Apple Museli Muffins

I love filling up the freezer with a stash of berries to see us through the winter.  We go through a LOT of berries, so I like to pick my own because it’s so much cheaper than getting them at the farmers’ market.  Sometimes I totally overshoot and can barely manage all the berries, but this year we’ve been resorting to store-bought frozen berries for the past few months, which meant it was high time to go picking! This year I thought Miles might be a good helper, so we headed off on Friday to Emma Lea Farms, my favourite place to pick berries. They’ve got a great selection of delicious berries, they practice integrated pest management, and their prices are reasonable.

We started with strawberries, since their season is winding down.  Miles rode to the field in a wagon, which he really enjoyed.  We staked out our spot and got to work.  Miles remembered just to pick the red ones but of course they all went straight in his mouth!  After about 4 strawberries I asked him to put them into his container and then to pour them into my container.  In a stunning turn of events, he did!  Sometimes 2 year olds are surprisingly reasonable! (In the interest of full disclosure, I have to mention that he was wearing his PJs at the time, because he had refused to get dressed and I didn’t want a giant fight about something so unimportant… so he’s definitely not always reasonable!).  In about 20 minutes of picking, we got enough strawberries to make a small batch of jam and to last us for the week.

We then headed over to the raspberries, but they weren’t quite ready so we didn’t get very many of them. They’re also not as much fun for a 2 year old to pick, since they are higher up. We got enough for the week, but not enough to do anything else with.  And after that much picking, Miles was ready to stop, so I’ll get tayberries another time.

The bonus of going to Emma Lea Farms is that they have an ice cream stand and a playground. We made good use of both!

Sipping politely

Sipping politely

No time for straws!

No time for straws!

When we got home, we had lunch and then both had 2 hour naps!  Then we made a batch of low-sugar strawberry jam together, with Miles in the role of Chief Berry Squasher. We took a jar to brunch with friends on Saturday morning, and everyone declared it delicious, especially spread on my favourite new muffins!

Apple Museli Muffins

This recipe is adapted from Grazing, a book I’ve mentioned before. As usual, the recipe is a keeper, but I took the liberty of decreasing the sugar and increasing the amount of “good stuff” in the batter.  This is also a great base recipe, to which you could add any kind of dried fruit, nut, or even fresh or frozen berries.

  • 1 1/2 cups of whole wheat flour
  • 1 cup all purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup quick oats
  • 1/2 cup white sugar
  • 1 Tbsp baking powder
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1 1/2 cups milk
  • 1/4 cup vegetable oil
  • 1 egg
  • 1 apple, grated
  • 1/2 cup chopped dried apricots
  • 1/2 cup raisins
  • 1/2 cup walnuts

Preheat oven to 400F.

Mix all dry ingredients together in a large bowl (flour through salt). Stir in dried fruit and nuts.

Mix all wet ingredients, including apple, together in another bowl.

Add wet ingredients to dry ingredients and stir gently until just combined.

Distribute between 12 large muffin cups, and bake for about 20 minutes at 400F. Remove from pan and let cool on rack.  If your muffin cups are not large, you’ll get more muffins – lucky you!

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Time Flies

WordPress tells me it’s been 48 days since I last posted. I can’t quite believe that’s true, and I couldn’t begin to tell you what happened in those last 48 days (eep!). The past few weeks have certainly been busy with lots of work, including a trip to Terrace. Miles had been dreading the trip for weeks (if not months) since we accidentally let it slip, but he handled it really well and we’re all glad to have it behind us.  Work is a pretty poor excuse for not posting though, and I will try to be better. 

I’ve also been quite remiss with taking pictures, and it’s a good thing I finally have a phone with a decent camera, since that’s the only kind of photo I’ve been taking.

 

The main reason I wanted to post today was to share a list of the top 10 things you’d be sure to hear if you spent as much as 5 minutes with us on any given day:

  1. Why?
  2. What that called?
  3. I love you, Mummy!
  4. Poo’s coming! (Ok, that one isn’t every 5 minutes, thank goodness!)
  5. Why?
  6. Cock-a-doodle-DOOOOOOOO!
  7.  The blue lifter isn’t lifting anything up!
  8. I want to see the funny lights at Cypress and 12th
  9. What that called?
  10. Why?

