Healthy Halloween muffins

Halloween Collage

The Halloween frivolities have started a little early here. Last weekend we had an absolute ball at the Halloween-themed Reach for the Bubbles afternoon disco in Frome. We painted each others’ faces, scoffed West Indian style hot dogs, drank mulled cider (and hot apple juice), played drum and bass musical statues and took part in a Thriller line dance, all to an awesome soundtrack provided by the phenomenal Lionel Richtea on the decks.

We’ve also been experimenting with some gruesome bakes in the Bangers & Mash kitchen. The kids wanted to see if we could come up with some terrifying but tasty snacks ready for the Halloween party season. And I wanted to see if we could make them vaguely healthy rather than the sugar-fuelled treats we generally seem swamped by this time of year.

Healthy Halloween Muffins Collage

Our experiments resulted in these cheesy vegetable muffins, which the girls have delightfully called Fungus the Bogeyman Muffins (spinach and black olives) and Blood and Gore Muffins (beetroot and carrot). If you’re looking for a healthier alternative to tempt the little monsters at your Halloween party or to fend off the trick-or-treaters, then I definitely recommend you give these a go. I promise they’re much more delicious than they might look or their names might suggest. Continue reading “Healthy Halloween muffins”

Chocolate, beetroot and prune muffins

chocolate beetroot and prune muffin text

I realise beetroot’s appearing rather a lot on this blog at the moment. I think I might actually be addicted to the stuff. Which is handy, as we have rather a lot in the veg patch and they keep turning up in the weekly veg box too.

Beetroot and chocolate muffins are a bit of a favourite here and for some reason I was seized by the idea of throwing in some chopped prunes when I baked a batch last week. I know it sounds a bit odd, but it’s good to experiment. Continue reading “Chocolate, beetroot and prune muffins”

Cherry crumble muffins

cherry crumble muffins

We often make apple crumble muffins in our house. They’re a lovely cross between a cake and a pudding and popular with children and grown ups alike. The other day I thought I’d see what they were like using cherries instead of apples. I was inspired by my friend Sarah who baked us the most gorgeous cherry crumble when we went over to hers recently. I thought the apple crumble muffins were good, but boy! These cherry bad boys are to die for – I’m totally addicted!

cherry crumble muffins

Cherry crumble muffins

Makes 12

For the topping:

50g butter
50g Demerara sugar
30g plain flour
50g rolled oats

For the muffins:

275g plain flour
2 tsp baking powder
150g caster sugar
150g melted butter
2 eggs, lightly beaten
4 tbsp honey

48 cherries, pitted

Preheat oven to 190°C (375°F) Gas 5.

To make the topping, cut the butter into small pieces and put in a mixing bowl with the Demerara sugar, flour and oats. Work them together using your finger tips until it looks like crumble mixture.

For the cake mixture, sieve the flour and baking powder into a mixing bowl and mix in the sugar. Make a well in the middle, pour in the melted butter, beaten eggs and honey and mix gently.

cherry crumble muffis

Spoon the mixture into paper muffin cases in a 12-hole muffin tray. Place four cherries on top of each muffin and then carefully sprinkle over the crumble topping.

Bake for 25 to 30 minutes until golden brown. Just perfect for a mid afternoon snack.

cherry crumble muffins

As these scrummy muffins contain oats and honey, and cherries are almost berries (yes, I know they can’t be a berry because they have a stone rather than seeds), I’m entering them into this month’s Recipes for Life challenge. And since I’m hosting it, I’m going to allow cherries in as a wannabe-berry. So there. Sticklers for the rules can swap their cherries for blueberries or blackberries I suppose.


Round Up: March’s Recipes for Life Challenge

Beetroot, carrots and cheese. Those were the three ingredients selected by the cookery club at SWALLOW for this month’s Recipes for Life challenge. And they did indeed present quite a challenge.

