and pressure cook for 2 minutes. Or, in a pot, simmer for 7 or 8 minutes.

Serve with a good dollop of plain yoghurt, and quarter of a pomegranate if you want to be fancy!




Last week of the school term, and it’s been hard finding space for Muesli Bar Challenge recipes in amongst everything else.  But this week is the non-planting week by the lunar calendar, and though I don’t follow it very religiously, it is also a bit too wet for planting (ironically – mostly I complain about it being too hot and dry for planting, but I avoid stepping too much on very wet soil to avoid compacting it).

I have been waiting for apple season to post this recipe.  It is, like all the Muesli Bar Challenge recipes, fast and easy enough to knock up on a weeknight, and low fat,  low sugar, low GI enough to belong in everyday school or work lunch boxes.  Apples are right in season now, and there’s good evidence that the polyphenols in apples (especially in the skin, and missing in the juice) are protective against a big range of diseases, including a heap of different cancers. This recipe also features oats, which are a superfood –  a low calorie,  low GI carbohydrate, with good amounts of B vitamins and several minerals, and a kind of fibre that is really effective at stopping cholesterol being deposited in your arteries.

The Recipe:

Makes 8 slices (You need a shallow baking dish of 8 slice capacity, like a pie dish but preferably square).

Pare or thinly slice 3 green apples.  The wide blade on my grater is a good tool for this, but you could use a mandoline or just a knife.

Put them in a pot with:

  • 1 teaspoon butter
  • 1 teaspoon honey
  • 1 dessertspoon sultanas
  • 1 dessertspoon lemon juice
  • Good pinch of  cinnamon
  • Little pinch of cloves

As soon as the apples start cooking they will release juice, so you want just enough water to start them off.  A wet saucepan should be enough.  Cook over a fairly low heat, stirring frequently, for 5 or 10 minutes till they are soft and starting to caramelise.

While they are cooking, in a food processor, blend together:

  • 1 cup rolled oats
  • 1 cup wholemeal self raising flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 40 grams butter
  • 2 dessertspoons honey
  • 4 dessertspoons low fat plain yoghurt

You should end up with a soft biscuit dough.

Take half the dough and press it into the base of a greased baking dish.  It should be about 1.25 cm (half an inch) thick.  Spread the apple mixutre on top of the base.

Put a little flour on your bench and roll the other half of the dough out with a rolling pin to fit on top.  Press it down so that it is touching the apple mix.  Prick decoratively with a fork all over.  You can also sprinkle a teaspoon of raw sugar decoratively on top if you like.

Bake in a moderate oven for 30 minutes until golden.  (I forgot these and cooked them just a bit too long – they are a little darker than I would like.)



This is my current favourite breakfast, and the next in the Breakfast Cereal Challenge. The first of the new season apples have just arrived at our local Farmers Market, coming down from the Tablelands (within our 160 km range as the crow flies), and there are still some late season peaches too, so just for a few weeks the seasons overlap.

Living with stand-alone solar power, you become very aware of what an energy guzzler refrigeration is.  Our little, 60 litre, 12 volt electric fridge is the biggest electricity consuming thing in our household, by a long way.  So I hate to think how much power is consumed, and how much greenhouse gas is created, cold storing apples.

One of the benefits of refusing to buy cold-stored apples is that you stop taking humble apples for granted and really appreciate these  first of the season ones.

Apple season is all over by the end of May in my part of the world.  If you live further south, it probably won’t start till next month and though the season is longer, it won’t last into spring.  Apples cold store reasonably well, but who would choose a cold-stored apple when there are fresh, just picked strawberries instead? And conversely, who would choose strawberries imported from USA and treated with methyl bromide, when you can buy fresh, crisp, sweet new season apples?

The Recipe:

Like all the Breakfast Cereal Challenge recipes, this one is simple, fast and healthy enough for a work and school day mornings.

This quantity is the amount I make for me.  You can double it, but don’t try to do too much at once or the fruit will stew.

Chop an apple and a peach into bite sized pieces.

Heat a little macadamia oil or butter in a heavy pan and saute the chopped fruit, along with a handful of  pepitas, a handful of sunflower seeds, and a handful of raw rolled oats.  Sprinkle over a teaspoon of cinnamon. Cook for just a few minutes, stirring gently occasionally, till the fruit starts to caramelise and the seeds toast.

Serve warm with a good dollop of plain, low fat yoghurt.

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I’ve had a lovely weekend with my Brisbane based sister, sewing and cooking and solving the problems of the family and the world. And as a result, she has taken home a batch of this week’s Muesli Bar Challenge for my 12 year old niece and 7 year old nephew to review this week.

Lumberjack cupcakes are based on in-season apples and get most of their sweetness from dates. They use wholemeal flour and they’re fairly low fat, so they pass the Witches Kitchen criteria for ethical and healthy. The recipe is quick and easy and forgiving, so busy parents or kids themselves can make them, and they pass the lunch box test of surviving a one-way trip to school well, and never needing to survive a two-way trip!

