Monday, 10 March 2008

Apple and Cranberry Muffins (egg free, dairy free, gluten free)

When my second daughter realised we were going to our house in Normandy for half term, she staged a minor rebellion,

‘I don’t WANT to go to our house in Normandy. All my friends are going somewhere good; like skiing or to Italy, I want to go somewhere different, it’s so boring at our other house’.

I looked at her thoughtfully. A pair of my Mother’s ghostly, strappy, work shoes hovered around my feet. I stared at them, and considered trying them on for size,

‘Now just you listen here young lady, have you any idea how spoilt you sound? You are very, very lucky to have another house to go to, it is a privilege. We are going, and you will come whether you like it or not. Now stop that crying or I’ll give you something to cry for’.

Those shoes just don’t feel comfortable though. My 21st century, vaguely fluffy, stay-at-home boots suit me better;

‘Why don’t you want to go? I thought you enjoyed it there?’

‘Well, I do…’ she conceded reluctantly, ‘it’s just that we never really do much, we just stay around the house’.
She had a point. I do tend to potter around the house, the children disappear into the garden and we meet up for meals. Apparently the novelty is wearing off. I made a decision,
‘You’re right, we’re not just going to stay at home; we’re going to do stuff’.
I got quite excited at the thought of spending days away from the house and not trying to keep up with the washing and the usual chores.

And so the week began, bathed in beautiful sunshine. We headed for the sea. The beach in globally-warmed February is a fantastic place to be. The children paddled, Daddy lost the ball in the sea (we’ll gloss over that bit), and we ate ice-cream and lollies sitting on the sand.
Day 1 – Mummy is off to a great start, keep up the good work.

Monday: first real day of the holidays. Daddy away until Thursday, but I was not fazed. Dear Kathie arrived with her son, and the children spent hours on the trampoline. As the momentum slowed we frogmarched them to the woods where they climbed trees and helped us collect firewood. The tiny, bleating lambs in the fields were achingly cute, and my youngest declared she wanted to have two ‘sheepy babies’.
Day 2; Another good day for Mummy, continuing good work.

Waking to a downpour during half-term is never a good start. I was still playing the Kathie sleepover card though, so the children played with her son until lunchtime when we took them to a pizzeria. As we waved Kathie off, I felt a wave of tiredness and decided to sit down. Unheard of. I painted my eldest daughter’s nails, and even managed a little light sewing. The world did not stop turning because I sat down during the day; it was a revelation.
Day 3 – Mummy is making steady progress, relaxing into her role. We think she will do very well here.

On Wednesday, I played my trump card. Not only a trip to a different beach, but also meeting up with some of their school friends, and a trip to an Aquarium. My complacency was diminished somewhat by the flash of a speed camera and a well-concealed Gendarme-ess staring at me through speeding binoculars. If anything comes of these mishaps, I will sink the costs into the half term ENTS budget and we’ll say no more about it. Anyway, the children were all very happy with more beach action; they don’t seem to mind the scarlet, pre-frostbite feet. They liked the smaller-than-expected-aquarium and enjoyed another lunch out.
Day 4 – Mummy is making excellent progress, but she does need to be careful with her attitude. We hope that she will learn from the speeding incidents and take care not to allow careless errors to creep into her work.

Another day. Another 24 hours to fill. Waking with a cricked neck was not good, neither was more rain. We did manage a trip to a garden centre to look at furry animals, weird fish and brightly coloured birds. However, the quick-in, quick-out supermarket visit stretched maternal patience to twanging point; I think I did well not to have a liquid lunch that day. The afternoon was spent recuperating. The children briefly attempted sewing, and then we dug out the UNO cards.Day 5 – We do hope Mummy has not peaked too soon. She still has 3 more days to go and the sign of a good parent is the ability to pace themselves. She would do well to bear that in mind.

Parental reinforcements arrived late on Day 5, so Day 6 was always going to go a little better. My other half stayed at home to work and the rest of us set off to see the sheepy babies again. I did worry for a minute that the sheepy babies had already met their maker, but fortunately they were all still there. More tree climbing in the woods, back for lunch, then some more UNO. My son really is a consummate cheat, and he’s only five. My neck had seized up again after tea and I had to retire to the sofa. One daughter massaged my feet, another my face, and my son brushed my hair. Bliss.
Day 6 – We feel that Mummy has weathered adversity very well indeed, and her determination to continue providing quality care to her children, does her credit.

