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Ham, Cheese and Veggie Muffins

I was very happy to discover this new blog (The Diary of a Fussy Eater). Amy’s a working mum of a fussy eater who’s taking a stand to get her boy to eat more healthily. If, like me, you’re struggling with your own fussy eater, I’d definitely recommend checking out Amy’s recipes and techniques.

ham, cheese and veggie muffins

Amy’s Ham and Cheese Mini Muffins are super easy and quick to make. I made them with Nicholas pretty much immediately after seeing the recipe and my fussy eater scoffed three of them as soon as they were cool enough to eat for his afternoon snack. Win!

I made a couple of little changes to her wonderful recipe. I used wholemeal self-raising flour (she uses plain flour with the addition of a couple of tablespoons of wheat bran) and I added some veg (I just couldn’t help myself!). I think you can easily get away with adding some grated vegetables as the overall flavour is still ham and cheese which kids usually love.

Like me, Amy isn’t a fan of hiding vegetables as it doesn’t help little ones learn to enjoy eating their veg. BUT that certainly doesn’t mean I don’t do it. I think the important thing is to keep offering them an assortment of vegetables, cooked in different ways to keep trying to pique their interest.

I make these muffins with Nicholas and point out all the ingredients as we add them, so I don’t think the veg can be called hidden! Our favourite grated vegetable to add is carrot, but courgette (zucchini) has gone down well and also parsnip.

This recipe is also great in that it’s very ‘forgiving’. The amounts don’t have to be exact and we’ve also made them successfully tipping everything into the bowl together (egg unbeaten), mixing until combined, so perfect for getting your munchkins involved (which is also a good way to encourage them to eat).

The muffins freeze very well and are also great in lunchboxes. And I’ve scoffed quite a few myself!

Thank you Amy for helping me get more vegetables into my own fussy eater πŸ™‚

ham, cheese and veggie muffins

HAM, CHEESE AND VEGGIE MUFFINS

Prep time: 15 mins
Cook time: 10-15 mins
Makes 12 small muffins
Freezable

1 cup of wholemeal (or plain) self-raising flour
1/2 cup grated cheddar cheese
100g cooked ham, sliced
1/2 cup milk
60g butter, melted and cooled
1 egg, lightly beaten
1/3 cup finely grated vegetables such as carrot, zucchini or parsnip
Salt and pepper (optional)

Preheat your oven to 200C. Lightly spray or grease a 12-hole muffin tin.

In a medium-sized mixing bowl, combine the flour, cheese and ham.

In a jug or small bowl, whisk together the milk, butter and egg then stir through the grated vegetable. Season with salt and pepper if desired.

Pour the wet mixture into the dry ingredients and mix until just combined (mixing too much can make your muffins dense and chewy).

Divide the mixture evenly between the muffin tin holes. Bake for 10-15 mins until golden and cooked through when tested with a skewer.

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Cooking with Tea – Spicy Black Tea Cookies

A few months ago I happily reviewed two tea flavours from the Tea India range which had recently launched in the UK. And, just quietly, my period of drinking Vanilla Chai hasn’t stopped; I still love it.

The gorgeous award-winning chef Ravinder Bhogal is now working with Tea India, creating exclusive recipes using their wonderful premium tea blends and I’ve been given a sneak peek of some of them! Keep reading after the recipe to find out how you can get free tea from Tea India as well as all of Ravinder’s recipes.

Tea India, Ravinder BhogalI have to say that using tea for something other than a cuppa intrigues me. I once tried smoking steaks with lapsang souchong tea leaves (which already have a very strong smoky aroma); the steaks picked up very little extra flavour, but the house smelt like we’d had an indoor barbecue for several days!