But I should have known I could rely on you food bloggers to deliver the goods. We received a surprisingly diverse range of recipes this month, showing just how versatile these humble ingredients can be…

Sarah from The Garden Deli got the ball rolling with this sumptuous Carrot and Beetroot Soup with Cheesy Croutons. Featuring garlic and cumin, this beautiful soup is a proper winter warmer and I love the croutons for dunking topped with one of my favourite cheeses, Wensleydale.

I experimented with some Beetroot and Carrot Pancakes for my first entry and, while they tasted pretty good – particularly with the herby mascarpone on the side – I was a bit disappointed the pancakes didn’t turn out pink like the batter!

Last month’s challenge winner, Chez Foti came up with this fantastic Roasted Roots and an Easy Roasted Roots Pizza. Louisa’s dish brings together sensational seasonal roasted root vegetables on top of a quick and easy wholemeal scone pizza base, not forgetting lots of lovely mozzarella. Yum!

Helen from The Crazy Kitchen really did go crazy with not one, not two, but three entries for Recipes for Life. Anyone who was stumped by the three set ingredients this month – look and learn! First up were these incredible Baked Cheesy Meatballs with Beetroot Sauce. Now don’t they look good? And a crafty way to sneak vegetables into unsuspecting children…

Another fiendishly clever way of disguising veggies comes in this gorgeous Two-of-your-five-a-day Chocolate Cake – the second entry from Helen at The Crazy Kitchen. “It’s sooooo good!” was the verdict of Helen’s 10-year-old, beetroot-hating daughter! Say no more!

There’s been a lot of talk on Twitter and food blogs recently about the 5:2 diet. So much so, my husband and I are both giving it a go. This Beetroot, Carrot and Cottage Cheese Salad, the final entry from The Crazy Kitchen’s Helen would definitely make a delicious lunch for a 5:2 fasting day and I plan to give it a try very soon.

I love the look of this Roasted Vegetable and Goat’s Cheese Risotto from Under The Blue Gum Tree. It sounds so simple to make but you just know it’s going to be absolutely packed full of flavour, with the gorgeous creaminess of the goat’s cheese a perfect partner for the earthiness of the root vegetables.

I wish I could bring you pictures of this Beetroot, Carrot and Goat’s Cheese Tatin from Martin at The Tempest Arms as it sounds simply divine and should look stunning. But I promise to make it very, very soon and I will post photos when I do.

Meeting the lovely Choclette from Chocolate Log Blog was one of my highlights from the Bristol Blog Summit earlier this month, which also gave me the perfect opportunity to persuade her to enter Recipes for Life. She promised she’d try, and I was very pleased to see she was true to her word with these ingenious Beetroot, Carrot and Goat’s Cheese Muffins. As with all Choclette’s recipes, there’s some chocolate in there, as well as a little kick from a touch of cayenne pepper. I look forward to trying them out.

This is a dish we eat quite a lot in our house, so I just had to enter it – my Beetroot, Carrot and Feta Cheese Salad. It’s ever so simple and ever so tasty, and a great way to create a summery-feeling salad with winter vegetables.

The final entry came in at the very last minute but I was so glad to see it – a Carrot and Beetroot Cake with a Cream Cheese Topping from Lucy at The Bell Inn. Again I sadly don’t have photos of this one but when you read the recipe you just know it’s going to taste good and I absolutely adore beetroot and carrot in cakes. Another one to try very soon.

But of course, what you’re waiting to hear is who did the SWALLOW cookery club choose as this month’s winner? Well, Lucy at The Bell Inn came a very close second with her Carrot and Beetroot Cake but first place goes to… Helen from the Crazy Kitchen for her scrumptious Baked Cheesy Meatballs with Beetroot Sauce. The group said they particularly liked the sound of the oozy cheese in the middle of the meatballs. Me too!

So a huge congratulations to Helen for her well deserved win – a small prize will be arriving in the mail very soon. Thank you so much to everyone who entered their wonderful recipes this month, and watch this space for the next set of three ingredients for April’s Recipes for Life challenge.

Apple crumble muffins

We’ve got another cake sale coming up soon at my daughter’s primary school. These are definitely one of the PTA’s most successful ways to raise funds. You should see the number of homemade cakes the parents bring in. It’s very impressive.