Saturday meant that normal weekend business resumed; I went for a run, we had lunch at our favourite pizzeria and my eldest went horse-riding. I decided to clean the inside of the car because apparently a herd of pigs had been living in there for the past week. Astounding what turns up in a long-neglected car, I think the tuning fork was my best find.
Day 7 – There is very little left for us to say; Mummy is doing stellar work and her multi-tasking skills are improving daily.

Day 8 is always about packing up and going home. It happened to be Mother’s Day so I was rewarded with breakfast in bed. I took the opportunity to ask my dear offspring what had been the favourite part of their action-packed, fun-filled week. There was a thoughtful pause.
Going to bed’ ventured one.
‘Watching telly’ from another.
One rallied with ‘going to the beach’, and the fourth one is really too small to answer.
Day 8 – Mummy really shouldn’t take any notice of her children. She has provided an entertaining week, and she would do well to realise – sooner rather than later – that Motherhood is a thankless task. She should also take comfort from the three batches of Apple and Cranberry muffins she managed to bake during a very busy week.

Apple and Cranberry Half Term Muffins (Makes 12 large muffins)
The inspiration for these came - not from the creative joy of half term - but after reading an email from a lovely reader who I know is struggling to find allergy-friendly finger foods for her one year old daughter. I know these are a tad sugary, but I thought they might help when trying to think of vaguely healthy snacks for weeny ones. The addition of chickpea flour adds a little extra protein which can be hard to get into your child's diet when they can't eat dairy or egg.
Egg free, dairy free, gluten free:
125g brown rice flour
30g chickpea / gram / besan flour
70g cornflour / cornstarch
2 tsp gluten free baking powder
0.5tsp bicarbonate of soda
0.5tsp xanthan gum
1 tsp ground cinnamon
120-130g sugar (depending on taste)
1 heaped tsp of Orgran 'no egg' egg replacer+ 2 tbsp rice milk
1 heaped tbsp ground linseeds + 1 tbsp rice milk (to grind linseeds; put whole linseeds in a blender and blitz until they are a powder)
90ml vegetable oil
70ml rice milk
70 ml coconut milk
100g dried cranberries
200g peeled and cored apple (weighed after peeling and coring) approx 1.5 large apples
For egg free, dairy free with wheat flour:
Replace the gluten free flours with 225g of plain white flour
Reduce the sugar to 120g
Omit the xanthan gum
For gluten free with egg:
Omit the 'no egg' egg replacer, linseeds and the 3 tbsps of rice milk. Use one egg instead
  • Pre-heat the oven to 170 degrees celsius. Place your muffin cases into your muffin tray
  • If making the egg-free version, put the tsp of egg replacer into a small bowl. Add the tbsp of ground linseeds and the three tbsps of rice milk. Mix together with a mini whisk until there are no lumps, and set aside
  • Into a large mixing bowl place the gluten free flours or the wheat flour (if using). Add the xanthan gum (if making the gluten free version), baking powder, bicarbonate of soda, ground cinnamon and sugar. Mix with a mini whisk until everything is combined
  • Into a large jug put the oil, rice milk and coconut milk. If you are using a real egg, add it to the jug, and whisk lightly
  • Peel and core the apple and weigh out 200g. Finely chop the apple; maximum chunk size 0.5cm (and who says cooking is an imprecise science?)
  • Make a well in the centre of the flour bowl and add the oil, rice and coconut milk, real egg (if using)/ or egg replacer and linseed mix. Use a fork and mix briefly, about 5 goes around the bowl
  • Before it is all combined, add the chopped apple and the dried cranberries, mix again. It does look as though there's loads of apple at this point, but the end result is worth it
  • Divide the mixture evenly between the 12 muffin cases, and place into the oven
  • Bake for approximately 15-20 minutes, but keep an eye on them; it is a moment of pure chagrin if you allow your muffins to burn. Such a schoolgirl error
  • When they are firm and golden brown on top, insert a skewer into them. Aha! You see! They look cooked, but are still a bit gloopy inside (if yours are cooked at this point, disregard me as a wittering idiot, but otherwise, read on)
  • Reduce the oven heat to approx 150 degrees celsius
  • Your muffins should now be firm enough to be gently removed from the muffin tray (keep them in their cases though), and placed onto a pizza tray or baking tray
  • Return them to the oven for another 10 minutes or so, and then that cheeky, gloopy interior should firm up and your muffins will be cooked. Check this by inserting your skewer or knife. If during the interior-firming process the tops are getting too brown, cover them up with some tin foil
  • Remove the muffins and allow them to cool. Don't be too quick to taste them, that hot apple can cause nasty scalding to the roof of the mouth. Serves me right for being a Pig
  • Enjoy them whilst still a little warm. Enjoy them more when half term is over and at last you have time to breathe again
© Pig in the Kitchen
The pictured muffins are egg, dairy and gluten free.