Now I can say I’ve been successful in cooking with tea thanks to Ravinder’s recipes. Her spicy black tea cookies are a very interesting take on the humble oatmeal cookie. While I don’t think anyone would guess the ‘secret’ ingredient of black tea, its addition, together with some other more common spices, gives the cookies a lovely and very rich warm spice. I’m nibbling on one as I type πŸ˜‰

When I made them I was in a hurry when shaping the logs (Nicholas woke up early from his nap) and so made them much wider than the recipe. This meant the log was more difficult to slice cleanly later (I had to squish some broken off pieces of dough back into the cookie shapes). Even so, I ended up with 15 cookies, cutting the slices about 2cm thick, so Ravinder must be cutting her cookies quite thickly. Maybe slice a couple of different thicknesses to see which you prefer, or just leave it up to your kids to decide if they’re helping you make them.

Ravinder suggests eating the cookies warm (who doesn’t like a cookie almost straight from the oven?); they’re just as moreish and yummy cold.

SPICY BLACK TEA COOKIES

Prep time: 12-14 mins
Cook time: 15-20 mins
Makes 12-15 biscuits
They will keep in an airtight container for up to four days

2 Tea India black tea bags (leaves only)
125g butter, softened
100g soft brown sugar
70g self-raising flour
120g oats
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1 tsp ground ginger
1 1/2 tsp mixed spice

Preheat the oven to 180C (160C fan) and line two baking trays with baking paper.

In a large bowl, cream the butter and soft brown sugar.

Add the oats, flour, tea leaves and spices, and mix until well combined.

Roll the cookie dough into a log shape approximately 5cm in diameter. Wrap in cling film and chill for 5 minutes.

To bake, remove from the fridge, unwrap and slice into 12 even sized pieces. Place on the prepared trays.

Bake for 15-20 minutes or until the edges are just golden brown.

Allow to cool on the baking trays before serving warm.

Tea India Range

Tea India has a Facebook promotion (until 3 June 2013, so be quick!),Β You & I and a Cup of Chai, where it’s giving you the chance to share a free selection of its finest Tea India blends with your friends and family. Find out more here.

Tea India will be releasing Ravinder’s recipes on their Facebook page over the next few months, including mouth-watering Cardamom Kisses using their Cardamon Chai tea. I’m lucky to be able to try these very soon, but you’re just going to have to keep checking back πŸ˜‰

Disclosure: I was sent two boxes of tea to sample and cook with. My opinions are honest and my own.

Sugar-free Anzac biscuits

Tomorrow (25th of April) is ANZAC Day. The word ‘ANZAC’ (an acronym for the Australian and New Zealand Army Corps) was coined during WW1 to refer to the Aussie and Kiwi troops in Egypt. More than 10,000 of them lost their lives during the campaign to capture Gallipoli in Turkey, which saw them landing on the penisula on the 25th of April 1915. Now ANZAC Day not only remembers these WW1 soldiers but all the Australian and New Zealand men and women who have served and died in wars.

Anzac biscuits came about supposedly when the soldiers’ loved ones wanted to send them something nutritious from home. They had to send something that could withstand a couple of months travel without refrigeration and use ingredients that were readily available during the war. The traditional Anzac biscuit of rolled oats, sugar, plain flour, coconut, butter, golden syrup or treacle, bi-carbonate of soda and boiling water was born.

sugar-free Anzac biscuits

If you would like to make the traditional Anzac biscuit there are many recipes online, including this one on the ANZAC Day Commemoration Committee website and also here (with a choice of crisp or chewy biscuits).

I experimented to make a sugar-free, more toddler-friendly version. Instead of the sugar and golden syrup (or treacle in some recipes), I used honey and applesauce (unsweetened pureed apple). The texture with these two substitutions produces a biscuit with a soft chewy centre, but you can make them less chewy by flattening out the biscuits as much as possible before cooking them.

They went down very well with Nicholas (he’s had them as snacks and also for breakfast, and they survive dunking in milk very well). Hubby, who usually doesn’t like my sugar-free experiments, has happily eaten them without complaint, while I’ve also scoffed a few feeling a lot less guilty than if they were packed with sugar.

