seeded mini muffins | dog songs

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It's usually when I'm on holiday that I try to read more, not just novels, but also poems. They are somehow less self conscious than books; often more difficult to unravel, but more honest. On some previous blog posts I shared quotes by poet Mary Oliver. I think that I, like many people, loved the way she could make emotion and nature somehow intertwine. I saw quite a lot of her poems were inspired by her dogs, one called Percy, or walks she'd taken with her pups. She even wrote a whole compilation of poetry, Dog Songs, that reflects on the love of a dog and their human. I have often written about my own pups, but not dogs as dogs. What having a little furry thing with a leathery nose and big beating heart means. It was global dog day a while ago (August 26th) so I was thinking about pets as a whole. They can teach you so much. About the giving and receiving of love, about loss, about humor, about snuggles. They can teach you that it's not always about the bigger picture, but sometimes the minutiae are worth your time. I could write more about this, but I found a poem Mary Oliver had written about her relationship with Percy that kind of encapsulates loving a dog and learning from one.

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There is always a bittersweet edge that comes with owning a dog, like a low mist rolling off the sea, sinking into valleys in the countryside where it can linger for days. Dogs’ lives seem so short, beauty like a sunset, snowfall, city lights from airplane windows. But. They just bring so much. They make our lives so full. They transform the way you think and the way you act and any kindness of humans pales in comparison to the tireless kindness of dogs. All the worrying you do and the rushing to get home to them and the cleaning dog hair and muddy paws is really nothing, compared to what they give us.
Mary Oliver's poem is called, quite perfectly, The Sweetness of Dogs.

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“What do you say, Percy? I am thinking
of sitting out on the sand to watch
the moon rise. Full tonight.
So we go, and the moon rises, 
so beautiful it makes me shudder, 
makes me think about time and space, 
makes me take measure of myself: 
one iota pondering heaven. 

Thus we sit, I thinking how grateful I am for the moon’s perfect beauty and also, oh!
How rich it is to love the world. 
Percy, meanwhile, leans against me and gazes up into my face. 
As though I were his perfect moon.”

Mary Oliver, Swan

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seeded mini muffins

makes around 24 mini muffs, 12 regular

1 1/4c (125g) oat flour
1c brown rice flour (120g)
1/4c (108g) flax meal
1/4c (35g) sunflower seeds
1/4c mixed small seeds (60ml by volume - chia, flax, poppy seeds, pumpkin seeds etc)
1tsp baking soda
1tsp baking powder
1/2tsp nutmeg
1c (250ml) plain yogurt
2 free range eggs
1/4c (60ml) olive oil
1/2c (125ml) honey or maple syrup
1tsp pure vanilla extract


Preheat the oven to 180’c, 350’f. Prepare a mini muffin pan, or a regular pan, whichever you have.
Stir together the dry ingredients, including the seeds.
In a separate bowl, beat together the eggs, yogurt, vanilla and maple/honey. 
Stir the wet mix into the dry mix and spoon into muffin tins.
If making mini muffs, bake for 15-18 minutes. For regular muffins they will probably need 5-10 minutes more. 

The muffins will keep well in the fridge for around five days and you can also freeze them.

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💗some other sweet muffins 💗

what I learnt | olive oil + honey quinoa granola

nutmeg and pear | honey-sweetened olive oil granola w/ quinoa (gf + low carb)
nutmeg and pear | honey-sweetened olive oil granola w/ quinoa (gf + low carb)

My first thought was that I'd do a post about my highlights of 2016 but then I quickly ruled that out. I didn't want to sound like one of those people who just make their lives all shiny and then sing about it on social media. That's the thing with these spaces - it's so easy to curate what you show, and what you don't, I think people forget that. Am I going post a photo of the pouring rain and a scummy North Norfolk puddle on instagram? No, exactly, I'll post a nice picture of some spring sunshine or maybe something I baked because I've styled those photos to hell and back. Easy. Reality is boring. If I just wrote, I'd be telling you about these 6 essays I've been working on over the holidays. And about how our flight may be cancelled because of fog. So I'll just leave the good and the bad aside and I thought instead I'd share two things I learnt this year. Ok, I know I'm barely 18 so this may sound funny to some people but I think this is actually that window when we learn the most. We're still easy to mould, the things that shape us now give us our form forever, I would've thought.

