I have a few pet hates with food, and most of them have to do with kids lunchboxes. Poppers are one – overpackaged, overprocessed sugar and artificial flavourings with most of the good stuff you associate with the word “fruit” taken out. Muesli bars are another.
There’s plenty of research around to justify my rant. A Parents Jury study found “While we set out to congratulate a healthier snack bar alternative that lives up to its marketing claims, we simply couldn’t find one among the 21 products identified as a suitable option for children. Every product identified by parents was high in sugar, and over two thirds of the products contained moderate to high levels of fat.”
The much-marketed LCMs were amongst the worst – “This product should not be recommended as a regular lunch box food. It has very little dietary fibre and contains a harmful level of saturated fat. Worst of all, it has as much sugar as many types of confectionery, making it a disaster from both a dental and nutritional viewpoint.”
So this is the first in what I hope will be a series of postings taking on muesli bars. I have a group of reviewers lined up. Their brief is to take my challenger to school each week and rate it in the comments, for how it tasted, how well it satisfied hungriness, and how it rated in trade value with their friends.
The rules are that the Challenger must be within the limits of the Witches Kitchen version of healthy and ethical, and also has to be quick and easy enough to make that it is actually a realistic option for busy parents (or kids themselves).
Challenger Number 1: Mango Lunch Box Cake
There are several bits of this recipe that don’t seem right and you’ll just have to trust me! It has no sugar, no butter or oil, only 5 ingredients (not counting water), and though it takes an hour to bake, it takes only 10 minutes to make. But it really is sweet enough for even the most sweet-toothed kid, it is moist, it lasts well, and mangoes are a super food, so it’s super healthy. With mangoes in season the way they are right now, it’s also very economical.
450 gm chopped up mango and juice. (This will be about 2 large mangoes or 3 smaller ones.)
500 g mixed dried fruit – the kind without cherries or peel.
½ cup water (or a little more if your mangoes are not as juicy)
1 ½ teaspoons bicarb
1 ½ cups wholemeal SR flour
Put the mango, fruit and water in a stainless steel or enamel pot, bring to the boil, and simmer uncovered for two minutes. Allow to cool while you grease a 14cm x 23 cm loaf pan and line it with baking paper. Lightly beat two eggs and sift the bicarb and flour together. Mix with the mango and fruit, pour into the pan, and bake in a moderately slow oven (160C) for 45 minutes to an hour, until a skewer comes out clean.