The Recipe:

Put 250 grams of dates in a pot with 2/3 of a cup of water and bring to the boil. Whizz with a stick blender (or in a food processor) for just a minute to break up the dates but not totally puree them.

Peel and finely dice two large granny smith apples, and add to the dates in the pot, along with another 2/3 cup of water and 1 ½ teaspoons of bicarbonate of soda. Cook, stirring for just a few minutes to soften the apples. Let the mix cool a little while you make the batter.

Cream together 2 desertspoons of butter and 2 desertspoons of brown sugar with a teaspoon of vanilla essence. Beat in 2 eggs.

Mix in 1 ½ cups of plain wholemeal flour and half a teaspoon of baking powder, then fold in the apple and date mix.

Spoon the batter into patty cake papers, filling them quite full – they rise but not by a huge amount. Bake in a moderate oven for 25 minutes until they are nearly done.


Meanwhile, melt together 2 desertspoons of butter, 2 desertspoons of brown sugar, 2 desertspoons of milk, and 5 desertspoons of dessicated coconut.

Spread a teaspoon full of topping on each patty cake and return to the oven for another 10 minutes, by which time they should be cooked so they bounce back when pressed, a skewer comes out clean, and the coconut on top is just starting to turn toasty.

Makes about 20 cupcakes


The kids are back at school after the holidays, so it is time to get back into lunch box baking. This is the ninth in my Muesli Bar Challenge series.

For those of you who are new to the site, the Challenge is about my bet that it is possible to make lunch box treats that fit the Witches Kitchen definition of healthy and ethical,  and that my school age reviewers prefer to the overpackaged junk food marketed as suitable for kids’ lunch boxes.  They also have to be be able to compete with supermarket muesli bars in terms of quick and easy, and in terms of cost.

The reviewers come from four different, very normal families and range from kindergarden to high school ages.

This week’s Challenger uses pecans and apple (both in season) and a secret ingredient – beetroot.  Beets are a super food, rich in anti-oxidants, vitamins, minerals and fibre, and a specially rich source of folic acid, which is important for whole range of  functions. Chocolate is also a good source of anti-oxidants and actually good for you in a healthy recipe!

The Recipe

I used a 23cm round cake pan for this recipe, but it would probably slice up more neatly in a square pan.  Grease and line the pan with greaseproof paper.  Turn the oven on to heat up.

Sift together 1 cup of wholemeal self-raising flour, half a cup of cocoa powder, and one teaspoon of baking powder.

Mix in half a cup of dark brown sugar, half a cup of chopped pecans, and a quarter of a cup of choc chips.

Add a cup of grated raw beetroot and one large granny smith apple also grated.

In another bowl, blend together three eggs, half a cup (150 ml) mild flavoured oil, (I like to use grapeseed oil), and a teaspoon of vanilla.  Add to the other bowl and stir together to combine.

Turn out into the paper-lined cake pan and bake for 30 minutes or so in a moderate oven, till a skewer comes out clean.



This recipe was my son’s all-time favourite lunch box  baking for all of his high school years.  Unfortunately for him, there is only a small window of opportunity when both apples and passionfruit are in season.  But this is it! The first of the new season Granny Smith apples are just starting to become available here in northern NSW, and there are still a few weeks left in the summer passionfruit season.

This is the fourth in my “Muesli Bar Challenge” series.  So far I have three from three, but last week’s Choc Chip Cookies are the one to beat!  The challenge is a lunchbox baking recipe, that is fast and easy, healthy, ethical, and that my school age reviewers actually prefer to the junk food marketed as “muesli bars”.

The Recipe

Quantities are a bit difficult to specify for this recipe, because apples come in lots of sizes, and passionfruit are variably juicy.  You are aiming for a muffin-type batter, which is not quite as thick as a standard cake batter, sort of between a pikelet and a cake batter, and not over-mixed.  The apple needs to be diced fairly small or they tend to break up.  The recipe is pretty forgiving though.

Into a bowl mix (in more or less this order):

  • 1 large or 2 small peeled and finely diced green apples (about a cup of diced apple)
  • Pulp from 5 passionfruit
  • 2 good desertspoons of plain, low fat yoghurt
  • 2 good desertspoons of butter, melted
  • ¼ cup milk
  • 2 good desertspoons of brown sugar
  • 1 beaten egg
  • Pinch cinnamon and a small pinch of cloves (careful – it’s easy to overdo it with cloves)
  • Enough wholemeal SR flour to make a thickish pancake batter – about 2/3 of a cup full.

Mix just enough to combine,  and spoon into greased muffin tins.  A small circle of greaseproof paper in the bottom of each tin helps the muffins come out easily.

Bake in a moderate oven for 30 minutes or so, until a skewer comes out clean.

Makes 7 medium muffins (unless Casey finds them as they come out of the oven).