Life is fragile. I don't mean this in a let's-go-out-get-smashed type of you-only-live-once-way, but I take for granted that my life will overlap with others. I say this after the episode with Prune that I mention often. I thought I'd have years with them, apparently not. I then realized I don't have enough photos of the girls, that there will never be enough days to bury my face in their fur. I mean, their lives are like a sunrise. So short, so bright, filled with energy, bringing us so much beauty. Blink and you'll miss it. It's probably the same for parents, I wouldn't know. One minute you're driving kids around everywhere and thinking oh lord when is this going to end then suddenly the kids have their own cars, they go to university and that's that. People, pets whoever, they have small batteries and no armour. It doesn't mean that Prune won't get an earful when she picks fights with dogs half her size or that Suezie can endlessly stretch with her claws on my bare feet but I should hug them more. And stop saying, when they suddenly sleep in the crate together, that I'll take a photo next time.

People have been designed to put up with a lot. Somewhere I read that 'all flowers must grow through dirt' and I think of that often. Just when you think that nothing worse will happen, the tsunami hits after the earthquake. They also say that something good will always come from something bad, I don't think that's always the case. Instead I think what you learn is that your resilience is much more than you expected. And the people who are with you through it, they're the keepers, the ones you should remind to eat their kale.

nutmeg and pear | honey-sweetened olive oil granola w/ quinoa (gf + low carb)

In the spirit of eating kale, new beginnings and general healthfulness, I'd like to bring you some honey and olive oil quinoa granola. A mouthful, but a tasty protein packed one at that. I literally eat 'nola in some form every day, but this is different to my orange granola because it's less oat-based with lots of crunchy quinoa, nuts and seeds, which will appeal to a lot of people at this time of year. There are quite a few indredients but if you stock a remotely whole-foods pantry they're all staples and if you don't, I have added a little info about each ingredient - either way, it's nice to know a bit about what you're eating. This is quite long, so feel free to skip down to the recipe. I don't have one particular source for the info, I am enough of a food nerd to keep a notebook with this kind of thing.

nutmeg and pear | honey-sweetened olive oil granola w/ quinoa (gf + low carb)

Rolled oats (porridge oats): what would I do without these guys? boil them up for a quick and creamy breakfast, bake them into muffins or granola, bake with the flour... they are a great source of manganese (connective tissue builder + regulates blood sugar + absorbs calcium). Beta glucan is the fiber (a super source of fiber, oats) specific to oats that is associated with lowering cholesterol, preventing cardiovascular disease through unique anti-oxidants, and helping the heart. Oats are inherently gluten free, but are often processed alongside wheat products so if you/those you feed are very sensitive to gluten, be sure to buy certified gf oats :)

Quinoa: ah quinoa, the tiny gluten free superfood that's taken media by a storm. you've probably seen it around in supermarkets by now - not strictly a grain, but rather a seed (though it's considered a whole grain. imposter.)that contains all 9 essential amino acids. This is pretty incredible for a plant and what makes it so popular as a protein source for vegetarians/vegans. It is high in many minerals (iron, manganese, magnesium, copper....) so can help ease migraines. It is no headache to cook either; it can be used like rice (boil with a 2:1 water:quinoa ratio, so 1 cup quinoa to 2 cups water). Just make sure you rinse it first, like I do here, because there is a bitter coating to the grains otherwise.

nutmeg and pear | honey-sweetened olive oil granola w/ quinoa (gf + low carb)
nutmeg and pear | honey-sweetened olive oil granola w/ quinoa (gf + low carb)

Sunflower seeds: good for your bones because they're so rich in magnesium which helps with structure and regulating nerve cells. They are very mild and always remind me of granary bread from when I was young; they can easily be tossed into salads or to add a bit of crunch to oatmeal. The selenium helps with cancer prevention and certain chemical compounds (phytoserols) play a role in lowering cholesterol, and as an anti-inflammatory agent. Sunflower seed butter is often used as a nut-free alternative to almond butter, I'm sure it's really tasty.

