Cranberry Sauce Muffins

 

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I love Christmas. I don’t celebrate it at all, which seems to be the key to why I love it so much. I love Christmas music in shops, I love the lights, the sparkly trees, and most of all I love Christmas Cheer, an ephemeral concept that means people who would normally shove you out of the way to get nearer to the front of the ridiculously long queue in Waitrose on Christmas Eve say, “no don’t worry, you were there first.” When I was younger I felt a little aggrieved that Christmas seemed to be like another, even better birthday (in terms of the presents), but I now feel genuinely sorry for everyone who has to actually go Christmas shopping, buy a million presents for a million people you rarely see, and then suffer through a lunch (which seems to start at about 4pm – why?) consisting of things like turkey and brussels sprouts.

Ah, the brussels sprouts. When I talked about broccoli on here before, I felt the need to explain, using one of my favourite lines from The Simpsons, why broccoli is not fit to be eaten. I don’t think I need to do that with brussels sprouts. I don’t think anyone takes them seriously as a food. The smell, for one thing! Of course, Jon claims to love them. I think he is only saying it to annoy me because I genuinely cannot believe that it is possible to love them. For that reason, I don’t feel bad at all that I have banned them from the house, and he obviously doesn’t love them that much because he has accepted the ban, with the caveat that he should be allowed them once a year. Because it is the season of goodwill, I have allowed that one time to be at Christmas. Not specifically on Christmas day, because we don’t do anything particular on Christmas day (this year, for example, we had pasta pesto for lunch and then seabass with lebanese spinach rice for supper and brussels sprouts would have been a horrific interruption to either of those), but at some point over the Christmas period.

So this year, the dreaded sprouts came out on Christmas eve, when we had some friends over for dinner. I also made roast chicken, and then since there was a roast and some sprouts it began to feel a lot like a Christmas dinner, so I thought, why not make cranberry sauce? I realise that cranberry sauce is primarily designed for turkey, and the reason for that is that turkey is generally dry and tasteless and needs sauces and relishes to make it taste better. Roast chicken does not, but I’ve never made cranberry sauce and it looked easy and nice, so I thought I would try it.

It was both easy and nice, but the quantities (I used this Delia recipe) weren’t quite right (i.e. there was loads), or perhaps because there wasn’t any turkey, people didn’t have as much of it. The result was that we were left with a lot of cranberry sauce and, after finishing up the leftover roast chicken, nothing to do with it.

And so I made muffins. Muffins are like the puttanesca of baking – you can just chuck anything in and they will usually work out well. In my head these are also known as “Breakfast Muffins” because they contain oats and it is well known that if you prefix something with “breakfast” then it instantly becomes healthier.

This made 26 muffins, which I baked without paper cases in muffin trays (muffins seem to do better without cases, as they can become soggy with the paper. Just grease the trays well beforehand).

  • Approx 24 fl oz cranberry sauce (3 American cups)
  • 6 fl oz maple syrup/agave nectar/sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 5.5 fl oz (2/3 of a cup) vegetable oil
  • 8 fl oz (1 cup) water or milk
  • 12oz plain flour
  • 6oz rolled oats
  • 1 teasp cinnamon
  • 1 teasp salt
  • 1 teasp bicarb of soda
  • 2 teasp baking powder
  1. Beat the wet ingredients (cranberry sauce, eggs, oil, water/milk and the maple syrup/agave syrup if using. I used half and half maple syrup and agave syrup and no sugar).
  2. Mix the dry ingredients together, and then beat into the wet ingredients, but do not overbeat.
  3. Spoon the mixture into the muffin tray.
  4. Bake for about 20 minutes, or until a fork in the centre comes out clean.

*Approximate nutritional values (1 muffin)*

  • Calories: 164 kcal
  • Carbs: 24g
  • Fat: 6.7g
  • Protein: 2.6g
  • Sugar: 9.3g
  • Sodium: 74mg

*Baby-friendly version*

Muffins are excellent for babies, even those just starting out with food, because they are easy to hold and eat. Also, you can call them cakes and then they get very excited that they are having cake, even though the cake they’ve got has no sugar and little taste and is a very poor imitation of what they will later know as cake. However, cranberry sauce has a lot of sugar in it and you can’t do much about that because cranberries on their own are so bitter. If you’re OK with your baby having some sugar then these muffins will be very popular, but otherwise, cranberry sauce muffins are not really for your baby.

