Recipe for Healthy Granola Bars

Aldiss.com – Norfolk’s largest range of home furnishings

This week’s guest blog is a recipe for Granola Bars to keep your healthy eating on track, from Pixie Hall Cakes

First I guess I should wish you all a happy new year! It’s 2014, a new year and a new start. There’s something very comforting in welcoming a new year and leaving behind the old. It’s a real chance to make changes, create goals and take a fresh look at things. I hope you all have a happy and healthy year.

One thing I know about cake is that by January, with the excess of Christmas and the goals to lose weight and eat more healthily, nobody wants to eat it.  There’s no point in me posting a recipe for a big, rich chocolate extravaganza because the chances are that you’re just not interested. I’ve been racking my brains to come up with something understated, tasty and with some healthy ingredients.  I think I’ve done that with this recipe for Chewy Adaptable Granola Bars. Packed with fruit, oats, seeds, nuts and a modest helping of butter, sugar and honey, I felt this might fit the January bill for those wanting something sweet with a nutritious note.  These are also no bake so they are a cinch to put together as we rush back to our work routines, school runs and post-Christmas commitments.

Granola Bars

These are really adaptable. If you don’t like one of the ingredients I chose, you can sub in something that you do like. You can use your plain oats in place of muesli or granola, you could add in crispy rice cereal for a new texture, add more nuts, leave the nuts out entirely, add spices. the list goes on. Seriously, create these with whatever is lurking in your cupboards. They’ll be delicious.

The recipe may look somewhat vague (though I have told you what I chose to put in my batch). I wanted to make it easy to understand how to substitute your favourite ingredients, you’ll need to keep the total weight the same for anything that you swap out but play with the recipe to your heart’s content!

Chewy Adaptable Granola Bars

Ingredients:

50g butter (to make this dairy free, use a dairy free spread)

125g light brown sugar

100g honey

370g granola (or muesli or just plain oats)

75g dried cranberries (or raisins, chopped dried apricots or whatever else you fancy)

70g chopped hazelnuts (almonds, peanuts, pecans or you could substitute seeds such as sunflower, pumpkin or sesame)

80g dark chocolate, finely chopped (optional, you can use dairy free chocolate here too)

Method:

Line a 22cmx33cm baking tin with parchment paper and set aside.

Place the butter, sugar and honey in a large saucepan and heat, stirring occasionally, on a medium high heat until melted. Bring the mixture to the boil, turn down the heat and simmer for 2 minutes.

Take the mixture off the heat and add in the granola, fruit and nuts. Working quickly, stir the mixture thoroughly to make sure everything is coated with the honey mixture. It will be sticky!

Turn the mixture out into the prepared tin and spread evenly as best you can. Lay another piece of parchment paper on top of the mixture and press down firmly to ensure it’s compact and even.

Put the chocolate in a heatproof bowl and melt either in the microwave or over a pan of hot water.  Pour the chocolate over the granola mix and spread evenly. Set aside and allow to cool for 15-30 minutes or until set.

Using a sharp knife, cut into bars and enjoy.

Linds Hall runs Pixie Hall Cakes in Fakenham and can be found selling her delicious baking at Fakenham Farmers’ Market on the 4th Saturday of each month.

Follow her on Twitter @PixieHallCakes

Photographs by Keith Osborn Photography

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Looking after Leather Upholstery – Part 3

Aldiss.com – Norfolk’s largest range of home furnishings

This week’s guest blog is from Glyn Charnock, Owner of Chameleon Cleaning.  Glyn is also a Director of the National Carpet Cleaners Association.

Not everything sold as leather really is leather!

Leather Sofa

Some products which look and feel like leather of various sorts aren’t really leather at all. Reputable retailers like Aldiss clearly label leather look products as such. Some of the most common products which are mistaken for leather are described below.

Suede and Nubuck

Suede and Nubuck are leathers where the surface has been sanded or abraded, giving a felt like finish. This is very rarely used on upholstery as it is too delicate to withstand the rigors of this type of use, although it is not completely unknown. Extremely expensive, it is rare to find a whole suite covered in suede, it is more often found on dining chairs, single armchairs or very occasionally sofas.

By far the most absorbent type of leather, real suede and nubuck soils very easily and the surface flattens and matts. It is very difficult to clean, as anyone who has ever owned a suede jacket will know.

Cleaners and protectors suitable for other types of leather must not be used on real suede and nubuck as they will cause stains and damage the nap. Only products specially formulated for these types of leather should be used.

Most people who think they have a suede 3 piece suite actually have a type of fabric called a “flock”. These are bonded fabrics, where the pile or nap is glued to a backing fabric to mimic the look and feel of suede. They are often given a trade name such as “Buffalo” and “Alcantara”, and can be very convincing imitations. Sometimes the only way to tell is to open a cushion and look at the back.

Bonded Leather

Bonded leather is made from the scraps and offcuts of leather which are ground to loose fibres. This is reconstituted in to a sheet by mixing the leather with latex and finished to look like pigmented leather.

Bonded leathers can be soft and feel like finished split. They are easily cleaned, like pigments and are very cheap to produce. It should not be sold as real leather.

In recent years, some bonded leathers have shown a tendency for the finish to crack and peel off after only a few years of normal use and this is very difficult to repair.

E. Leather

This is Engineered Leather. Similar to bonded leather, it uses leather ground to a powder so there is no fibre structure to the product. Very much like a sheet of plastic or rubber, it is often used in aircraft seating as it is much lighter than real leather. Not always a cheaper alternative to leather, it should, of course, not be sold as real leather.

PU / Polyurethane / Vinyl

These are imitation leathers made from various types of plastic. Very cheap, easy to look after and sometimes difficult to tell from the real thing, there is nothing “wrong” with any of these products. Unfortunately some unscrupulous retailers try to pass them off as real leather, so look for the “real leather” symbol.

Conclusion

If you are thinking of buying leather upholstery, choose a leather type which will suit your home and pocket.

Anilines are expensive and more difficult to look after, but are the best quality leather and have the most natural look and feel. If you like the natural look and feel of real leather including its imperfections and are prepared to look after it, this is the premium product of choice.

Pigmented leathers suit most peoples’ lifestyle and budget, come in a huge range of colours styles and patterns, are hard wearing and relatively easy to look after. Mid-range in price and relatively easy to maintain, this is great choice for upholstery which may not get looked after too often, but won’t be neglected.

Bicast, bonded and fake leathers are all finished with plastic so are cheap, very hard wearing and easy to clean, so suit a more “rugged” home environment, but if you like the natural look and feel of leather are probably not for you.