This would be a great recipe to try making with your munchkins, but because of the honey it’s advised not to give these biscuits to little ones under 12 months old. It’s also a recipe that’s easy to halve if you don’t want to make so many biscuits.

SUGAR-FREE ANZAC BISCUITS

Prep time: 10 mins
Cook time: 15-20 mins
Makes about 30 biscuits

1 cup rolled oats
1 cup plain flour
3/4 cup desiccated coconut
125g butter
1/2 cup honey
1/4 cup applesauce / apple puree
1/2 tsp bicarbonate of soda
1 tbsp boiling water

Preheat the oven to 160C and line two oven trays with baking paper.

Gently melt the butter with the honey either in the microwave or in a small saucepan. Let cool.

Combine the rolled oats, plain flour and coconut.

Mix the bicarbonate of soda with the boiling water and add it to the cooled butter mixture.

Stir the butter and bicarbonate of soda mixture into the dry ingredients, add the applesauce or puree and mix until combined.

Place teaspoonfuls of the mixture (it’s normal that it’s quite runny) onto your prepared trays and flattened the mixture out (the thicker the biscuit the softer and more chewier the centre will be). Unlike traditional Anzac biscuits, these won’t spread any more during cooking.

Bake for 15-20 minutes until golden brown. Remove carefully from the trays (they’ll still be quite soft) to cool on a wire rack.

Other uses:

  • Use the biscuits as the base for individual unbaked cheesecakes: place a whole biscuit in the bottom of a muffin tin (lined with a paper case to get it out more easily), top with your preferred cheesecake mix and refrigerate.
  • Use broken up biscuits as a crumble topping for cooked fruit.

I’m linking this recipe to the AlphaBakes monthly challenge (this month it’s the letter ‘A’) jointly hosted by Ros from The More than Occasional Baker and Caroline from Caroline Makes.
AlphaBakes Logo

Spiced apple sugar-free flapjacks

My most popular recipe on the blog is my sugar-free flapjacks. Obviously lots of people want a healthier version of this popular treat.

I make my sugar-free version fairly regularly and even serve them up to unsuspecting adult guests, even though I initially invented them for littlies.

I’ve also experimented with other flavour combinations but usually forget to write them down. This variation is one I like a lot and can be made more spiced if serving it to big people. More importantly, I’ve managed to write it down!

spiced apple sugar-free flapjacks

Once again it’s sugar-free, using a little honey and mashed banana instead for sweetness. This time though, extra sweetness comes from soft dried apple and raisins rather than the original recipe’s dates. There’s also the addition of orange zest.

If you’re making this for toddlers, I would first try making the flapjacks with the smaller amounts of spice (1/2 tsp of cinnamon and 1/4 tsp of cloves) while adults will like more warming spice (1 tsp of cinnamon and 1/2 tsp of cloves).

There are lots of ingredients to mix so this is a great recipe to get your children involved.

SPICED APPLE SUGAR-FREE FLAPJACKS

Prep time: 10 mins
Cook time: 15-20 mins
Makes 16 squares

100g butter
3 tbsp honey
200g porridge oats
100g soft dried apple, chopped into pieces no bigger than 1cm
30g desiccated coconut
50g raisins
30g golden linseeds (or flaxseeds), plus extra for sprinkling on the top
1/2 – 1 tsp ground cinnamon
1/4 – 1/2 tsp ground cloves
zest of an orange, grated (or 1/2 tsp orange extract)
2 ripe bananas, mashed

Preheat oven to 175C and grease a 20cm square baking tin.

Gently melt the butter and honey either in a saucepan or in the microwave. Leave to cool.

In a large bowl, mix the oats, chopped dried apple, coconut, raisins, golden linseeds, cinnamon, cloves and orange zest together.

Add the mashed bananas to the melted butter and honey, stir to combine and then pour into the dry ingredients. Mix thoroughly.

Press the mixture firmly into your tin and sprinkle over the extra seeds.

Bake for 15-20 mins until golden on top and it’s coming away from the sides of the tin.