It’s hard to believe that I actually worried about Miles’s language capabilities at one time. He’s such a chatterbox these days, and you can actually have quite a fun conversation with him, if you don’t mind disappearing down a rabbit hole of why, why, why.  “What that called?” can also be a bit of a mind-bender: we stumped three employees at MEC yesterday trying to figure out what to call the webbing that they use to close check-outs that aren’t open. Does anyone have any suggestions? The best we could come up with was “line control webbing”, but that’s not exactly snappy.

I made some awesome muffins this morning while Miles happily read stories to some of his animals, and in an effort to get back to more regular posting, I hereby resolve to get the recipe posted this week!

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Summery Mango Bites

We’ve had more-bars and we’ve had hippy “Easter eggs”, and I’m pleased to announce the arrival of the latest concoction to emerge from my food processor that fits into that same category of treats that are sweet but not not too unhealthy: Summery Mango-Lime-Coconut Bites.  These ones (for a blessed change) do not contain dates and as a result feel very summery to me. They seem appropriate since we’ve already had to break out the sunscreen and more good weather is forecast for this week. I imagine they’d also feel like a blissful escape next November!

I followed a long and twisted path along the internet the other day and ended up at My New Roots. It’s full of beautiful photos and some lovely sounding food, all of which is very healthy and most of which I would never make. It’s too bad in a way – I think of myself as a healthy eater, and I know that I am when compared to much of the population, but then I look at the commitment some people make, and I realize there’s a lot further I could go.  There’s a danger in getting too worked up about it all though, so I’ll keep to my middle ground. 

Anyhow, I found this recipe and thought it sounded delicious and not too over-the-top. I made a batch today, much to Miles’s initial consternation and eventual delight. He hates the food processor with a fiery passion even though he knows that lots of yummy treats come out of it. I think he’s trying to come to terms with it though – he regularly plays with an imaginary food processor (or as he says, foo fofether), so maybe one day I’ll be able to make things without needing Mr. Chumsley to take Miles outside…

The original recipe called for soaking the cashews for 4 hours. I had no idea why, so I asked my friend Google. I was informed by numerous websites with dubious quasi-medical credentials that soaking nuts increases the availability of nutrients and decreases their inflammatory properties. That sounded good (although I have no idea if it is true or even what kind of inflammation we’re talking about), and I was a bit concerned that the recipe might be a bit dry if I skipped it, so I decided to try the soaking. If you make these without soaking the nuts, let me know how things go!

Also a note on unsweetened dried mango: it may be hard to find, but it is kind of essential to keep this in the healthy category.  All the mango at our regular grocery store was sweetened, but I tracked some down unsweetened stuff at Pirate Joe’s. Try your local health food store if you don’t have easy access to Trader Joe’s (or its Vancouver version).

Summery Mango Bites

  • 100g raw cashews
  • 100g dried unsweetened mango
  • ½ cup / 50g unsweetened dried shredded coconut, plus more to roll the balls in
  • Seeds scraped out of 1/2 a vanilla bean
  • Zest of 1 lime
  • Pinch of sea salt

Soak cashews in warm water at room temperature for four hours. Drain and rinse.

Soak mango in warm (not boiling water) for 20-30 minutes until softened, but not mushy.

Place cashews in a food processor and pulse to roughly chop.  Add the rest of the ingredients and pulse until it comes together in a big ball.  Taste and add more lime zest or vanilla if desired (I started with 1/2 a lime and 1/4 a vanilla bean and increased to the amounts shown in the recipe). If the mixture seems wet (mine did, but I used boiling water and my mango got quite mushy), add some more coconut and pulse again to combine.

Pinch off a bit of the mixture, roll it into a ball and roll in the extra coconut to coat. Store in the fridge for up to 2 weeks. I got about 30, but the yield will depend entirely on how big you make them.

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Rhubarb Chutney

Strangely enough, we go through a lot of chutney in our house. It’s kind of a weird thing for a 2 year old to like, but Miles has some kind of weird tastes (Plain chickpeas from a can anyone? Would anyone else like to eat this lime straight up?), so perhaps it’s not a huge surprise. 

So far Miles has auditioned two kinds of chutney: Nanny-chutney (cranberry-pear) and Namma-chutney (plum), as made by the eponymous relatives. However, we just ran out of the last batch of Nanny-chutney, and rather than request another batch, I decided to make my own.