I have a couple of standards I usually bake, which I know always get snapped up. The first is the banana chocolate cupcake, which I’ve featured here before. And the other is the scrumptious apple crumble muffin, the recipe for which I’ve taken from Linda Collister’s excellent book ‘Baking with Kids’.

I like to think of both these cakes as being vaguely healthy since they contain fruit. Obviously they also contain lots of butter and sugar too, so I don’t think you can really claim they’re a substitute for one of your child’s five-a-day!

The apple crumble muffin is a big hit in our house. The perfect combination of cake and pudding.

And as they contain apple, I’m entering this muffin into February’s In Season Challenge over at Make It Bake It, where the theme this month is any recipe containing apples.

Apple crumble muffins


50g butter
50g sugar
50g plain flour
50g ground almonds


275g plain flour
2 tsp baking powder
175g caster sugar
1 lemon
150g butter
2 eggs
100ml milk
2 eating apples

Preheat oven to 190°C (375°F) Gas 5.

To make the topping, cut the butter into small pieces and put in a mixing bowl with the other ingredients. Work them together until it looks like crumble mixture.

For the cake mixture, sieve the flour and baking powder into a mixing bowl and mix in the sugar. Stir in the zest from the lemon and make a well. Pour the melted butter, beaten eggs and milk into the well, and mix gently.

Spoon the mixture into paper muffin cases in a 12-hole muffin tray. Core and roughly chop the apples and scatter on top of the muffin mixture, then sprinkle over the topping.

Bake for 30 minutes until golden brown. Enjoy with a cup of tea or a glass of milk!

Olive and mozzarella muffins

I seem to be going through a bit of a phase a the moment baking savoury muffins for our lunch boxes, and this is my latest creation.

It actually started life as a pizza muffin. My daughter Jessie loves pizza toppings and asked if we could make a muffin with these same ingredients. So we gave it a go. But despite being very tasty, they just didn’t quite taste like pizza. Which is why we’ve named them olive and mozzarella muffins instead.

Olive and mozzarella muffins

Makes 12

60ml sunflower oil
180g self-raising flour
130g wholemeal flour
1 tsp baking powder
½tsp bicarbonate of soda
1 tbsp dried oregano
130g black olives, chopped
2 eggs, lightly beaten
100ml plain yoghurt
275ml milk
1 tbsp tomato puree
125g mozzarella, chopped

Preheat oven to 200°C/gas 6. Oil and line a 12-hole muffin tin with baking paper or muffin cases.

Sift the self-raising and wholemeal flour into a large bowl, along with the baking powder and bicarbonate of soda. Stir in the salt, oregano and black olives.

In another bowl, mix together the eggs, yoghurt, milk and tomato puree. Pour these wet ingredients into the dry ingredients and very gently combine together. Carefully stir in the mozzarella pieces, keeping back a few pieces to place on top.

Spoon the mixture into the muffin cases and pop some extra bits of mozzarella on top of each one.

Bake the muffins in the oven for around 25 minutes until they well risen and a skewer inserted into the middle comes out clean. Eat warm or cold.

I’ll keep working on the pizza muffins and I’ll let you know when I’ve sussed them!

Three ways with butternut squash

Lorraine Pascale muffins
Riverford risotto
My soup

A rather large butternut squash arrived in our veg box last week. So as well as making my usual soup, I thought I’d try out a couple of new recipes on the family.

The first of these was a Lorraine Pascale recipe I’d seen her do recently on TV – pumpkin and rosemary muffins.

Pumpkin and rosemary muffins from a Lorraine Pascale recipe

It’s a great recipe, ever so easy, and would definitely recommend you try it. My husband and I enjoyed the muffins one lunchtime. We had them warm, with a little butter and some mature Cheddar cheese on the side.

Unfortunately our daughters were  not so impressed to find them in their lunch boxes at school and nursery. I think perhaps the rosemary was too overwhelming a flavour for them. Oh well, you can’t win them all, but you’ve got to try!