Pumpkin seeds: These seeds contain a huge range of anti-oxidants; wider than many other nuts and seeds. They are also a source of unique proteins which have anti-fungal and anti-microbial properties and are super sources of zinc. Zinc is huge in boosting immunity and fighting colds, never a bad thing at this time of year. Like sunflower seeds, they can go almost anywhere you want a crunchy element and are often used to make pesto, which I really must try.

nutmeg and pear | honey-sweetened olive oil granola w/ quinoa (gf + low carb)

Brazil nuts: incredible sources of selenium, which is an anti-flammatory agent and also helps prevent free radical damage and so have been associated with lower levels of cancer, as well as having an important role in regulating your metabolism by influencing thyroid hormones. Selenium also helps prevent depression - it's a mood lifter, so smiles all around. They have a flavor that to me is a lot like almonds, I'm always surprised they're not used more in recipes. I have added soaked nuts (saving my blender) to smoothies and they are so creamy!

nutmeg and pear | honey-sweetened olive oil granola w/ quinoa (gf + low carb)

Almonds: the world's highest source of vitamin E (fat soluble anti-oxidants) which kindly protect your cell walls from damage. they're high in monounsaturated fats, the 'good fats' which help lower cholesterol and keep hair and nails and the heart healthy. They are also potassium rich, like bananas (!!!) so great for active people and nerve transmission & muscle contraction. Incredibly, these mild & tasty nuts have been associated with regulating blood sugar levels and lowering the glycemic index of the meal they're incorporated into.

Flax seeds: aside from containing lots of essential fatty acids and omega 3, these unobtrusive seeds are incredible sources of lignans. Lignans are chemicals found in some plants that have been linked to colon and breast cancer prevention. Flax is high in fibre and help regulate the passage of food through the intestines, assisting with the absorption of other nutrients (the midfielders of the nut/seed world). The combination of omega 3 fatty acids & high levels of vitamin B mean they're good for shiny, healthy hair and skin.

Hemp seeds: (un?)fortunately nothing to do with weed but you'll feel pretty good after eating these protein powerhouses. Much like quinoa, these seeds are a complete protein and are valued in plant-based protein powder; they also contain the type of aminos needed for muscle repair. They are a valuable source of omega 3, good for preventing inflammation; and are high in iron as well as a bunch of vitamins (A, B, D, E). They have a pleasantly nutty flavor and I often use them in granola but you can also chuck them into smoothies, salads, wherever you would any seed.

nutmeg and pear | honey-sweetened olive oil granola w/ quinoa (gf + low carb)

Chia seeds: I know what you're thinking but these have become mainstream now, I can find them at my local supermarket... and I'm not suggesting you use these tiny superfoods to make chia pudding (chia soaked in milk/water, the seeds swell with the liquid and resemble something tapioca-ish, popular with health foodies but a step too far for some of us ahem), which I am aware resembles frogspawn, I know from experience. Instead, I use them in granola, baked into muffins and cookies, sprinkled over oatmeal, blended into smoothies... because they have so much goodness! They are very rich in omega 3 & fatty acids; even more so than flax seeds, and are also good sources of iron and calcium, great for non-dairy and non-meat eaters. They are useful as a binder in gluten free baking and can stand in for eggs too.

nutmeg and pear | honey-sweetened olive oil granola w/ quinoa (gf + low carb)
nutmeg and pear | honey-sweetened olive oil granola w/ quinoa (gf + low carb)