I’ve collected a fair number of chutney recipes over the years, but I haven’t actually made many batches. I was somewhat scarred off by a batch of apricot chutney I made eons ago that was almost inedible due to the strong vinegar flavour. It was quite a lot of work for not a great result, so since then I’ve stuck to making jam. However, you do what you must for your kids, and my kid needed chutney, so I started sifting through recipes again.

At the same time, I realized that it was spring, and spring means rhubarb! I started coveting some from my mum’s garden, until I realized that my freezer was still rather full of last year’s rhubarb… oops! I decided that I could solve two problems at once by making rhubarb chutney!

Back to the internet I went, and was somewhat stunned by the staggering number of rhubarb chutney recipes.  Sugar quantities varied greatly, from almost 1:1 (whoa!) to a much more mum-pleasing 1:6. Quantities of vinegar also varied greatly, and some recipes included strong savoury flavours (onion, garlic), whereas others were more heavily spiced (cloves, cinnamon, cumin). Rather than pick one, I decided to take the ideas I liked the best and come up with my own.

The result is the recipe you see below. Miles and I both think it’s fantastic, whether dolloped on scrambled eggs (Miles), on crackers with cream cheese (both of us) or in a hot sandwich with Port Salut cheese and roasted turkey (both of us). I imagine it would also be quite lovely with roasted pork or chicken.

Rhubarb Chutney

  • 1 Tbsp olive oil
  • ½ onion finely chopped
  • 9 cups chopped rhubarb
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 large tart apple, peeled and finely chopped
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 2/3 cup red wine vinegar
  • ½ cup raisins
  • 2 Tbsp grated ginger

Heat the oil over medium heat in a large pot or Dutch oven. Cook the onion for a few minutes until softened, do not brown. Add the rest of the ingredients and increase heat to medium-high. Bring to a boil and then reduce heat to simmer. Simmer uncovered 20-30 min, or as long as needed for the apples to soften and for the mixture to get thick. It will thicken somewhat more as it cools.

Yields ~ 4.5 cups.  Keeps for a month or so in the fridge.

NOTE:  I don’t believe this can be safely canned, as the quantities of both sugar and vinegar are not high enough for food safety. Other recipes with similar sugar and vinegar quantities suggest freezing the excess in small jars or freezer bags, and thawing it as needed. That’s what we’re trying.

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Banana muffins

If there is one thing the world does not need, it’s another recipe for banana bread or muffins. However, I have spent a lot of my life wishing I had the ultimate banana bread recipe. So many of the (delicious!) recipes out there are high in fat or sugar, neither of which is really necessary when you are baking with such a moist and sweet ingredient. And while I’m not a health nut, I like to save my sugar and fat for recipes that really need it (I wanted to share an “official” link to the ReBar chocolate cake recipe, but no such luck).

I thought I had found a recipe that was as good as it was going to get a few months ago. Truth be told though, I found the recipe a tad fussy. In addition to wanting the muffins to be healthy, I want to be able to whip up a batch of muffins in under half an hour from whim to first bite, and I only want to dirty one bowl. Sounds like a tall order, but I finally have it!

The answer arrived in a great book I got out of the library a few weeks ago. It’s call Grazing, by Julie Van Rosendaal. A friend in Calgary first pointed me at Julie’s blog a while back, and I have been enjoying her writing and her recipes since then. I decided to get all old-school and have a look at a few of her books. Several recipes have proven to be keepers and I’ll share some others in the next little while. For now, on with the muffins!

Over the course of making a few batches, I’ve made some changes to the published recipe. I reduced the sugar each time I made them, so it is now only half of the original amount. I also reduced the baking soda slightly, since I could taste it (maybe as a result of the reduced sugar?). I was concerned about affecting the leavening, but tonight’s muffins puffed up just as beautifully as the first batch. All in all, these are my new go-to recipe for banana muffins since they meet all my criteria: healthy, easy, and they last very well in the fridge (if, say, you go away for a few days – otherwise you’ll eat them before you have a chance to test that claim!).

Best Banana Muffins

  • 1/4 cup oil (canola or something else neutral)
  • 1/3 cup sugar
  • 3 very ripe bananas
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1/3 cup plain low fat yogurt 
  • 2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1 cup all purpose flour
  • 1 cup whole wheat flour
  • 3/4 tsp baking soda
  • 1/4 tsp salt

Preheat oven to 400F.