Take out of the oven and, while it’s still warm, use a knife to score where you will cut. Leave in the tin to cool before cutting.

spiced apple sugar-free flapjacks

Variations:

  • Make dairy-free flapjacks by replacing the butter with a dairy-free margarine

Tip: if you have fussy little ones, to avoid them pulling out pieces of dried fruit, chop the apple (maybe also the raisins) into very small pieces for a smoother and more homogeneous mix.

You might also like

The original sugar-free flapjacks (oat bars)

The original sugar-free flapjacks (oat bars)

Super quick dough-free pizza

Have you ever had a craving for pizza, but couldn’t be bothered making pizza dough? In the time it will take you to pick up the phone and order one, you can make your own, much healthier, dough-free pizza from what you probably already have in your kitchen.

This great idea comes from the lovely Jennifer Cheung over at Kidspot, and I love the fact you’re getting some extra veg in your diet instead of extra carbs. They’re also the perfect size for little fingers to feed themselves.

dough-free pizza

Instead of dough bases, these pizzas use slices of grilled courgette/zucchini. You could also use grilled aubergine/eggplant as the base. Toppings are entirely up to you, but be careful not to put too much on, as the vegetable bases are floppy. Why not get your munchkins to help and decide their own toppings?

The original recipe uses ready-made pasta sauce, and a ready grated and blended mix of pizza cheese, which is super convenient. I used a little tub of concentrated tomato paste and some fresh mozzarella which you just tear into small pieces with your fingers, so not that much more time-consuming.

Allow one courgette/zucchini, cut into 4 slices, per adult. Leftovers keep well in the fridge for the next day and they’d be ideal for popping into lunch boxes for a change from sandwiches.

SUPER QUICK DOUGH-FREE PIZZA

Prep time: 5 mins
Cook time: 8 – 10 mins
Makes 2 toddler servings or 1 adult serving

1 courgette/zucchini
1 tsp olive oil
4 tsp tomato paste (or ready-made pasta sauce or homemade tomato sauce)
approx. 75g fresh mozzarella, torn into small pieces
3-4 slices cooked ham, diced

Cut the ends off the courgette and then cut lengthways into 4 slices.

Heat the olive oil in a small frying pan over a med heat, and grill the courgette until just soft and golden (about 3 mins each side).

Remove from the pan. Spoon over the tomato paste or sauce, and top with ham and mozzarella. Place under a hot grill for a minute or two until the cheese is golden.

Leave to cool for a couple of minutes before serving.

dough-free pizza

Variations:

  • use slices of grilled aubergine/eggplant for the bases
  • leave out the ham for a vegetarian pizza
  • add whatever other toppings you like

What would be your perfect dough-free pizza topping?

Coconut and lime macaroons

While Easter is over, although the tempting chocolate eggs linger, I wanted to share one last Easter-inspired recipe. The great thing is you don’t need to wait until next Easter to make them. Shape them into circles or other shapes, colour them or not, and they’re a great dairy-free sweet morsel.

coconut and lime macaroon eggs

This recipe (apart from the food colouring) is an unchanged Jill Dupleix recipe and, following her food philosophy, they are a wonderfully light treat. The non-traditional lime zest and juice add a fresh zing, and contrast perfectly with the chewy coconut interior, making it easier to eat another one, and another one, and another one!

I wanted little bite-sized macaroons so I used a very small round cookie cutter approximately 4cm in diameter. I then shaped the circles into egg shapes by gently pinching the top. Jill uses the rim of a small liqueur glass to make slightly bigger macaroons. Because mine were smaller than the original recipe, they cooked quicker. Do watch them closely as they can colour very quickly at the end (as you can see in my photo!).

Nicholas had great fun helping me squish and squeeze the ingredients together with our hands. He also enjoyed cutting out the circles, but because of the sticky consistency of the mixture he needed help to get them on the baking tray.

making coconut and lime macaroons

Make them plain like the original recipe or add some food colouring for fun. We also made multi-coloured macaroons by pressing stripes of different coloured mixture together. With so few ingredients they’re perfect for your munchkin’s next cooking activity.

