savoury muffins
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Savoury Muffins – School Lunch Recipe

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Summer in Australia means school aged kids are under their parent’s feet at home, yet, paradoxically, many parents actually look forward to School holidays. Why? One reason is that holidays means a slower start to the day, no school run stress, no juvenile screaming they can’t find their hat/maths homework/bus-card, and most significantly, no need to prepare school lunch boxes, each and every morning.

 

workingmother

 

Day after school-term day, many parents over-stress and almost tear their hair out trying to provide a nutritious, yet appealing school lunchbox for their kids, particularly during the high school years. As any parent with teens knows, asking adolescents to consume anything remotely wholesome and not packaged in four layers of plastic or laced with half a salt mine, is tantamount to offering them a piece of buttered cardboard and likely to be received with this enthusiastic response:

yukkyfood

[Source -dailymail.co.uk]

So how does home-cooked food, originating from the household pantry or fridge, compete with the highly addictive products of multinational food companies or their derivatives, with the myriad of flavourings, salt and sugar content? How did we get to this situation?

What society thought school lunch should look like –

foodpyramid

What teenagers thought school lunch look like –

junk food

What parents think school lunches are like –

 

mum lunchbox

With the impending start of the school work year, I  decided the school lunchbox had to be not only visually appealing, but tasty as well and, it had to tick most of the ‘healthy lunch’ boxes, (no pun intended!) So I studied a few basic muffin recipes and came up with my own savoury muffin that I am confident even the fussiest teen would be hard-pressed to refuse, (and if he/she does, there is always bribery and corruption as Plan ‘B’….)

The real secret to this recipe is that it looks like a sweet cake in appearance, (first duplicitous manoeuvre) and, secondly, it tastes like the junk food on offer at most food outlets, (but is actually good to eat).

Enter the Savoury Muffin to Die for……

savoury muffins
Amanda’s Savoury Muffins

The rosemary and sea salt topping really stimulates those adolescent taste-buds and once your teen has shown a positive interest such as, “What’s that you are cooking, Mum?” comments, and eats a few here and there:   then and only then might I suggest slowly, (over a few batches), decreasing the amount of sea salt used as topping, to improve the nutrition levels further. Easy does it though: Teen noses and taste buds can easily detect the covert operation you might have in mind.

The list of suggested fillings, is one that you can add as many or as few of these as you have on hand, or in the pantry, without unduly affecting the outcome of the recipe.

Experiment to see which flavors teens like best.

Savoury Muffins

[Makes 12 serves]

Ingredients:

2 cups Self Raising Flour

(or 2 cups Plain flour with 4 teaspoons of baking powder added)

1 teaspoon Baking Powder

80 g Butter, melted

1 tablespoon good quality Olive Oil

1 Egg

1  cup Milk ( I use low-fat)

1 slice Ham – diced

1/3 cup grated Zucchini (courgette)

1 clove Garlic, minced

1/3 cup Baby spinach, diced

1/3 cup cooked Pumpkin (roasted or steamed)

1/3 cup Capsicum strips, roasted (can use jarred variety)

80 g Feta cheese ( crumbled)

Toppings:

savoury muffins20 g Feta cheese ( crumbled), extra

1 tablespoon grated Parmesan cheese

1 tablespoon Rosemary

Sea salt

Optional extra or substitute fillings:

1 tablespoon Olives, sliced

1 tablespoon Parsley

1 teaspoon Mint leaves

2 sticks Spring Onions, sliced

1/3 cup Sun-dried Tomatoes

grated carrot

Pineapple Pieces – (drained well)

Method:

Pre-heat Oven 200 degrees

Mix Flour and Baking powder in large bowl.

Mix melted Butter, Oil and Egg and Milk in separate bowl.

Add the wet ingredients to the dry and mix gently with a wooden spoon.

Fold in the rest of the ingredients only until just mixed and no lumps of flour remain.

Fill a Muffin pan that has been lined with paper Muffins cases to 2/3 capacity.

Sprinkle Parmesan, extra Feta and a mixture of Rosemary and Sea salt on top.

Bake for 20 minutes or till golden brown on top.

Cool on a wire tray covered with a fresh tea towel to prevent muffins drying out.

These muffins freeze well wrapped individually or in a seal-proof container.

The perfect morning tea or lunch snack for those on the go.

P.S. If you are really daring or have one of those ” I’ll eat anything as long as it’s food,” kind of kids: Round off the lunch box offerings with some hummus, hard-boiled eggs and fruit.

