Sunday, April 17, 2011

"Yummy in my tummy Mummy"

Apple Butterscotch Muffins

"Mmmmmmm, these are so yummy! Mummy, you have to put these on your blog". My heart melted and I was somewhat shocked my 4 year old had taken in my blog chat in recent weeks. To put this in context, I've been struggling in the last week to get a reaction like that from any food I have put before my kids. I had really become quite despondent by yet another screwed up face, 2 days ago at dinner. So the timing was great. I'll be honest, as I perused the aisles in the supermarket yesterday, I considered buying some ready made, kid friendly meals for them. It's takes a lot for me to that!

Anyway, my confidence and resolve to feed them healthy home-made food has been restored. Last night I made the simplest chicken dinner; an old fashioned Sunday Dinner in fact (even though it was Saturday night), with whole roast chicken, roast potatoes and asparagus. The munchkins gobbled up the chicken and potatoes heartily, but the asparagus was a bridge too far. A major step in the right direction I decided.

While I didn't take photos, I do think the recipe is well worth a mention. I was inspired by a Delia Smith recipe Roast Chicken recipe in her How to Cook Book 2. And as usual she came up trumps big style.

Simply put, I smeared the inside of my whole chicken with a tablespoon of softened butter, mixed with a few cloves of minced garlic and a couple tablespoons of chopped rosemary. Then I cut a lemon in half, chopped it into 4 wedges and stuffed them in too. Roasted the bird at 450°F for 54 mins then dropped it to 400° until the internal temperature hit 165°F. Then I removed the bird to rest, tented it with foil, and put the roasting pan on a burner with the lemons from the inside of the chicken. I added about a glass of white wine to the drippings, stirred up the tasty bits on the bottom and simmered the lot until gravy consistency.

All in all it was totally simple and delicious Roast Chicken, particularly with the gravy. Try it!

Anyway, back to the reason my daughter wanted me to write up my blog tonight; Apple Butterscotch Muffins. I've been experimenting for a few weeks with Lorna Sass's muffin recipe. She has the bright idea of making up a big batch of the dry ingredients for muffins, and storing in the fridge for quick muffins anytime. I'm all over the idea, and really like her base of wholewheat flour and oats. However, I've been testing out how little fat I can get away with and still have them taste good. Also, what combination of "add ins" we like best in this house has been under debate. By far the best received to date, has been today's combination of apple and butterscotch chips.

Muffin Mix
(based on a recipe in Lorna Sass' book Whole Grains for Busy People)


5 cups whole wheat pastry flour
2 cups old fashioned oats
2 cups sugar
1 1/2 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda

Mix the flour, oats, sugar and salt together in a bowl then sift in the baking powder and soda. Mix well and store in a large box or ziplock bag in the fridge for up to 4 months.

Note: Don't be put off by the volume of mix this makes; if the apple butterscotch muffins don't appeal to you, this mix is still well worth making up as I will be using it for more healthy muffin recipes in time.

Apple Butterscotch Muffins

Makes approx 16 muffins


2 large eggs
1 cup buttermilk, well shaken
1/4 cup canola oil
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
3 cups muffin mix (stirred the lighten before measuring)
1 cup peeled, chopped apples
1/4 cup butterscotch chips


  1. Preheat the oven to 400°F
  2. Oil the muffins tins well (these tend to stick in my tins if not oiled carefully)
  3. In a large bowl, whisk the eggs, then whisk in the buttermilk, oil and vanilla.
  4. Stir in the flour mix until just incorporated then fold in the apples and butterscotch chips
  5. Using an ice cream scoop, fill the muffins cups approx 2/3 full
  6. Place the muffins tins in the oven.
  7. Bake for approx 7 mins then rotate the tin and bake a further 6 or 7 minutes (until a tester comes out clean)
  8. Carefully remove the muffins from the pan; they may stick a little so run a palette knife all the way around them before easing them out.
  9. Cool on a wire rack or eat right away!!

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Time for Birthday Cake!

Each time there is any sort of a celebration in our house, be it a festive holiday or a birthday, I habitually pull out my Nigella books. It's really a pleasure to have an excuse to browse through them again and "Feast" is invariably the winner when it comes to celebrations. I do love that book and quite honestly most of Nigellas recipes in general. I won't say it's a problem, but she's obviously not as driven to take the healthy option as me, so her recipes spell indulgence. All the more fun.

Anyway, my husband just caught up with me; he was 40 a couple of days ago. So I left out "Feast" for him to peruse and choose his cake. My strong pointers were the chocolate guinness cake or the chocolate orange (again that theme!). It's lucky he's a fan of chocolate too, or maybe we would not be a match!

Anyway, he chose the chocolate orange, which pleased me, not only because I adore the combination, but the cake has a very unusual composition as you'll see. I suppose it could be argued there's a nod to the healthy here; the cake has no butter or regular flour, but's it still a cake and tastes very decadent.

This cake suits my lifestyle very well; as I've mentioned before, I'm a planner, so the fact that the orange needs cooked for 2 hours and cooled, suited me fine. I did it the day before and kept it in the fridge. One less step on the big day. I also made my own ground almonds, as I was so outraged at the cost of pre-ground almonds in my supermarket. I just whizzed them up in the food processor with a little sugar which apparantly helps absorb the oil and they are then less likely to turn into almond butter.

As you'll see from the photos, the girls loved it too; my 4 year old actually requested it for her birthday too (although it's likely that request will be replaced many times in the next 6 months!).