In a large bowl, stir together the oil and sugar. Add the bananas and mash with a potato masher. There’s no need to get it perfectly smooth. Stir in the eggs, yogurt and vanilla. Add the flours, baking soda and salt. Gently mix the baking soda and salt into the top bit of flour, so you don’t end up with a lump of either (this is my usual trick to avoid sifting or using a second bowl). Stir all ingredients gently until just combined. It’s OK if there are a few lumps.

Spoon into paper-lined muffin cups and bake for about 16 minutes, or until tops are golden brown and spring back when touched. Let sit for a few minutes in the pan, then remove to a cooling rack.

Makes 12 good-sized muffins.

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At Nanny’s House

We have just returned from a lovely weekend away at Granny’s house. I was over there for work on Thursday, and Mr. Chumsley and Miles came over on the ferry on Thursday evening. Miles was delighted to be reunited with his big boy bed, and spent (almost) the whole weekend being charming. We had two trips to the beach, a picnic, a lovely time at Turkish coffee shop, delicious dinners, an Easter egg hunt in Granny’s yard, spent time playing the “panano”, and Miles even got to try his hand at Granny’s favourite hobby.


The recipe for the homemade Easter eggs is one that I sampled for the first time at my running clinic a few weeks ago. I was pleasantly surprised by the treats the nutritionist brought and was excited to find the recipe on her website.  These don’t taste like something that hippy parents would give their kids until their kids rebelled once they discover real chocolate. These are good, and the fact that they are not bad for you is just a bonus!

The sugar cookies turned out to be more of a project for me than for Miles, who loves using cookie cutters in a fairly “loose” way to create avant-garde shapes. However, the cookies I made using Granny’s moon-shaped cookie cutter were a huge hit. I used just a basic icing of icing sugar, water and lemon juice, with just a touch of colouring.

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Almost Spring

Today felt as though Spring must be just around the corner, so much so that we decided to build on Miles’s standing suggestion of a picnic and have our real lunch outside. The trick was to find somewhere that would be sunny but not too windy, since despite the sunshine it was still quite nippy. That ruled out the beach, and I didn’t want to go just to our usual neighbourhood park, so we had to ponder our options. As we were pulling out of the driveway I hit on the idea of Pacific Spirit Park; there’s a little clearing that has picnic tables about 100m from one of the park entrances and I thought that might work pretty well.

We took along a fairly elaborate picnic (complete with a yummy salad for me and fresh banana muffins – recipe to come!) and had a lovely time. There were lots of friendly dogs willing to kiss Miles, everyone enjoyed the chance to “eat in woods!” and we had a really fun walk after lunch. We hadn’t taken a stroller or carrier, so when I say that “we” walked in the woods, I really mean all of us. Miles did a great job, and walked and ran for about 1/2 hr with only 1 tumble to slow him down.  Once we got home, everyone had a great nap!

Picnic 1

Eat in woods!

Picnic 3

Cram-a-gram

Picnic 2

Tuddle time!

We need more days like this!

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My Big Baby

A few weeks ago Miles and I were having a cuddle, and I asked him jokingly if he was my baby or my big boy. He came up with a great answer: he’s my big baby! I thought that was really cute, but the more I think about it, the more true I realize it is. Miles loves to cuddle, and is quick to come running for a hug and kiss. The cautious way he moves and his ongoing wonder at the world also place him firmly in the baby camp.  But in other ways he’s getting to be such a big kid. He tells us “not right now” when it’s time to wash his hands before dinner, and bargains hard for 3 or 4 more minutes of play (instead of the usual 2) when he’s having an especially good time.  He’s a keen learner, and can sing the alphabet and count to 10, as well as being able to recognize and name at least 5 letters and several numbers. He makes amazing linguistic leaps, and you’d better be careful not to tell stories in front of him that you don’t want everyone to know because he’ll be sure to pass them on to just about anyone (he told us last week that one of his daycare teachers has a mouse who poops on the floor – turns out it’s a true story, but not one that she told to Miles!). In those respects, he’s definitely a big boy. It’s a lovely combination with his baby-ness.

Here are a few pictures of what we’ve been up to recently. The first couple of pictures are from a recent pretend picnic on our front steps. It’s one of Miles’s favourite things to do in the morning on weekends or when I get home from work. I sit in the front door way and Miles runs back and forth to the front hall to get “food” for our picnic. It’s almost always blueberries and grapes, and often involves pizza, which is funny because Miles doesn’t actually like real pizza! Mr. Chumsley took these photos during a recent pretend picnic; the first one makes us laugh because Miles looks like a little gangster, and I like the composition of the second one.

