Carrot and Spinach Buttermilk Muffins

I started writing this blog post this morning, Will woke up at an eye-watering 5am so I had some time before breakfast! Anyway, I then found another million things to do so thought I would leave writing until later in the day. One of today’s tasks was the weekly shop. I’ve done a lot of online food shopping since having Will but I must admit I don’t like it. I like the convenience, but I absolutely hate having no control of which food is chosen for me. I’m normally the person who picks up every single watermelon in the shop before deciding that the very first one I looked at was in fact, just fine! Shopping with Will has become a bit of a breeze recently though as he is happy to sit in the trolly, eating and nosing his way around the shop! I tend to take him a piece of fruit to eat en-route. Once home, with Will napping I decided to sit down to write a little more. I made myself a cup of tea, sat down at my desk and went to tuck my chair in. In doing so I happened to notice my feet, and it was at this precise moment that I realised I had gone all around town and to the supermarket in ODD SHOES! They didn’t even nearly resemble a pair! I think its fair to say that early mornings coupled with moving house and finishing maternity leave is starting to take its toll… on my wardrobe choices if nothing else! Thankfully I’m not making such mistakes in the kitchen!

I’ve been frantically filling my freezer with food so that when we begin moving house lunches and supper will be taken care of. Snacks and meals that can be eaten hot or cold, at any time of day are going to be a necessity over the next few weeks, especially as the house we are moving into is still derelict, and I go back to work next week! This recipe is something I make quite often, we have them as snacks, with big bowls of soup or as an alternative to bread.

Savoury muffins are something I never really enjoyed; I found most recipes came out heavy, ‘healthy tasting’ (code for dull) and with a chewy, often unpleasant texture. I then came across a  recipe that used buttermilk and I decided to experiment. The following is the result of a few months experimenting with different flavours. These are delicious, delicately spiced with cumin and coriander, but not overpoweringly so. The recipe looks like it contains lots of raising agents, and to be fair it does, but the resulting muffin is light, fluffy and not at all greasy like shop-bought sweet muffins can be.

The key with this recipe, as with soda bread, is to act quickly once you have added the buttermilk into the batter. The buttermilk is added last and the muffins will be lightest and most fluffy if they get into the oven as quickly as possible, no pressure! I’ve probably made the recipe sound scary now, but they are incredibly easy to make.

The vegetables can be swapped for alternatives such as butternut squash, Kale, courgette or sweet potato, or anything else you fancy/have to hand. It goes without saying that these are an excellent way of sneaking vegetables into fussy children. More than this though, they are actually a brilliant way of celebrating just how delicious vegetables can be! Savoury muffins are also a great food to give when weaning as the texture is softer and more moist than bread. Will has them along side soup to dunk, or just with some cheese for a simple, quick lunch.

Ingredients

This makes 12 generous muffins

  • 250g Wholemeal self raising flour
  • 80g unsalted butter (salted is fine too if not cooking for little ones)
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp bicarbonate of soda
  • 200ml buttermilk
  • 150g of grated carrot (roughly 3 medium carrots)
  • 1 small red onion, diced
  • 2 large handfuls of spinach
  • 1 tsp cumin
  • 1/2 tsp ground coriander

Method

  • Melt the butter un the microwave, add a tablespoon of it to a frying pan and pour the rest into a large mixing bowl
  • Peel and dice an onion, add this to the frying pan and soften in the butter.
  • Once the onion is soft add the cumin and coriander, switch the heat off and let the spices warm through
  • To the bowl of melted butter add the flour, eggs, baking powder and bicarb, mix to combine
  • Peel and grate the carrot
  • Chop your raw spinach finely
  • Add the carrot, softened onion and spinach to the other ingredients and combine
  • Finally pour in the buttermilk, combine quickly and spoon into muffin cases as efficiently as you can. The mixture will start to foam and become light and airy as soon as the buttermilk and bicarb react.
  • Bake for 17-20 minutes, until golden and hollow sounding when the bases are tapped.

These keep for 5 days in a sealed container but they freeze well too. I have a freezer full of them now for Will’s packed lunch, and my own!

Butternut Squash Houmous 

I’ve been rather silent this week as we are currently in the middle of renovating the barn we are moving into. We only have 4 weeks to finish it so it’s been rather hectic! At the moment it’s seems miles off being finished but I’m assured it will be ready on time! All our spare time has been spent painting, sanding and doing general donkey work to speed the job up. I wouldn’t mind moving into a house that wasn’t finished a few years ago, but now we have Will I am much more anxious that things are finished. Busy baby who is furniture cruising and into everything plus building site- no thank you! In fact, the whole moving with a baby scenario is bonkers. Filling one box takes hours as Will likes to play boo/needs a feed/doesn’t want to pack! Every night I look at the house and wonder what I can actually pack- babies need a lot of things every day, it’s all going to have to be packed at the last minute.  I certainly haven’t stopped cooking though! If anything I’m cooking more as I find it a brilliant way to relax. 

