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I adapted this recipe by Xanthe Clay at the weekend and the result was lovely – and SO easy to make.  They are cooked in a frying pan rather than an oven, stick together really well and have a slight crunch.  Unlike “normal” sugar, molasses is unrefined so still contains many nutrients.  It has a sort of toffee flavour and can be a great choice for kids as it’s high in iron.  Using the sunflower and pumpkin seeds raw at the end rather than toasting them on the pan will increase the nutritional value of the bars further but there will be a bit less crunch.  Use organic ingredients where possible.  Delicious as a snack or lunchbox filler.
oat&seed frying pan bars 003
Makes 24 small squares
25g gluten-free porridge oats* (or use normal porridge oats if you can eat gluten)
85g virgin coconut oil
55g sesame seeds
55g sunflower seeds
55g pumpkin seeds
85g dried chopped unsulphured* apricots, blueberries, raisins or sultanas
85g raw cane molasses
* Check out my “larder & shopping” section for where to buy all unusual ingredients

1. Line a baking tin around 27x18cm with silicone/baking paper cut to size
2. Heat a large frying pan and add the oats, sesame seeds, sunflower seeds and pumpkin seeds.  Cook for about 10 minutes, stirring often at the beginning but more or less continuously toward the end to stop the mix burning.  Its ready when you can hear the sesame seeds starting to pop and see the oats beginning to turn golden.
3. Tip into a ceramic or metal bowl or saucepan to cool and mix in the dried fruit.
4. Put the coconut oil with the molasses or honey in a saucepan. Heat the pan gently until the butter/coconut oil melts – do not allow to bubble.
5. Pour contents of the pan into the oat mixture.  Stir until all the dry ingredients are well coated.
6. Tip the mix into the tin.  Press down very firmly (it helps to put another sheet of non-stick parchment on tip).  Allow to cool and then cut into 24 small squares or rectangles.  Store in an airtight container for up to 10 days.  After that, they tend to soften but can be firmed up by putting them on a baking sheet in the oven set to 160C and cooking for 15 minutes.

Why this is better for you:
If you are starting to convert your children (or yourself) from a high sugar diet then over time you can reduce the quantity of molasses or other sweetening you use in home baking.  Cravings for very sweet foods are caused by mineral and vitamin deficiencies.  As these are addressed, people start to be able to taste and enjoy foods which are less sweet.  Oats are a much better choice than wheat if you want to avoid upsetting blood sugar balance as oat fibre slows digestion down, keeping you fuller for longer.  Nuts/seeds also help delay the release of sugars (from grains, fruit and molasses) into the bloodstream.  This helps balance blood sugar levels to help energy levels, brain function and immunity.  This recipe is free of harmful refined vegetable oils.  Virgin coconut oil is a useful source of medium chain triglycerides , that are used by the body directly to make energy instead of being stored as fat.  The oils in the sesame seeds, although damaged by heating, cannot be absorbed by the body as whole sesame seeds are not digested (they are too small so pass through and out the other end intact!).  As I mentioned before, you could avoid adding the pumpkin seeds and sunflower seeds until the end to boost the nutritional value of these bars further. Raw nuts and seeds contain beneficial omega 6 oils.