Gangster

Gangster

 

Picnic time

Picnic time

The other big thing happening in our house is that we’re making a very gentle start on potty training. We’re completely uninformed on this topic and are really just taking our cues from Miles. A week or two ago he started being interested in the $4 Ikea potty we bought months ago, and asked to sit on it fully clothed. He seemed quite shocked when we asked if he wanted to sit on it with his pants off!  He progressed to sitting on it with his diaper off a couple of times, but didn’t want to sit for long, because it was “too tight” (what does that mean?). Last night we hit on the idea of reading some books while he sat on the potty; that resulted in quite a delivery and high fives all around! We spent some quality time on the potty after breakfast this morning, but it turned out just to be a fun way to get an extra half hour of story time and to get some cute photos.  🙂  I don’t think we’ll be getting rid of our diapers any time soon, but it’s exciting to know that we’re on a new path.

Green Eggs & Ham

Green Eggs & Ham

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Birthday photos

As promised in my last post, here are some photos from Miles’s birthday party on the weekend.

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Officially Two

Since it’s hard to find a good time to celebrate Miles’s birthday right around the actual day, we decided to host a belated party this year (last year we didn’t really have a party; just family and a couple of friends). We invited a lot of people, knowing that with kids’ differing schedules and weekend activities and other things going on in peoples’ lives that probably not very many people could make it. Oops – it turns out that a Saturday morning in February is not a very busy time for most people! In the end we had 18 adults and 6 kids, plus the three of us! As Mr. Chumsley noted, that’s almost half as many people as our wedding!

With lots of help from my mum and some Costco shopping by the Chumsleys-in-law, we managed to pull together a decent spread of morning snacks, lunch, and cake. The cake was a big hit – I made a double recipe of this cake in a 9×13 pan, added a classic cream cheese icing, and shaped and decorated it like a fish, since Miles loves fish so much. It all went down very well with old and young guests, with one young guest even declaring that the cake was so good he didn’t need ice cream!  All the kids played really well together and it was a fun kind of happy chaos. Photos will follow in a bit when my friend Angela sends hers to me – I didn’t manage to pull out my camera even once!

We managed to clear everyone out by about 1 and convince Miles that a nap would maybe a good idea. He squirmed around for a while, but eventually settled down and then crashed out for 2 ½ hours. We had managed to do most of the clean up before his nap, so we quickly did the rest and then lay down ourselves for some well-deserved rest.

After our awesome nap we couldn’t decide what to do for dinner. We wanted something easy, but Miles (unfortunately) is not a fan of pizza or a lot of other short-cut options. We finally settled on perogies, knowing that even those might not go over too well. We needed sour cream/yogurt and farmers’ sausage to complete the menu, so we headed out to our local store, best known for being overpriced and under stocked. Not surprisingly, they didn’t have any farmers’ sausage, so we decided to walk a bit further to a bigger store. On the way there, I remembered about a burger place that we used to go to quite often back in our carefree past. It’s about a 15 minute walk from our current place, and since we were all enjoying being outside, we decided to go there for dinner. What a great decision that turned out to be! Taking a 2 year old out for dinner is so much easier than taking a younger kid – there was no need for a booster seat, bib, special cup, food from home etc.

When (very briefly) debating if this idea would work, we figured on getting Miles some lamb burger, something we have semi-regularly at home and that he likes. However, when we got there we discovered that they don’t sell lamb burgers anymore. Luckily, they do offer wild salmon fillets, and if there is one thing that Miles is pretty much guaranteed to eat, it’s salmon. I ordered a “double” salmon burger, and they offered to bring the second piece of salmon on a small plate. A quick check with the kitchen revealed that they didn’t have any lemon, so I quickly ran out and bought one at the next door convenience store. Together with some fries, Miles had an excellent dinner and Mr. Chumsley and I greatly enjoyed the freedom of going out for dinner and being out with our kid later than 5:30!

Going out for dinner with your toddler seems like such a trivial and simple thing, but it really was a lot of fun, and it feels like we might be on the verge of a whole new stage of portability. If you were to graph the portability of kids over time, I think it would start pretty high, bottom out around 9 months, and slowly start creeping up again. We might just be starting to hit the point of being able to do things at the last minute again, and that’s exciting!

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