Low fat apple oatmeal muffins

These muffins remind me of warm apple and cinnamon porridge on a cold winter’s morning.

They also remind me of being backstage while in a play. My other love, besides baking (read: eating), is treading the boards in community theatres. It’s a very welcoming place where you instantly inherit an urban family. Something very handy when you tend to move home towns a bit.

I’m a theatre school drop-out. I switched to a business degree in my second year at university; I lacked the courage those in the arts have to embark on what is a rather uncertain career.

Luckily I really enjoy my day job in Communications. It was a good choice for me. Then I run off once or twice a year when a kindly director lets me pretend to be someone else for three weeks.

Globe theatre in London

These muffins, being full of oats and apples, tend to be my mid play snack of choice. They’re healthier than most and I kid myself that there as good as eating an apple. Then I follow them up with an entire pack of sour worm lollies. Mmmm.

I also learn lines while I bake. I used to bribe my little sister with said baked goods to sit in the kitchen while I cooked and test me. Now my dear patient boyfriend has inherited the task. Chocolate chip cookies work well on both of them.

So without further ado, let me present low fat apple oatmeal muffin!

Ingredients
4 large apples
1 1/2 cups plain flour
2/3 cups firmly packed brown sugar
1 cup quick oats
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 cup fat-free milk
2 tablespoons olive or canola oil
1 tablespoons vanilla extract
1 cup plain fat-free yoghurt
2 egg whites

Method

  1. Preheat oven to 190 C. Grease a 12 cup muffin tin or line with patty cases and spray with cooking oil.
  2. Peel and grate the apples, should make around two cups worth. Blot shredded apple on paper towel to get rid of a little of the excess moisture. Set aside.
  3. Place flour, oats, brown sugar, baking powder, baking soda, salt and cinnamon in a large bowl. Mix with a whisk.
  4. Combine milk, oil, vanilla, yoghurt and egg whites. Stirring until well blended. Add wet ingredients to flour bowl, add apple and mix with a wooden spoon until just combined.
  5. Spoon into the prepared muffin tin and bake for 20-25 minutes or until a skewer comes out clean and muffins are golden. Makes 12.

Healthy? Awesomely so. One of the most delicious and moist low fat muffins I’ve ever found. 165 calories per muffin.

Gluten free? I have done this. Substitute the flour and oats with GF versions of each and it converts across really well.

Storage: They freeze well, otherwise best eaten within a couple of days.

Bricks are being thrown, I can’t talk about muffins

This is how I was going to start my blog post today:

“These muffins remind me of warm apple porridge with cinnamon on a cold winter’s morning.

Though, I’m actually in London, on a mild summer’s day surrounded by idiotic 11 year olds stealing plasma TV’s.”

I have sat in front of my computer twice to write a blog post.

I have photos of my baked foods and have a nice little recipe all written out.

But I end up squishing up my face and looking at my computer screen like I’ve eaten a lemon. On my walk to work I pass shops in Brixton that have their windows covered in chipboard after having bricks thrown through them – talking about muffins feels wrong.

I sat on my couch on the third night of the riots watching the shops in Clapham Junction being burnt down and people abandoning their apartments with just a backpack.

I don’t live on the main road in Clapham, but it did make my boyfriend and I think about what we’d do in the case of fire. Grab the passports, the computer (for the photos) and go. That was the plan. How strange. How surreal.

These riots disgust me. I understand the need for peaceful protests, but kids, running around and laughing as they ruin people’s livelihoods, where did this come from?

How did these little snots miss the fundamentals of right and wrong, respect for others and the consequences of actions?

If you’d like a good Riots 101, Sarah from Bean and Gone has written a good blog post about it which you can read here. As she writes, the small good that has come from this is watching the community come together to clean up the mess. Help the victims.

I’ve especially been liking following the hash tag #riotcleapup and hearing stories of public generosity to rebuild the uninsured’s businesses, like the campaign to Keep Aaron Cutting.