Tantalizing Tuesdays

Filling the lunch box give parents ‘Something to Ponder About’

 

 

Honey steak
Food

Tantalizing Tuesday – Honey Steak – Don’t Complicate It!

Honey steak

Who says the cheaper meat cuts aren’t tasty?

Not me, I can assure you!

Whilst they have the sad reputation as being off-cuts, or ‘depression cuisine’, I agree there is a bit of an art to cooking cheaper cuts of meat, such as blade and chuck steak. And that art is, to “do” them slowly, preferably in a ‘crock-pot’ or slow cooker. “Sure, they are affordable, but who could be bothered with all that cooking,” many of us ask? “Most of us are out of the house, until late in the evening, or busy throughout the day, so who feels up to producing a gourmet meal, when we’d rather just wind down and relax?”

tired

There is a growing trend away from a weekly grocery ‘shop’ and planned meals, and towards ‘picking up’ processed, packaged or ready – made meals on the way home from work, as time-poor adults create demands for items like this:

The solution, I’d like to suggest, is easy. Spend 5 -10  minutes preparing the ingredients, (and this recipe has very few of those), the night before the meal, place in a zip-lock bag in the fridge, or prepare them first thing in the morning. Then, before you leave the house, bung it all in the slow cooker, and when you return  home in the evening – hey, ‘Presto!’- Your meal is ready to serve.

An added bonus to this cooking method is coming home to a tantalizing aroma as you enter the kitchen! [This aids digestion by stimulating the flow of digestive juices!!! – Believe me, all good stuff as we get older!]

Using the slow cooker also means there is only one bowl to wash up afterwards!   After a busy day, what could be better than a nutritious, delicious meal that required less than 10 minutes preparation and clean up?

You might also prepare some vegetables, such as chopped carrots and sliced onions in a separate zip-lock bag, then add them in the slow cooker, as well; just be sure to place them in the cooker FIRST, and the meat on top! Wanna try it?  Here is the recipe:

Honey Steak

Please note that this is not a stew*- it is steak, cooked slowly, in a rich marinade. The vinegar content in this recipe aids the break down of the blade steak’s fibrous texture and results in a “melt the mouth’ quality.

*[Scroll down for an alternate, slightly more complicated stew recipe, also in the slow cooker ]

Ingredients                      

Blade steak, sliced thin and cut into serving pieces – I used 1 and 1/2 steaks and this was enough for 3 adults
1 cup tomato sauce
1/4 cup rice wine vinegar, (or ordinary white vinegar will do)
1/4 cup honey
1 tablespoon brown sugar
1 cup water (Add more if you would like lots of sauce)

Method

Throw it all in the slow cooker !!

Cook on low setting for a minimum of 4 hours.

[My slow cooker does cook a little hotter than most, on the low setting……so you may want to rack it up a notch, if yours is an older model]

Add seasoning to taste and serve!

* That is it! What could be simpler?

I served this with potatoes, steamed carrots and spinach and feta – Delicious!

Final Thoughts:

Every day, I see more and more processed, packaged or ready – made meals, slowly infiltrating the consumer psyche, as acceptable items on the supermarket shelf. I lament that all too soon the simple act of grating a carrot ,or shredding our own lettuce, will be relegated to an activity seen only at historic reenactment group ‘open’ days, as we as a population, (generally speaking), forget the simple tasks involved in creating a balanced meal, for ourselves, from uncomplicated  ingredients.  We must buck the contemporary trend to complicate food and hang on to the practice of preparing and cooking not only  nutritious meals, but also ones that are freshly made with a variety of ingredients, even the less popular ones.

If you are someone who prefers a more stew like consistency to your meal, and you want to use blade steak, here is another Slow Cooker recipe:

BEEF and CARROT STEW

1.25 kg diced beef (I used blade steak)
1 large onion diced
3 large carrots cut into large cubes
1 capsicum chopped
1 tablespoon crushed garlic
1/2 small jar whole grain mustard (I used a supermarket brand)
1 small tin tomato paste
1/4 cup sour cream
1 teaspoon chili powder (optional)
Salt and pepper to taste

Saute onion and garlic in the pan with a small amount of oil, until soft.

Add beef and cook until browned.

Transfer beef, onions and garlic to the Slow cooker.

Add all other ingredients except sour cream, and mix well.

Cook in Slow cooker for 4 hours on high or 6 hours on low.

Mix sour cream in before serving.

(If you like a thicker sauce add in a teaspoon cornflour that has been mixed in 1 tablespoon water  and add to the stew 5 minutes before serving).

Serve with mashed potato and vegetables/salad!

Tantalizing Tuesdays

Something to ponder about