I have made this particular recipe for years and years, but have avoided sharing it for one reason and one reason alone – the spelling of the word ‘houmous’! There are SO many versions out there and I simply wasn’t sure what to write. Then I made it the other day and Will was such a huge fan of it that I decided to bite the bullet, choose a spelling and share the recipe. 
Houmous features in our weekly meals quite often, I find it handy to keep in the fridge to add to sandwiches, salads or as an impromptu snack. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, but having healthy snacks to hand really ensures I make better food decisions (most of the time – sometimes I still decide that a ginormous bar of cadburys whole nut is completely necessary)! 

While there is very little wrong with some shop bought versions, homemade really does taste better. I use my nutribullet to blitz the ingredients making it both quick and low on washing up (vital in my kitchen).  It can also be made from mostly store cupboard ingredients. 

Houmous is also an excellent food for babies and children. This version is full of protein and fibre from the chickpeas, and the butternut squash adds a lovely sweetness that children love. They can scoop it with their favourite vegis or breadsticks and it’s completely free of salt, stabilisers, preservatives or other unnecessary ingredients the shop bought offerings include. 

I have substituted the squash for carrots or sweet potato in the past, but the squash is my favourite. 

Ingredients

  • 400g butternut squash, in cubes
  • Half a can of chickpeas 
  • 2 cloves of garlic, skin on
  • 2 Tbsp tahini 
  • Juice of half a lemon
  • 40ml extra virgin olive oil 
  • Sprinkle of smoked paprika

Method 

  • Peel and cube the butternut squash and roast in in a little olive oil with the garlic cloves until it is soft and browning at the edges (about 30 minutes)
  • Squeeze the garlic cloves to remove ththe sweet cooked garlic from their skins and place in the blender with the squash 
  • Drain the chickpeas and add them to blender with the lemon juice, tahini and olive oil. 
  • Blend until you have a textured paste 
  • Pop in th fridge to chill completely 
  • To serve I like to drizzle it with some more olive oil and some smoked paprika.

This is perfect with crudités or breadsticks as well as being great in wraps or as an accompaniment to a salad. It keeps in the fridge for 3 days if covered, although it’s normally eaten before this in our house! 

Well, that was my little break, now it’s time to choose bathroom tiles! 

Apple Crumble Bites 

Will was born last summer and this meant I started weaning him in January- the 25th of January to be exact. Someone bought us a baby record book and I have thanked them so many times as I have written so much down that I would otherwise have forgotten in my sleep-deprived new Mum fog! I loved the process of introducing him to food, both as purees and finger foods, but I really struggled with fruit. Winter fruit in Britain is awful, or I should say winter fruit in Britain that babies can eat is awful! I tried, on a number of occasions to buy melons or strawberries but buying these fruits out of season is a futile exercise – they tasted of swede! It seemed that the only fruits on his menu for the first month or two were apples, pears and dried fruits such as figs, prunes and apricots.

The other problem with winter fruit is that its not that suitable to eat as finger food. On numerous occasions I bought pears that actually went off before they became soft enough for my little one to gum, and raw apples were definitely not going to be suitable. Inspiration finally struck when I was making a crumble for a family lunch. It occurred to me that aside from at the sugar that most crumbles are filled with, it was a pretty baby-friendly pudding. I decided to deconstruct it and these apple crumble bites were the outcome.

The apple is baked and therefore soft enough for young babies to gum or chew, whilst the crumble coating is sugar free yet delicious and turns the humble apple chunk into a really tasty pudding or snack. These have now become a staple make in my kitchen. I offer them to Will on their own, or as an edible spoon with a yoghurt or fruit puree dip. My husband and I enjoy them with yoghurt and maple syrup, on top of rice pudding (amazing) or even with a bowl of warm custard! They are lovely warm or cold and keep well in the fridge for 48 hours.

The ingredients you need are limited, they are fast to make and healthy. They also increase the nutrient and calorie content of fruit for your little one- always good as they need plenty to keep them growing!

 

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Ingredients

  • 2 Tbsps rolled oats
  • 2 Tbsp ground almonds
  • 1 tsp cinnamon (or to taste, you could also use ginger)
  • 2 apples

 

Method

  • Peel and core 2 apples and chop each apple into 6 chunks
  • Place in an oven tray and pop in a preheated oven at 180c
  • In a small bowl combine the oats, ground almonds and cinnamon
  • After 5 minutes pull the apple out of the oven- it should be warmed through and ever so slightly damp, this will ensure the dry ingredients stick to it.
  • Ensuring the apple isn’t too hot to touch, coat each slice in the dry ingredients and place on a lined baking tray or a cupcake tray.
  • Bake at 180c for 15 minutes until the apple feels soft and the crumble coating is golden.img_6236

 Now that summer fruit is available I have been making these less. But I made them again the other day as the weather has turned really damp and grey here and we were all in need of something cozy for brunch. I fell in love with them all over again and had to share them with you.

What are your favourite ways to use apples? I’d love to hear!