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mutterings and meanderings said...

You know what Pig, I reckon you are a fab mum - and I bet you anything the piglets think so too!

GoneBackSouth said...

Sounds like a good week, all in all. You are so right about the world not ending if you sit down during the day. I would do well to remind myself of that now and again! It's remarkable how much more cheerful my kids are when I chill out.

the mother of this lot said...

You are a trooper! I'd have been fed up by Day 3!

Potty Mummy said...

A tuning fork? I mean, a cake fork I might have expected (although probably not from a brit, we don't tend to stand on ceremony, do we), but a tuning fork?

(The chocolate is still there, by the way. It's fast becoming a matter of principle...)

Kelleen said...

These sound delicious I can't wait to try them. I love all of your commentary...especially the birthday blog, since I am new to the blog world...thanks for everything.

Iota said...

I'll trade you Charlesinparis for your house in Normandy...

thenewstead6 said...

I was so excited to see these, that I started measuring out straight away.. only to realise that I hadn't read the recipe properly, and had missed that it had coconut milk in! One member of the family is intolerant of coconut (of course!). Any idea if I can just use rice milk instead? x

Pig in the Kitchen said...

M&M, I do hope you're right!

GBS, it's all down to us and our mood isn't it? So unfair.

TMOTL, ah but you have FIVE children!

PottyM, yes, where on earth did that tuning fork come from?! All credit to you about the chocolate, I think we need photographic evidence tho...

Hello Kelleen, thanks for your visit, and welcome to the all-consuming blog world!

Iota...what do you think, one week would do it??!!

thenewstead6, hello! Do you know, I do try and avoid using coconut milk for fear that many are allergic, so I tried to make these muffins just with rice milk...and they had a sort of cloying texture to them. I'm racking my brains for you...You COULD (and let me stress that I haven't tested this) try adding 20-30g melted dairy free spread, that might compensate for the fat in the coconut milk which seemed to make all the difference. If you can have soya cream, you could probably substitute that. I hope some of that is helpful...I'm also pondering over adding a few tablespoons of apple puree? Not so sure about that last idea.
Good luck, let me know how it goes!

Pig in the Kitchen said...

if you add the extra fat, you might have to reduce the rice milk to compensate for the extra liquid in the fat, try putting in 100 ml rice milk, then gradually add the rest. You want the texture to be quite thick, not sloppy.

the mother of this lot said...

Came back to say...award over here for you...

Akelamalu said...

I thought you did really well considering you cricked your neck!

Mya said...

Your kids massage you and brush your hair? I think you have them very well trained indeed. Well done for have a few weeks grace before the next hols.

Mya x

grit said...

what a remarkable week. inspired, i have been to the local health food shop and bought a jar of xanthan gum, hoping to replicate the same (for trip to normandy we will have to go and sit in wendy house, but it could be worth it).

Sweet Irene said...

The "having to entertain the kids part" is the least happy part I liked about motherhood, as I thought they should have been able to do that themselves and I always thought that nothing I came up with quite lived up to their expectations, but maybe it is the warp of time that makes me remember it that way.

Milla said...

loved this - loved the links to all the pictures (partic mother's shoes and the sensible glasses of wine - er, the joke being??) and the report card notation. Do hope you've learnt from all this just not to bother. What's wrong with sand-whipped legs and painful long hours of excruciating boredom - which can be punctuated by little lectures about Africa.

rilly super said...

PITK, I think I saw you in the background of this home video of the normandy seaside, sigh.