So I put the remainder in the freezer and I look forward to enjoying them at some point, sans enfants.

I won’t write out the recipe for pumpkin and rosemary muffins here but instead direct you to the BBC Food website.

The muffins used about a quarter of the butternut squash. I took another quarter for a squash risotto as inspired by the lovely people at Riverford Organic, who deliver our weekly veg box.

Riverford’s squash risotto

Now this was a success with the whole family, almost. The kids really enjoyed it, wolfing it down in seconds. It’s easy to eat, so very good for toddlers and babies getting to grip with new textures. My husband did quite like it I think, despite a few comments about the lack of meat. Which is normal from him.

This is another simple recipe. I only used half the quantities given in the Riverford recipe and I still had enough to feed two adults and two children, with a couple of portions left over for the freezer.

With the remaining half of the squash I cooked up a big pan of soup. Butternut squash makes for a very satisfying soup and children in particular love it, probably because they’re rather partial to those sweet flavours.

Roasted butternut squash with rosemary

I usually boil the butternut squash with the potato but this time it had already been roasted, as I’d needed cooked squash for the other recipes. I think I prefer it this way. It gives the soup a slightly more smokey flavour which is delicious.

Butternut squash soup

2 tbsp olive oil
1 onion, peeled and chopped
1 small butternut squash, peeled, deseeded and diced
1 potato, peeled and diced (if you like a thicker soup, add another potato)
1 litre vegetable stock, hot
Salt and pepper

Heat the oil in a large pan and add the onion. Gently fry until golden.

Add the squash and potato and cook for a minute or two before pouring in the hot stock.

Bring to a gentle simmer, then cover and cook for 15 minutes.

Liquidise the soup until smooth using a handheld blender or in a jug liquidiser. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

It’s lovely to have homemade soup ready to warm up when you’re forced to grab lunch at your desk

As butternut squash is in season right now and in plentiful supply, I’ve entered this post into the Simple and in Season blog event for February over at Fabulicious Food.

I love the idea behind this blog event – highlighting the best of what’s in season now and sharing recipes using those wonderful ingredients.

Some gorgeous looking recipes have already been posted, and I look forward to seeing many more over the coming month.

If you’ve got a recipe using seasonal ingredients, you should check it out!

Hot dog muffins

One of my new year’s resolutions is to try and make the contents of my kids’ lunch boxes a little more interesting.

I often find myself in friends’ kitchens marvelling at the print-outs from websites or articles from magazines stuck to the fridge providing healthy ideas for tasty lunchtime treats for children. And then I find myself feeling guilty.

Now while I love being creative in the kitchen I’m generally thinking about ideas for the main family meal. Not for things my children can take to school.

Look at one of my weekly meal plans and you’ll generally see the uninspired “rolls” listed for weekday lunches. Definitely must-do-better in 2012.

So today my kids took a hot dog muffin each with them to school and nursery. Their lunch boxes were empty this evening so I’ll take that as a good sign. And the youngest asked if they could have another one when they got home, so another good sign.

The muffins are really very simple, combining a strong Cheddar cheese with hot dog sausages, which in my experience all children love.

I’ve adapted the recipe from one I found in Baking With Kids by Linda Collister. When I first tried the recipe I didn’t have in the two main ingredients, chorizo and Emmental, and so I substituted hot dogs and Cheddar. I later baked them again using the correct ingredients but found I preferred my version.

Next time I make them, I’m going to try adding some chopped tomato and sweetcorn…

Hot dog muffins

Makes 12

500g plain flour
2 tsps baking powder
Pinch of salt
Black pepper
230g mature Cheddar cheese, cut into small cubes
100g chopped hot dog sausages
2 large eggs
100g butter, melted
350ml milk

Preheat the oven to 200°C/Gas Mark 6.

Sieve the flour, baking powder, salt and pepper into a large bowl. Add the cheese and hot dogs and mix well.

Beat the eggs and pour into a well in the flour mixture, along with the butter and milk. Mix it all together and then spoon into muffin cases in a muffin tray.

Bake for 30 minutes until golden brown.