Olive oil + honey quinoa granola

This granola is fruity and fragrant from olive oil; with floral notes from honey and a whole lot of energy and goodness from quinoa and hemp seeds. The nuts and seeds are toasted and golden; quinoa adds a little crunch to this protein-packed breakfast.
// gluten + dairy free // makes about 5 cups (1.25l)


2/3 (130g) cup quinoa
2 cups (200g) rolled oats, certified gf if neccessary
1/2 cup (75g) almonds, roughly chopped
1/2 cup (70g) brazil nuts, roughly chopped
1/2 cup (70g) pumpkin seeds
1/2 cup (65g) sunflower seeds
1/3 cup (40g) hemp seeds
2 tablespoons flax seeds
1 tablespoon chia seeds
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons cinnamon
1 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1/4 cup (60ml) extra virgin olive oil
1/3 cup (80ml) honey*
dried fruit, optional**

Pour the quinoa into a fine mesh sieve and rinse really well under cold water; rub the grains together and between your fingers for a couple of minutes. Lay our a few paper towels and spread the rinsed grains over them, pat them down to dry a bit and leave aside to dry.

Preheat the oven to 165’C and line a rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper.

In a large bowl (like, super sized) add the oats, nuts, seeds and salt, spices, mix it all up with your hands. Add both the olive oil and the honey plus vanilla, mix well again.

Dry the quinoa one last time and then add it to the melée, toss everything around so it’s evenly coated.

Dump the bowl out onto the prepared pan, spread it out into one even, thick layer. Bake for 45-50 minutes.

Remember to rotate the pan every 10 minutes and to stir the granola up, bringing the edges into the middle and the middle over to the edges so it all browns evenly and nothing burns.

Once the granola is nicely browned, allow it to cool fully on the pan. After it’s cool, toss  through the dried fruit if you’re using any, then fill a large air tight jar. The granola will keep at least a month. Question is: will it last that long?

NOTES

*to keep this vegan, you can substitute maple syrup for honey in the same quantity, maple also goes amazingly with olive oil

As always, you can adapt the liquid – dry ratio in the recipe and use what you have/like instead. I’ll often use half walnuts instead of brazil nuts, or sometimes all sunflower seeds if I have no pumpkin seeds.

** I generally like to add dried fruit to my ‘nola, especially in winter when there’s little fruit in season. You can leave this out if there’s fresh fruit where you are, otherwise I like to use dried cranberries, blueberries, figs or raisins. Use what you like, just check there’s no added preservatives (sulphur) or sweetener.


nutmeg and pear | honey-sweetened olive oil granola w/ quinoa (gf + low carb)

I hope you found this remotely helpful and that it inspires you to add a few new goodies to your pantry, or reminds you of some. This granola is infinitely adaptable, so I really hope you make it. Granola, cute dogs and funny people exist, so don't let January get you down. Hugs xo

Ps. Today is our last day in India. I can't believe it... how did three weeks go by so fast? I will have some photos of Bangalore on the blog soon, if you're curious.



more breakfasts

nothing in return | orange & cranberry (holiday) granola

nutmeg and pear | healthy refined sugar free orange & cranberry granola w/ ginger

I wasn't particularly planning on writing to you, you were just rolling along being yourself, I'd just written to your sister and I didn't want to bore everyone. But then you hurt your claw (that was partly my fault for not trimming the damn thing. For that, I'm sorry. Promise.) and I changed my mind, but that's not the only reason why. I've been thinking about you since we put up the Christmas tree .

