Cheesy red & green mini muffins

In general, Joel seems to be loving food, there’s not much he hasn’t eaten when we’ve given it to him. I’m sure he’ll get fussier as he gets older, but hopefully he’ll be similar to Andrew and like most things despite the odd fuss here and there. One thing in particular that both boys like is extra mature cheddar cheese – Joel would eat loads of this if I let him (I’m watching the salt), and Andrew would polish off the rest! And a couple of things that Andrew is less good at (unless they are cooked in something) and I hadn’t tried Joel with are spinach and tomatoes.

Mini muffins cheesy

So I decided to make some savoury mini muffins packed with cheese, spinach and tomatoes. Having been searching for a while for a cheap silicone mini muffin mould, I eventually found one last week at a homeware store that opened a while ago near our local supermarket but I’d never heard of the brand and assumed it was an expensive one (we live in Cambridge, this is the norm). But as I walked past it the other day, I took a closer look and realised it was in fact a Wilkinsons-style shop – ever since we moved here 7 years ago I’ve missed having a Wilkos to get bits and bobs from.

This recipe would also work in a fairy cake tin (mine have seen better days, hence my search for a new silicone mould) or a normal-sized muffin tin. I just like the mini-ness of them for little fingers to grasp. And these muffins were very much devoured by the little mouths on the receiving end of the little fingers’ grip.

This recipe made 24 mini muffins, some of which we ate fresh and some of which we froze for later to keep them fresh.

Ingredients

  • 250g plain flour
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • 100g extra mature cheddar cheese (or you could use any strength you like)
  • 100g fresh spinach leaves, roughly chopped
  • about a dozen cherry tomatoes, chopped into quarters
  • 180ml milk
  • 2 eggs
  • 50ml olive oil
  • black pepper

Method

  1. Put the flour, baking powder, cheese, spinach and tomatoes in a bowl and mix until roughly distributed.
  2. Mix the milk, eggs and oil in a bowl until the egg is broken up – don’t over beat, you don’t want to end up with mayonnaise!
  3. Add the wet ingredients to the dry ones along with a good grind of black pepper and stir until well combined.
  4. Spoon the mixture into the mini muffin mould so each hole is full.
  5. Bake in the oven for about 25 minutes at 180ºC (fan).
  6. Remove from the oven and allow to cool only as much as you need to in order to eat them!
  7. Freeze any that are not eaten within a day or so to keep them fresh.
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Slow cooked colourful veggie risotto with pea pesto

I actually cooked this a couple of weeks ago now, but it was just before we went away for 10 days and I was too busy finishing my posts on cloth nappies for Real Nappy Week (and getting ready to get the four of us off on holiday – that’s no easy feat!) so I didn’t get round to blogging this rather delicious meal until now. Risottos are a great way to use up things in the fridge that have seen better days and/or a great way to chuck in things from the store cupboard if you’re running low on fresh ingredients. These are the reasons why I cobbled this together just before going away, and the result was a yummy family meal.IMG_0678

Needless to say, Andrew loved it, as always. Joel is still not eating much, just a nibble here and there, but when he’s having a go at more variety of flavours and textures, this would be a great meal for him too. I’d say it works for a baby doing baby-led weaning because you can just choose which veg they like or which veg you want them to try, and decide what size of chunks they are confident with when adding ingredients, starting with bigger pieces (maybe not kidney beans like in this recipe straight away). The pea pesto adds a lovely flavour, a sweetness that makes it appealing to kids I think, and a lovely bright colour, which is also appealing, maybe even more so to kids than adults!

And of course using the slow cooker meant I could prep earlier in the day (it took about 10 minutes) and the risotto was ready for dinner at 6.30pm. Easy PEAsy…. have a go yourself if you like!

Ingredients

  • 2 carrots
  • 1 tin kidney beans
  • 200g long grain rice
  • 2 tbsp cornflour
  • 800ml hot stock (I use low salt)
  • 100g frozen peas
  • 50g Parmesan cheese
  • Glug of olive oil

Method

  1. Chop the carrots into chunks.
  2. Put the carrots, kidney beans, rice and cornflour into the slow cooker pot.
  3. Add the stock and stir.
  4. Cook on low for 3 hours.
  5. After you’ve put the slow cooker on, make the pesto. Start by cooking the peas for 2 minutes in the microwave or in a pan of boiling water.
  6. Put the cooked peas, cheese and a glug of olive oil in a blender and whizz until a smooth paste – add a bit more oil if it’s too thick until you have the right consistency to stir through the risotto.
  7. When the slow cooker is finished, stir the pesto through the risotto until evenly distributed.
  8. Serve immediately; any leftovers can be frozen for a quick tasty meal another time.

Pregnancy diary: week 14 – hummus and med school

I promised more ramblings about pregnancy, and ramblings there shall be! Here are my baby-brained thoughts about what’s gone on in my life as a pregnant mum this week. Well the bad news is I’m still feeling very sick and tired (and also feeling very sick and tired of feeling very sick and tired). But the good news (for me) is that actually being sick seems to have stayed at low frequency for a whole week now, so I’m hoping it won’t get worse again; and the good news (for you) is that I’m not going to go on about sickness any more this week – I’m trying to be positive and boost my mood about it by writing funny tales on here.

Homemade hummus - my staple diet for week 14 of pregnancy - usually eaten in a wrap or sandwich, but shown here just with salad garnish so you can see it in all it's hummusy glory!

