A belated Happy New Year to you all! For Christmas and New Year 2017, my husband and I decided to relinquish any and all grand plans to travel to our respective birthplaces of the US and South Africa respectively. After a less than gratifying trip to Greece last year, we’ve shrugged off any intentions to spend a lot of money on family holidays until our kids (girl, 3 and boy, 2) are a little older and slightly more independent. Crete, and the place we stayed were wonderful, but with two overzealous toddlers in tow, it was far from relaxing.
Our Christmas stay-cation turned out to be the best time we’ve ever spent together as a family. There was no pressure to be anywhere at specific times, no meltdowns on long-haul flights to deal with, no one waking up at odd hours of the night due to jet-lag. Best of all, the kids started showing a deeper interest in food and cooking. Suddenly, with their new willingness to try new foods (with some persuading of course) cooking and family meals evolved from a dreaded chore into a pleasurable experience in which we all could participate. They still approach vegetables with typical toddler scepticism and often with downright rebellion, but it doesn’t bother me much. While I’d love them to slurp down spinach soup and kale smoothies, expecting that from a 2 and 3 year old would be setting myself up not only for disappointment, but also for deep resentment from my children.
I’m surprised at how excited I am to share with you some of the dishes we’ve cooked together as a family over the holidays. To date, this blog has been all wine and dine, something which my husband and I continue to enjoy regularly, but our kids have unexpectedly entered our food lives, and it’s been a great pleasure so far. Eating out with our daughter has always been easy and relaxed, and in that sense the apple hasn’t fallen far from the tree. The boy, on the other hand, is less keen on the whole restaurant experience, but we hope that with time he’ll make the move from fervent protest to civil disobedience.
Trying to surreptitiously stuff vegetables into as many foods as possible is a strategy most parents confess to employing. It works better in recipes where vegetables were there to begin with. Putting avocado in brownies has been met with stern objection from my offspring, and I must admit I agree with them. Anyone who claims you cannot taste avocado in a brownie is either lying, or has a genuine medical condition affecting the taste buds.
Annabel Karmel, respected British author of books on feeding babies and children, has a recipe for Carrot Muffins. My daughter loved helping me to bake these muffins last week. The maple syrup and pineapple make them both moist and incredibly light. I updated both the ingredients and the quantities. I love Annabel Karmel’s books and have used them extensively but find it so annoying when a recipe calls for half a leek or 50 grams of onions! What am I supposed to do with rest, other than to let them die a wilting death in the icebox graveyard? We used spelt flour instead of refined all-purpose flour and replaced the sugar with maple syrup. Healthy swaps at home leave plenty of room for sweet treats when eating out. These muffins were SO delicious! Moist, and amazing even three days later. They’re easy to individually freeze and defrost moreishly later on.
You can make up and refrigerate the batter the night before you intend to bake the muffins and simply scoop it out into the muffin tins to be freshly baked for breakfast.
Adapted from Annabel Karmel
Note: I’ve given ingredient quantities in both metric and imperial measurements as well as in cups.
wholemeal spelt or plain flour – 1 and ½ cups + 2 tablespoons / 200g / 8oz
baking powder – 1 teaspoon
bicarbonate of soda (baking soda) – 1 teaspoon
cinnamon – 1 teaspoon
sea salt – 1 teaspoon (or ½ teaspoon table salt)
vegetable oil – ¾ cup / 175ml / 6 fl oz
2 large eggs
maple syrup (or sugar) – ½ cup
grated carrots – 1 packed cup / 125g / 4and ½ fl oz
pureed pineapple – 1 cup / 225g / 8oz (I couldn’t find pureed pineapple so I blended canned pineapple chunks)
- Preheat oven to 180C / 350F / Gas 4. Line a 12 muffin tray with muffin papers, or grease and flour the muffin tray.
- Place flour, baking powder, bicarb, cinnamon and salt into a bowl – mix well and set aside.
- Whisk the oil, maple syrup or sugar and eggs together in a large bowl until blended. Mix in the grated carrot and pineapple.
- Gradually whisk in the flour mixture until it just disappears. Don’t over mix.
- Pour batter into the muffin tray and bake for 15-20minutes, or until a skewer inserted into the center of the muffins comes out clean. Mine were ready at 17 minutes.