You came, little tail wagging. Sticking that velvety muzzle into all the boxes, sneezing in the glitter and pine needles. You look at life through fresh eyes, don't you? You're not like your sister, not like Prune who is the cynic, she knows what she wants. You're like that little amber bauble in the box of decorations. There are lots of similar ones, many are bigger, maybe more shiny, maybe a perfect sphere. You'd be slightly dusty, maybe chipped, slightly forgotten. But then I'd pull you out and dust you off and you shine. There's no face that I want to grab and cuddle more than yours. It may not be an elegant face, your paws may be too big for your body, you may bark too much but the real problem is that you have too much to give. You expect nothing from anyone, you're surprised when we talk to you, when we call Suzi over just for a cuddle. You want to give it all to us- joy, love, whatever, expecting nothing in return.

nutmeg and pear | healthy refined sugar free orange & cranberry granola w/ ginger
nutmeg and pear | healthy refined sugar free orange & cranberry granola w/ ginger
nutmeg and pear | healthy refined sugar free orange & cranberry granola w/ ginger
nutmeg and pear | healthy refined sugar free orange & cranberry granola w/ ginger

In some ways I think I see myself in you, Prune too, but sometimes with you it's so obvious I have to laugh. There was that day we went to the vet's, we'd lined up on the ramp, the receptionist came to open up. And there's Prune, all tail wags, friendly licks, instantly loved, lots of hugs, a roomful of new friends. And you? You stand in the background, alone, and you even bark. It takes a long time for people to realise how sweet you are - I'm nowhere near as sweet as you, but I'd be the one waiting at the back (I don't bark yet, but people don't ever take to me straight away, so I might as well). It takes you a long time to trust people, you'll do with your own company, but when you do start to trust, you'd do anything for them, you show them in your own suzi-like ways. You have so much love to give. The way you always bark at strange men, the way you climb onto my bed sometimes, how you curl your whole body around our legs and sleep like a little bean.

nutmeg and pear | healthy refined sugar free orange & cranberry granola w/ ginger

And before this season of giving, you've taught me so much about true generosity, patience. How do you manage, even if you're worried and scared, even though you've been hurt, to make us all smile and love us so much? I've learnt to give you time to warm to us, time to calm down when you're nervous, and it's been worth it, for the tic tac of your paws running to meet me when I'm up in the morning, for your snuggles and how you rest your whole face on my lap. So to you, the little forgotten bauble, just know for me you're the shiniest of the bunch. You can be the angel on the highest branch. Thank you, suzi, for teaching me that in our own way, we all know how to give. And thanks for giving me something every day, all year. You could teach Santa a thing or two.

nutmeg and pear | healthy refined sugar free orange & cranberry granola w/ ginger
nutmeg and pear | healthy refined sugar free orange & cranberry granola w/ ginger

I think I mentioned giving in my last post? To me the nicest things to gift are homemade, and I this granola would fit the role perfectly. It's pretty adaptable and looks cute + rustic in a glass jar with a little pine sprig, and granola keeps forever too - so make the whole batch and gift some. In case you were wondering what this had to do with Suzi, the answer is not much, but she simply doesn't ask for anything or expect anything - and that's just so rare. I expect and ask for my Christmas granola to be really tasty, warmly spiced and distinctly festive, and this recipe ticks all those boxes. The orange juice & zest in the syrup with a hint of molasses and ginger puts a Christmas candle in your breakfast (or snack)(I've never eaten a candle before though) + cranberries & oranges are made for each other. At other times of year, I switch the molasses for honey and tone down the ginger, which makes for a really bright and refreshing taste, so this recipe is a keeper for the whole year. In the notes under the recipe I give some switches for making the granola gluten-free and pantry friendly, so I really hope you try this one out. Try to make some time in the craziness for homemade gifts and cherishing the less-shiny baubles, whatever form they come in. The cheer is upon us. Happy holidays xo

nutmeg and pear | healthy refined sugar free orange & cranberry granola w/ ginger

ORANGE & CRANBERRY (HOLIDAY) GRANOLA

//gluten free option + vegan // makes about 8 cups/ 2l

1 1/3 cup (320ml) unsweetened orange juice, freshly squeezed or pure fresh bottled juice
1 tablespoon (15ml) unsulphured molasses*
1 tablespoon + 1 teaspoon (40ml) extra virgin coconut oil (room temperature)
1 tablespoon pure vanilla extract
1 teaspoon cinnamon
2 teaspoons ground ginger
1 teaspoon ground nutmeg
finely grated zest of one orange, optional