So my words to summarise pregnancy this week are: hummus and med school. Odd combination, I know. In fact they aren’t related at all, but both have featured prominently since I last wrote a pregnancy post. Let’s start with hummus. Or shall I be more precise and say ‘homemade’ hummus. I haven’t eaten any hot cooked food since the middle of March. I’ve been surviving on (as much as I can keep down of) things like cereals, sandwiches, crackers, salad, and selected fruits (totally gone off bananas again, as with Andrew). A few weeks ago I walked past hummus in the supermarket, and thought to myself that I quite fancied it, and it would make a nice sandwich with some salad, so I popped it in my basket. However, when I actually ate some later that day, I really did NOT like the taste of it and was almost sick (ooh sorry, I mentioned the ‘s’ word again; last time!) So I carried on with my staple sandwich filling of cheese.

Until one day last week when I decided that I hadn’t made homemade hummus for Andrew in a while, and that it would be a good thing for him to have for tea (lots of protein in the chickpeas and no salt, unlike lots of processed food that I was tempted to buy having no will or energy to prepare things myself). Tom, who is always willing to do what I ask of him at the moment (amazing man!), happily set to and followed my rather garbled instructions on how to make it. I never measure things, so my ingredients list was something like ‘chick peas, a bit of yoghurt, and a glug or 2 of olive oil’ – Tom prefers to have internationally recognised units of measurement when cooking! You just whizz them all up together in a food processor and voilà, hummus. The difference between this and the shop-bought stuff is basically no garlic or tahini paste (sesame seeds), but great for Andrew as I know exactly what’s in it. Anyway….. as I was serving some up for him, I got a blob on my hand, and without thinking I licked it off. It flashed through my mind that I wouldn’t like it right now, as I suddenly thought about my previous encounter with hummus, but that was soon followed by a feeling of ‘oooh I actually quite like that!’ So I tasted a spoonful myself and confirmed that it was definitely in the ‘foods I can currently tolerate the taste of’ category.

I liked it so much that I had a hummus wrap for tea myself that day, and the next, and the next…. in fact I’ve eaten homemade hummus for at least one meal if not two every day since the discovery. I don’t know what it is exactly about it, but somehow the combination of ingredients is perfect for my taste-buds at the moment. Maybe it was the tahini or garlic in the shop-bought stuff that was a no-no. So is this a craving? I wouldn’t go that far (yet) – I can’t say that I actively long to eat it, as I don’t really want to eat anything, I just eat out of the fact I know I need to and to some extent eating little and often helps to keep the ‘s’ word at bay during the earlier part of the day. Oh, feeling of hunger, please come back and send the feeling of nausea packing! That’s how hummus has dominated my week, and I have no inclination that this will stop any time soon.

Moving on to med school….. Don’t worry, I haven’t signed up for any more studying! I told Tom during my PhD that if I even looked like I was going to apply for any kind of course to get another degree/qualification then he had my permission to do whatever it took to stop me. But since I am a researcher, I’m always willing to help out others in their quest to find participants for research or training studies; and as we live in Cambridge, where there’s a big medical school and the teaching hospital includes a maternity unit, there’s always stuff that needs signing up to. When I went for my scan, I picked up 2 leaflets about volunteering to help medics (of the student or qualified variety).

The first was something I already took part in when I was pregnant with Andrew. It’s called ‘Preparing for Patients’, and it’s a course that all 3rd year undergrad medical students complete, in the hope that it will help them relate their theoretical work to real patients’ experiences. For this they visit a pregnant mum (and her family) in her home, twice before the birth and twice afterwards, and ask her questions about pregnancy, birth and early days with a baby. I love to talk (as if I need to point that out), and with Andrew I was happy to share my experiences in the aid of a good cause (or course! ;)) So I was keen to help out again. The only potential problem was that the leaflet was advertising for mums due between ‘November and early March’, and my due date (if you believe in such things – I don’t) is 30th October. I thought it was worth a quick email anyway, making it clear that I understood if I couldn’t be useful being due 2 days before November. Within half an hour, the course admin had emailed back saying congratulations on being the very first volunteer for this year! (That is if I didn’t mind having my antenatal visits close together right at the start of term – which I don’t.) I know I’m a keen bean for these things, but I don’t think I’ve ever been anyone’s first participant – someone’s gotta be it! They need 150 volunteers altogether, so if you’re pregnant, due November to March (well, Feb-March babies won’t have been conceived yet), and live in Cambridge or the area, why not offer your time if you can? (Disclaimer: I have not been paid/persuaded by other means to write this, it is merely a suggestion from my inner keen volunteer!)

The second thing to sign up for was an hour being ultrasound scanned by a junior doctor or two, who are training in foetal medicine. Of course they need to practice using the fancy equipment and figuring out what all the bits of a baby look like in black and white ‘magic-eye’ style! The criteria for taking part were: 1) between 11 and 32 weeks pregnant in the week beginning 9th July; 2) a singleton pregnancy; 3) a desire to help junior doctors in their training. I fit that bill nicely, and anyway it sounded like fun – mainly because it means I get to have a free scan, complete with take-home pictures, extra to the routine one at 20 weeks that I get from the NHS. I even get my parking paid, so I can travel in four-wheeled luxury (or our Corsa) rather than struggling there by bike (I won’t be brave enough to cycle with a bump, unlike many pregnant ladies in Cambridge). They’re doing this for one week only in mid July, when I’ll be 24 weeks. All I had to do was sort out childcare for Andrew (thanks, Granny), otherwise the doctors would get more than they bargained for – I can just imagine Andrew’s fascination with pressing buttons and pulling things out of holes getting the better of him, and the scan ending in technological disaster.

That brings me, finally, to the end of my ramblings about week 14 of this pregnancy. I hope you had fun reading it and will come back for more next week. Right, I’m off to get some sleep now, at the fine hour of 19.30. Night, night!