Pig in the Kitchen said...

TMOTL, well thank-you v. much!

akelamalu, thank-you, the cricked neck put me in a rather bad mood, thank heavens for Nurofen!

MYA, it's astonishing isn't it? They seem to really like eldest continually offered to bring me alcohol as well! Bring on the Easter hols...

grit, it was a fairly tiring week! Well done on the xanthan gum, it's such a weird and wonderful ingredient. The Wendy House Holiday Option involves a lot less packing...

sweet Irene, I try not to entertain them, they do generally manage on their own. But four kids can be pretty overpowering by 11am (remember they get up at 6), so going out for the day and keeping the momentum going is - kind of - an easier option!

Milla, why thank-you. I was deadly serious with the wine glass link, I'm sure Mr Ebay will sell me one! I am cramming for the lectures on Africa I plan to deliver during the Easter Hols. Specific emphasis will be on the Boer War and the involvement of the British.

Rilly, always amazed by your powers of observation. It was indeed me, the one with the 'rire vulgaire' and the chemise from a grand magasin...(you see, I really did watch it!)

Sweet Irene said...

As I sit here in the middle of the night reading blogs, I come to yours and am confronted with a delicious bit of food and I realize I am hungry and must eat something, but there is never anything as delicious in the house as you show here. It is very frustrating! Never mind that I am on a diet!

Frog in the Field said...

Oh Pig, what a super Mummy Darling you are! Do you never, ever beat them?
I don't allow my pigglies in the car because it's far too grubby in there, am thinking of sending the contents to famine relief.

thenewstead6 said...

hi! Well, my first attempt... I used 100ml rice milk, then 25g melted sunflower margarine, instead of using the coconut milk. They were delicious: perfect muffin texture, gorgeous taste... but they crumbled into pieces as soon as you tried to eat them! Not dry crumbs, lovely moist yummy muffin crumbs (I ate it with a spoon out of the case!). I thought maybe this was because I tried eating one straight out of the oven... but even cooled down (it was a loooong wait!) they crumbled. Any ideas?

elizabethm said...

You are an utter saint. No wonder your children massage your feet and wash them and dry them with your hair (may have got a bit lost there). I would recommend being a grandma as a solution to the shoes to stand in. While I couldnt quite do your mother's shoes, I do a very good line with the two year old in "What does Grandma say?" in calmly doomy tones which reduces him to shreds. Not often, just every now and then.

Pig in the Kitchen said...

SweetIrene, it is a)fatal to read food blogs becoz they make you hungry, and b) even worse in the middle of the night... Maybe you should prepare your midnight snacks during the day, then you'd have yummy stuff at the ready! And in light of your diet, I of course mean, yummy things like carrot and cucumber sticks. And raisins.

FITF, now I can't own up to beating them here in cyberspace now can i?! Cars are a health hazard, so difficult to keep clean, i think spending money on a valet is money well spent. Must remember that next time.

oh newstead6, how frustrating!! I'm racking my brains for's times like these when we need that big jar marked 'hydrogenated fat'. Maybe my apple puree idea wasn't so far off the mark, it sounds like you need something to bind the crumbs, or perhaps another 'no egg' and another tbsp of linseeds? I think i would try some apple pulp first (steam/boil it to a pulp) and add 2-3tbsps? May the force of allergy cooking be with you.

elizabethm, no, not a saint, just trying to survive! Did i mention they often bathe me in frankincense and myrrh, rinsing it off with their tears of penitence? I think being a Grandma must be a very good position to be in...and I bet you're a lovely one.

Frog in the Field said...

Don't be silly, you can tell me fact you rarely hold back!!
Can you send me something to wake me up through cyberwhatsit, I'm so tire...(yawn)..d

Sparx said...

God those look good - and good work on half term too and conquering that 'doing extra stuff' mountain. Whenever we visit the outlaws in France we don't do extra stuff either, it seems plenty for the frog just to get us to the beach...

Pig in the Kitchen said...

FITF, well, I won't mention putting them in stocks and ice cold punishment baths out loud. Cure for fatigue? A good strong coffee enema love; works a treat.

Sparx, Merci dear! I think children should just live on beaches, perhaps in one of those little huts, then they would spend their days happy.