2 cups (200g) rolled oats
2 cups (200g) rolled rye/rye flakes**
2/3 cup (94g) pumpkin seeds
2/3cup (86g) sunflower seeds
1/2 cup (50g) walnuts, coarsely chopped
1/2 cup (75g) almonds, coarsely chopped
2 tablespoons  (20g) flax seeds

2/3 cup (100g) unsweetened dried cranberries


preheat the oven to 180’C or 350’F. line a large, rimmed baking tray with parchment paper.

start by making the ‘syrup’. in a medium saucepan over high heat, add the orange juice and molasses. you’re essentially making a reduction, so let the mix boil, uncovered, till reduced by about half: you want about 2/3 cup (160ml) liquid. after about 10 minutes of scarily rapid boiling, steam etc, carefully (this is real hot stuff) pour into a measure and check. if there’s too much liquid, boil longer and check, if there is too little, don’t panic. you can top it up with extra juice.
while the liquid is still hot, pour it back into the pan, stir in the coconut oil till it melts through; add the spices and vanilla and set aside to cool/infuse.

while the oj mix is cooling, find a very large bowl. add all the dry ingredients to the bowl and stir them to combine (I use my hands, less messy)
retrieve the cooled wet mix. drizzle it over the oat-nut mix and stir well, so the grains are just moistened without being wet. toss it well so that the bottom of the bowl doesn’t stay dry.

dump the bowl out onto the prepared baking tray – there will be a lot, use a wooden spoon/spatula to spread it evenly over the tray. put the tray in the oven for 10 minutes.
after 10 minutes, open the oven and stir the granola around on the tray, bringing the granola from the edges into the middle and the middle towards the edges – this is important or the edges will burn/brown much faster. rotate the tray.
bake for around 40 minutes, stirring/moving edges and rotating every 10-15 minutes. This granola is best with the grains nice and separate, not the clumpy kind; the frequent stirring ensures this.
40 minutes leaves the grains and nuts deeply toasted, which I love, but if this is not your thing, you can check on it after about 35 minutes.

Allow the granola to cool in the pan, then toss through the cranberries. Once fully cooled, use the parchment paper as a funnel (do this over a baking tray, it helps) to pour the ‘nola into a sealable glass jar, where it will keep a month or so. You can of course also put into small jars, paper bags etc. for gifting.

notes

*health foodies actually swear by blackstrap molasses, but it’s very sharp/spicy – I just used a natural variety that adds huge depth without the sharpness or being overly sweet, but remember, this and the juice are the only real sweeteners here. Your call. Also, if you’re in Belgium or Holland, I think appelstroop (apple syrup – can you find it elsewhere?) would work really well.
** to make this gluten free, switch the rolled rye for more gf certified rolled oats. I use it here because I like the contrast in color and shape to the very pale rolled oats, so you could try another gf rolled grain like rolled millet or quinoa. It adds nice variety

As a general note, you can keep things in the same volume and use what you have – 1 cup (around 150-160g) total of nuts, for example. And as I said, for something less in-your-face holiday, I switch molasses for honey and sometimes the cranberries for unsulphured dried apricots, blueberries or raisins. Granola just lives to make your breakfasts easy.

 

ps. This blog has been in existence almost 2 months now... I just want to say a huge thank you to the small handful of loyal readers who visit my little corner of the net often. Every comment, email, just you reading means the world to me. As a heads up, I might be changing the URL of the blog because after 'settling in' to the blog, I'm not sure how fitting it is. I will send an email to my subscribers when a change happens and I'll try to set up some kind of redirect. Thanks for all your support, if I could bake you all a cookie, I would.

suzi-smile

suzi, the littlest one


more holiday breakfasts