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Carrot, apple and blueberry muffins

Everyone where I live has a Bugaboo. And if they don’t have a Bugaboo, then there’s a good reason why, such as they don’t have a baby, or, more likely, they’ve made a very thoroughly researched decision as to why another buggy is better – the City Mini (“the amazing fold!”) is also quite popular, as are iCandies (“I wanted to support a British company”) and Maclarens (“simple, sturdy, effective”). (My buggy is obviously better than all of these – the Uppababy: upgraded, cheaper Bugaboo, with HUGE basket). But no one just went to Argos and picked up a buggy for £29.99. Not for our babies.

That’s because this is a pretentious neighbourhood with lots of neurotic but style-conscious parents who buy all of this top-of-the-range, probably mostly unnecessary baby stuff.  The plus side, if you’re writing a blog and you need material, is that if you hang around these parents, you hear some funny and cringeworthy things. A few months before Joe was born I was in a local, very expensive baby shop buying a present for a friend, and a couple came in with their baby and asked the shop assistant for “a developmental toy for our very bright 8 month old. He’s already bored with the toys he’s got and keeps throwing them out the buggy. What new developmental toys can you recommend?” Even the shop assistant, who must hear this kind of stuff all the time, looked a bit baffled, but then she realised that these customers were easy marks and she started throwing toys at them (the dad then thrust each toy in turn in front of his son’s face, and then decided whether to buy it based on the reaction he got. Tears meant “this toy is a bit babyish for him”, but a tongue poking out or a grabbing hand meant it was stimulating enough that it went into the shopping basket.)

But a couple of weeks ago, I was out with Jon and Joe for coffee in Primrose Hill, and I heard myself say, “No Joe, please take your fingers out of mummy’s cappuccino, you’ve got your own cappuccino right there.” Cringe. Even worse, a couple walked past as I said it and looked at me with the same unbelieving sneer I gave to the development toy people. Joe didn’t have his own cappuccino, by the way. I’m not crazy. He had his own babyccino, and if you don’t know what that is, well, I’m not sure you should even be reading this blog.

Anyway, the point of all of this was simply to say that there’s lots of things I didn’t imagine myself saying or doing before I became a parent (and it’s not just me: this morning I heard Jon say, “Joe, if you don’t touch daddy’s wee then you can flush the toilet afterwards.”)

Another thing is the constant the singing of annoying children’s rhymes. Not to Joe – we do that of course, but it doesn’t stop when he goes to bed or we go to work. We leave the house to the tune of “Wind the Bobbins” and “The Wheels on the Bus” and, most recently it has been “The Muffin Man”. I know that seems like a really a tenuous link to for a recipe for muffins but it actually isn’t – singing “The Muffin Man” as I sat at my desk (it’s OK, I have my own office) was what prompted me to send Jon my shopping list for the muffin ingredients I didn’t have.

I invented these muffins shortly after Joe started eating real food. They make an excellent, healthy snack and we always have a bag of these in the freezer, as they freeze well and can be restored by putting them in the oven for about 15 minutes, or just leaving to defrost (the oven makes them taste fresher, though). They would also make a tasty, healthy snack for adults and older children.

Makes about 24 mini muffins or fairy cakes

  • 2 eggs
  • 100ml sunflower/canola/rapeseed oil
  • 8 oz self raising flour
  • 2 oz porridge oats
  • 2 carrots
  • 2 eating apples
  • Approx 4 oz blueberries
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon allspice
  1. Grate the apple and carrot or use a food processor to finely grate them.
  2. Put all ingredients into a bowl, mix with a wooden spoon.
  3. Spoon into muffin tins or fairy cake cases Cook on 160c fan, or 180c normal for about 15 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted comes out clean.

*Approximate nutritional values (1 muffin)*

  • Calories: 95 kcal
  • Carbs: 10.9g
  • Fat: 4.9g
  • Protein: 1.8g
  • Sugar: 2.3g
  • Sodium: 9.5mg