COCONUT AND LIME MACAROONS

Prep time: 10-15 mins
Cook time: 8-12 mins
Makes 30 bite-sized macaroons

2 egg whites
100g caster sugar
160g desiccated coconut
1 tsp grated lime (about 1/2 a lime)
1 tbsp lime juice (about 1/2 a lime)
food colouring of your choice (optional)

Preheat the oven to 180C and line a baking tray with baking paper.

Put the egg whites, sugar, coconut, lime zest and juice in a bowl, and use your hands to mix and squeeze until they lightly come together.

If using food colouring, divide you mixture into smaller bowls and add a drop or two of your desired colouring. Mix until evenly coloured.

On a piece of baking paper, press the mixture into a flat shape (about 1cm high) using wet hands.

Use a small round cookie cutter (approx. 4cm in diameter) to cut out small rounds, and place on your prepared baking tray.

Using wet hands, gently pinch the top of each circle to create oval shapes.

Bake for 8-12 minutes in the centre of the oven until just starting to colour.

Cool the macaroons on a wire rack (move them carefully as they’ll still be quite soft while they’re still warm), and store in an airtight jar.

Happy belated Easter from my own little Easter bunny!

The fluffiest pancakes

Today is pancake day (Shrove Tuesday). It marks the last day before Lent, which traditionally is a period of abstinence, and what better excuse for your family to start the day with something more indulgent than your usual cereal and toast?

Many people like their pancakes thin, similar to crepes. I’ll happily eat those but usually filled with a savoury filling. For me, sweet pancakes have to be thick and fluffy, stacked high and topped with fruit.

My lovely niece Emily made these for us for Christmas breakfast. It’s a fantastic recipe from Exclusively Food that doesn’t need an extra standing time, and produces pancakes that aren’t too sweet and are perfectly fluffy (even the first one you make).

I’ve made no changes to the original recipe – they’re absolute perfection! However, they do suggest using the back of a spoon to spread out the batter, just as you pour it into the pan, to form an 11cm diameter circle. You could do this if you prefer thinner pancakes; I just let the batter spread on its own to keep them thick (and they spread to the same diameter anyway).

The fluffiest pancakes

THE FLUFFIEST PANCAKES

Prep time: 15 mins
Cook time: 20-25 mins
Makes about 12 medium pancakes

375ml (1 1/2 cups) full cream milk
2 tsp (10ml) lemon juice
35g (2 tbsp) sugar
225g (1 1/2 cups) self-raising flour
1/4 tsp bicarbonate of soda
1 large egg
30g (1 1/2 tbsp) butter, melted
Extra butter, for greasing pan

Mix the milk, lemon juice and sugar in a medium bowl, then set aside for five minutes. (It might develop a slightly curdled look during this time.)

Sift the flour and bicarbonate of soda together into a large bowl.

Break the egg into the milk mixture and add the melted butter. Whisk until the egg has combined with the milk (don’t worry it the butter just floats on the surface).

Add the milk mixture to the flour mixture and whisk quickly until almost smooth (the batter should still have a few small lumps). Don’t overmix the batter as this can make the pancakes tough. Leave the batter to rest while the pan is preheating (at least two minutes).

Heat a large non-stick frying pan over a medium heat. Melt a little butter in the pan to lightly grease it.

For each pancake, scoop 1/4 cup of the batter into the pan. Cook only two or three at a time, otherwise turning the pancakes will be difficult.

Cook the first side until small bubbles appear and burst on the surface (about 1-2 minutes).

Turn over with a spatula and cook until the second side is lightly browned and the pancakes are cooked through (another 1-2 minutes).

Cover with a clean tea towel to keep warm while you finish making the others. Add a little more butter to grease the pan each time and keep checking the temperature of the pan as it will probably need to be reduced as the pan heats up with use.