Chocolate Orange Cake
adapted from a recipe by Nigella Lawson, Feast

Chocolate Orange Cake (with 2 year old hovering dangerously close)


2 small or 1 large, thin skinned orange
6 eggs
1 heaped teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
2 cups/ 200g ground almonds
1 1/4 cups/ 250g superfine or caster sugar
1/2 cup/ 50g unsweetened cocoa powder, sifted

  1. Place the orange(s) in a pan and cover with water. Bring to a boil, reduce to simmer for 2 hours or until they are soft.
  2. Drain the the orange and cool it. When the orange is cool, preheat the oven to 350°F
  3. Butter an 8" springform pan, then line it with parchment paper.
  4. Cut the orange in half to remove the seeds, and pulse the whole orange in the food processor.
  5. To the orange, add the eggs, baking powder, baking soda, ground almonds, sugar and cocoa. Pulse until it is mixed thoroughly.
  6. Pour the batter into the pan and place in the center of the oven for approximately 1 hour or until the tester comes out clean.
  7. I loosely covered mine in foil for the last 20 minutes as it seemed to be cooking too quickly. (Nigella's tip)
  8. Let the cake cool in the pan and when cold remove and decorate.

Now, here's the surprising thing, Nigella recommends just a few orange peels on top, but my children (and I quite frankly) objected. Just not birthday-ish enough. So I made a quick cream cheese frosting (low fat cream cheese and confectioner sugar) then added some zested orange. Smeared it all over and all good except we couldn't get a candle to stay upright, hence the candle in the orange.


Wednesday, April 6, 2011

A Seriously Tasty Dinner

Syrupy Chicken with Cauliflower and Chestnut Gratin

I may have outdone myself; I made the tastiest dinner tonight and tomorrow night is my husband's birthday. Honestly, it's going to be hard for me to something more delicious tomorrow night when tonight's yumminess will be so fresh in our memory. Oh well, that's tomorrow's problem. In the meantime lets get on to sharing the love.

I had been pondering how to dress up my 2 cauilflowers and chicken thighs which were waiting in the line to be given the treatment. I have been craving a cauliflower gratin, it has to be said, but it isn't exactly the healthiest side dish, so I had to get creative. I've been experimenting with an "eating well" magazine version of the gratin and today decided to use that as a base and add a few chestnuts which were needing used up also. Cauliflower and chestnut gratin was the result.

Since the cauliflower has mustard flavoring it, I wanted to echo those flavors with the chicken. I opened an Ellie Krieger book for inspiration and there sprung some maple mustard chicken thighs. With my 2 year old at my side, I got to work. We're having to carve out a new routine in our house at the moment; naps are a thing of the past, sadly. On the up side, my 2 year old is very interested in helping in the kitchen, so it looks like that's going to be our replacement activity.

The chicken recipe could not be quicker or easier and since it uses chicken thighs, is very forgiving to the forgetful Mum who may leave it in the oven a little longer than strictly necessary. The reason I'm particularly excited to share this recipe is because both of my girls (who seem to be going through a particularly picky phase) LOVED it! So much so, we decided to have a naming ceremony for the chicken; Syrupy Chicken was decided upon.

Hope it goes down so well at your table.

Cauliflower and Chestnut Gratin
( based on an eating well magazine recipe: )

My healthy version of Cauliflower Gratin (before broiling)

1 head of cauliflower cut into small florets
2 cloves of garlic, smashed and peeled
2 1/4 cups/ 530 ml non fat or 1% milk
1/2 teaspoon salt
3/4 cups whole wheat breadcrumbs
1 cup shredded sharp cheddar
3 tablespoons all purpose flour
2 tablespoons chopped fresh chives
2 teaspoons Dijon mustard (I used a Stonewall kitchen maple mustard...mmm)
1/2 cup cooked chestnuts, chopped
pepper to taste


  1. Place the cauliflower, garlic, salt and 2 cups /470ml of milk in a large pot over a medium heat.
  2. Bring to a boil, reduce heat to simmer for approx 5 minutes
  3. Meanwhile mix together in a bowl the breadcrumbs and 1/2 cup cheese
  4. In a separate small bowl, whisk together the remaining 1/4 cup/ 60ml milk, mustard, and flour, until smooth
  5. Using a slotted spoon or spider, remove the cauliflower from the pot and whisk in the flour muxture
  6. Stir until thickened and smooth then add the remaining 1/2 cup of cheese and chives. Then stir back in the cauliflower and chives
  7. Preheat the broiler to high
  8. Place the cauliflower mixture in an ovenproof dish and top with the chestnuts, breadcumbs and cheese
  9. Broil until the top is golden and crispy
In the interests of cooking once and eating twice, I made double batch of the cauliflower gratin and used half of the cauliflower from step 6 to make cauliflower soup. I just added some vegetable broth (although chicken broth would be lovely with this). Then I used the hand blender to puree the soup. Delicious.

Serve with Syrupy Chicken...

Syrupy Chicken

Syrupy Chicken


8 chicken thighs (bone in or not)
1/2 cup grainy mustard
1 clove of garlic, minced finely to a paste
3/4 teaspoon ground coriander
3 tablespoons maple syrup


  1. Preheat the oven to 375°F
  2. Mix together the mustard, garlic, coriander and maple syrup
  3. Smear on top of each chicken thigh
  4. Roast for approx 30-45 minutes