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!

The End of Maternity Leave

 

 

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His first morning at home

I always knew that my maternity leave would come to an end, but when I received an email from my boss with the subject ‘return to work meeting’ I was utterly gobsmacked! Have I really spent a WHOLE year off work? The answer it would seem, is yes – and so begins my transition from full-time Mum to full-time working Mum; and to be honest I’m not sure how I feel about it yet.

 

I tend to get the same, clichéd responses from people when I mention returning to work, that tend to revolve around the idea that it will be ‘nice for me to have adult conversations again’ or that it will be good to do something ‘just for me’, or that it will be ‘a nice break from being at home’. I’m pretty sure that none of these people have ever worked full-time with a baby. Don’t get me wrong, sometimes (usually after a long day with a baby that hasn’t napped) I do think that being at work would be easier than being a stay- home mum, but this is short-lived. The reality, I feel, is going to be quite different! I like to think I’m organised, but some days I struggle to get my son and I dressed, fed and ready to leave the house by 9am, so how I will manage all this an hour earlier is utterly beyond me! I also haven’t been away from my job long enough to describe it as ‘a break’, I can still vividly remember leaving late, missing lunch breaks and running around like a headless chicken trying to meet deadlines. The truth is though, that I love my job, I always have. I have wonderful work colleagues and I want to return to work, I just have some concerns.

Aside from the fact that I still can’t do up any of the skirts and dresses I used to wear to work, the most obvious concern I have is leaving Will at nursery.  I thought choosing a nursery would be really difficult. I planned to visit lots, I read up on what questions I should ask and what I should look for. In the end though, it was and easy decision. I visited a Montessori nursery and instantly felt it was the right place for Will.  As with all parenting, sometimes its best to just go with your gut. So at least I’m content that he’s going to be looked after somewhere excellent. But I still haven’t really got to grips with the idea of leaving him every day; I haven’t left him for longer than a few hours yet, so that’s going to be a struggle for him and for me.

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First sand castle (well, sort of, it was my sandcastle really, he bashed at it with a  rake and then face-planted it).

 

I’m sure I’m not the only Mum who is concerned that they may have de-skilled after a year at home looking after their children. My profession (I’m a hospital pharmacist) changes rapidly and keeping abreast of the changes takes work; work that for the last year I haven’t done – at all! What I have done however, is gained a whole range of new, transferable, and infinitely more useful skills. I never appreciated just how much us Mums multitask: I can now do a huge number of things at once, one-handed, whilst wrestling a baby. I don’t expect my drinks to be hot or my meals to be on time, and I can (just about) function on next to no sleep! Us Mums are able to prioritise everything but ourselves on a daily basis; parenting truly makes you selfless and this is a wonderful attribute. So de-skilled? Absolutely not!

If Motherhood has taught me anything in the last year though, its that I am so much stronger, and so much more capable than I thought I was. Looking after a baby can be a real challenge, and I think we all have days when we feel we can’t cope, but somehow we muddle along and get through it, one day at a time. Going back to work inevitably going to be a challenge; but it can’t be harder than the first couple of days with a newborn! So for now I’m going to be optimistic about my return, enjoy my last week of maternity leave and buy a new work wardrobe!

If anyone has any tips to make the transition easier I’d love to hear them!

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First stay in a hotel