Banana, date and coconut oat bars

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My daughter E is nearly 7 but ALREADY I am making her cringe on a regular basis. I knew this would be my role when she was, like, say 11 upwards, but not now! It all feels a bit soon for such eye-rolling. When my husband and I recently attended her Sports Day, we were given the ground rules:

“Please don’t wave or shout, Mummy.”

“OK. Not even just a little bit?”

“No, please stay quiet.”

When we couldn’t contain ourselves at one point and ended up shouting ‘C’mon!!!’ from the sidelines, she shot us a filthy look as she jumped past in her sack. I clapped a bit too loudly when she climbed in and out of some hoops and she glowered furiously at me and shook her head. When we found her during the break, she surprised me by requesting that I join in the ‘Mums race’. Oh God. I was cornered.

Ten minutes later, sweaty, red-faced and worried that I’d done my back in from running 50m up a grassy hill in bare feet (why?!) I went and found her waiting, wearing a frown.

“Did you see me go past?” I asked.

“Yes Mummy. I don’t think you should do that again.”

“What? You asked me to do the race!”

“It was a bit much for me, Mummy.”

“?”

“You looked VERY out of breath when you were running.”

What to do? At least next year, I can have a fallow year like Glastonbury. Anyway, below is a recipe to use up overripe bananas. You could call them energy bars I suppose. They are my loose interpretation of those addictive (and richly calorific) flapjack bars at Pret a Manger. These ones aren’t as packed full of sugar and don’t have any butter in them (which for once, I don’t mind) since the mashed banana acts as a binding agent in lieu of butter and the texture is a little softer, like banana bread. Even my kids allowed these bars to pass their strict vetting and rejection criteria. Trialling new creations with them is like presenting quail’s eggs in front of Stalin and hoping that I won’t get shot on sight. I am still alive. Enjoy.

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Makes 12 large rectangular bars, or 24 square flapjacks

You will need:

2 large (or 3 med) very overripe bananas*
2 cups oats (I used porridge oats)
1 tsp vanilla extract
Zest of 1 orange
2 tbsp honey
1/3 cup nut butter (I used almond/cashew blend)
1/4 cup dessicated coconut
3 tbsp seeds (pumpkin, sunflower, flax)
2 handfuls raisins
1/3 cup chopped, pitted dates
1/2 tsp sea salt (optional, but gives the flavours a nice balance)

*You know when overripe bananas go incredibly too blackened in the fruit bowl, to the point where they look like a dead person’s fingers? Don’t bin them! Even though they are almost pulp inside, they are amazing in cakes and recipes like this one – they give incredible fudgy sweetness when they are in this state. If you don’t have time to deal with your overripe bananas, still don’t bin them – put the chunks in the freezer and they’ll keep happily until you’re ready to make something with them.  In my house, overripe bananas are a gift, even when fruit flies are buzzing round them.

Preheat your oven to 180C. Line an oven dish with parchment. (Mine was 20 x 30 cm). Mash the bananas in a big bowl with a fork until they are almost liquid. See how dark brown the ones I was using were, a caramelly mush:

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Add the vanilla extract, orange zest, honey and nut butter and mix thoroughly. Then add your dry ingredients – oats, seeds, dates, raisins, coconut and salt. Mix until you get this kind of consistency:

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Press mixture into your baking dish, lined with parchment.

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Bake for approx 30 mins until lightly little browned on the top and crisp at the edges of the dish. Leave to cool before slicing into bars. They will keep in the fridge in a Tupperware for a week, and freeze well too.

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