In the meanwhile the streets around my house are eerie. Shops still shut early, the pubs are quiet compared to a usual summer night.

I just hope the words my mum spoke to me when I was a teenager and had my heart broken for the first time apply here as well: this too, shall pass.

I love London, I hope it passes quickly.

Great-grandma’s pumpkin cake

This recipe was passed on to me by an Aunty. It was passed to her by her Grandma. And now I’m passing it on to you!

Great-grandma Beatrice was a farmers wife with four sons and one daughter. Practical recession-busting recipes like this were very much the go. But this recipe is by no means cheap on taste.

The pumpkin makes this cake lovely and moist, and the spices and mixed fruit remind me of Christmas.

I never met my Great-grandma as she passed away before I was born. I really like the idea of making a cake that she made. This to me is what cooking is all about.

To complete the little loop I’ll be taking some of this cake with me on a walk in the English countryside with the Aunt who gave me the recipe. Then it’s all tied up with a nice little bow.

Note: I used dried cranberries, dried cherries, almond, sultanas and the rind of a lemon and orange for my mixed fruit component. I’d usually use a bag of mixed fruit, but the bag of mixed fruit at the supermarket was 80% sultanas and 15% currents. How is that mixed? That’s just sultanas and currents. Pffft. And yea, I know almonds aren’t fruit. But I like them, so they went in.

I also didn’t have mixed spice and am trying hard to not accumulate things as I’m leaving London so soon, so used a combo of ginger, cinnamon and nutmeg. It was lovely. I hope my Great-grandma was OK with all this. I think she would be.

Mixed fruit and the rind of a lemon and orange for extra zest

Ingredients
250 grams pumpkin, cooked and mashed
¼ cup butter
2 eggs
¾ cup sugar
250 grams of mixed fruit
1 teaspoon mixed spice (lacking this – I used a combination of ginger, cinnamon and nutmeg)
1 ½ cups self-raising flour
¼ teaspoon baking powder dissolved in 1 tablespoon vinegar

Method

  1. Preheat oven to 200C and grease a 18cm round or square cake tin.
  2. Into the hot cooked pumpkin, add the butter and allow to cool.
  3. Add the rest of the ingredients and stir well.
  4.  Pour in to your prepared cake tin and bake for 50-55 minutes. It’s done when a knife comes out clean and it’s nice a golden on top.

Healthy? Cut up into 16 peices to take to work with tea makes them 165 calories a slice. The whole cake is 2,650 depending on your fruit choices.

Gluten free? I think you could easily swap in a GF flour and it would bind well. But I haven’t tried it.

Storage: In an airtight container. It also freezes beautifully.

Asian prawn salad

This type of salad is perfect for warm summer evenings. The crispness of the vegetables, saltiness in the prawns and sweet and sour flavours of the sauce makes this a party in a bowl.

I live in a lovely big old converted 1930’s mansion in London. We have the only one-bedroom place in the block and I love it.

The best part is the giant backyard which is kept in amazingly good condition. There’s even a little well up the back and family of foxes.

On warm nights all the various residents tend to come out from our separate little boxes armed with wine and sit around wooden tables together. 

More than anything, I will miss this yard when I leave London in a few weeks. This is not something many Londoners could say.

*sigh*

The night I made this salad the sun had already started setting and my camera wouldn’t do the dish justice. I gave up and went in to the garden to eat it. Hearing of my troubles, my neighbour, who is a smashingly good photographer, grabbed his much better camera and took the two shots at the top of this post. (Not the little ones of veggies below, they’re my handy work!).

A big thank you to Paddy. You’re a good egg. Even if you do like a sing-a-long at 4am. You can see his photography here.

Preparation time: 30 minutes
Servings: 2

Ingredients
A dash of peanut of sesame oil
20 grams of rice vermicelli noodles (it’s a token amount)
1 small carrot, peeled in to long strips
1/3 medium zucchini (courgette), julietted
100 grams green beans
1/3 red capsicum (pepper)
1/3 yellow capsicum (pepper)
4 large closed cap mushrooms
½ savoy cabbage
225 grams cooked prawns
A handful of coriander (cilantro)
1 cup bean shoots

Dressing
Juice of 1 lime
1 teaspoon oyster sauce
3 teaspoons soy sauce
1 small garlic clove, finely chopped
1 small chilli, finely chopped (or a teaspoon of chilli flakes)
1 tablespoon chopped spring onion
1 teaspoon brown sugar
2 teaspoon of cornflour, to thicken.

Method

  1. Place your vermicelli noodles in a bowl of hot water and allow to sit while you prepare the rest.
  2. Cut up all your vegetables into thin sticks. Cut your cabbage in to quarters and chop very finely. For the carrot, hold it at the end and make long strips with a peeler. Place in large bowl ready to tip in your wok later.
  3. Pick a good handful of coriander leaves and chop roughly, set aside.
  4. Combine all ingredients for sauce in a mug, set aside.
  5. Drain your noodles. Make your wok good and hot with a dash of peanut or sesame oil. Fry the prawns quickly if raw, about 1 – 2 minutes. As soon as they’re orange, they’re cooked. If precooked heat through for about 30 seconds.
  6. Add vermicelli noodles. Fry for another 30 seconds. Throw in the rest of your vegetables with a tablespoon of water (to steam them a little while frying) toss for 3-4 minutes, stir sauce through then place straight in bowls.
  7. Top with bean shoots and coriander. 

Do: Add any veggies you fancy. Empty your veggie draw and make up your own customised salad. And if prawns are expensive, swap them out for chicken.

Healthy? 227 calories a serve. Lovely.

Gluten free? Check your sauce bottles (especially soy sauce), but otherwise you’re good.

Storage: Noooo…. Eat right there and then. You could take it for lunch the next day, bit it’d be a bit soggy.

Strawberry almond muffins

This week I haven’t blogged much as I’ve been in Paris (tough life, huh). It has been a very indulgent six days. My left kidney is currently on e-bay to pay for my extravagances if you know an interested buyer.

I must say though, by the time I get home from such fun, I’m usually very glad to see my kitchen. I fall on my muesli box with delight, pat my toaster lovingly and open my pantry with a sigh of relief. Healthy, simple food.

I think there is nothing quite as nice as when berries come in to season and what was unaffordable, can now be used in large quantities.

To start off my week, here is some strawberry and almond muffins.  You know a recipe which uses two full cups of strawberries is going to be fun. I find cutting them all up and looking at the large pile waiting to be turned into muffins very satisfying.

This recipe requires a nice amount of folding (so as not to mush all your precious strawberries) so don’t forget the tips in step-by-step how to make muffins.

Ingredients
½ cup butter (about 115 grams), softened (or 1/4 cup butter, 1/4 cup natural yoghurt for a healthier version)
3/4 cup sugar
2 eggs
1/2 cup lite milk
2 cups plain flour
1 tablespoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 cups strawberries, sliced
3/4 cup slivered almonds

Method

  1. Preheat oven to 190 C. Grease a 12 cup muffin tin or line with patty cases and spray with cooking oil.
  2. In a large bowl cream together butter and sugar with electric beater, or you soften the butter in the microwave on defrost and hand whisk.
  3. Add eggs, one at a time and blend until fluffy. Mix in the milk.
  4. Add flours, baking powder and salt, fold in until just combined.
  5. Fold in the strawberries and almonds. Mmm…look at ’em all! That’s a good amount of strawberries.
  6. Spoon into the prepared muffin tin and bake for 30 minutes or until a skewer comes out clean and muffins are golden. Makes 12.

Healthy? With ½ cup butter (as written) it’s 258 calories, with ¼ butter and ¼ natural yoghurt it’s 226.

Gluten free? No, I haven’t tried to adapt these.

Storage:  They freeze well, otherwise best eaten within a couple of days. Store in airtight container.

Source: Modified from Sue’s strawberry almond muffins on food.com.