Fast and easy muffin recipe and the most amazing tip for having freshly-baked muffins every morning!

muffin

It’s no secret that I’m not a great cook. I have a handful of great recipes up my sleeve that I can whip up in a pinch (this one immediately comes to mind), but when I try something new in the kitchen, it almost always turns into a gigantic mess. Most of the time I just need a completely fool-proof idea. Which brings me to today.

20 minutes ago I decided that I wanted to make muffins. A good healthy muffin is the perfect on-the-go toddler snack, a good quick breakfast, and perfect for my tea-time date with a friend tomorrow. A peruse through my trusty babyfood cookbook made me feel like an inadequate parent for not having steel-cut oats, wheat bran, or applesauce stocked in the pantry. And searching my all-time favourite cooking blog made me feel like the inadequate cook that I am.

So off I went in search of the notebook that I carried around with me everywhere last year. I found it in my throw-everything drawer and between pages of thesis notes, german homework, french homework, grocery lists, pre-baby checklists, appointment notes, baby name lists, and flight itineraries, I found a hastily scribbled note titled: MUFFINS underlined heavily. This is the MOST BASIC muffin recipe likely in existence. If you want to make muffins RIGHT NOW and you have literally 10 minutes to whip them up between putting your toddler to bed and collapsing into bed yourself, and you have only the very basic of kitchen utensils and ingredients, then this is the PERFECT recipe for you. Without any further ado, I give you: MUFFINS

2 cups Flour

3 tsp Baking powder

1/2 tsp Salt

3/4 cup Sugar

1 Egg

1 cup Milk

1/4 cup oil

1 cup of ANYTHING that you have in the house

(chopped fruit, nuts, raisins, cheese, WHATEVER)

Mix the dry ingredients together. Mix the wet ingredients together. Pour wet into dry and mix gently just until combined. Bake at 180 degrees for 15 minutes.

TA DA! MUFFINS!

Today I threw in some chopped apples, cinnamon, nutmeg and a couple of tablespoons of oat bran, but I could have just as easily used up some of the frozen berries I have in the freezer from Costco. Make them healthier by using whole wheat flour, or by throwing in some bran of some kind. Use less sugar if you like. Add some Streusel to kick it up a notch. I promise that these will be tasty and will make you feel like the competent parent and cook that you are 😉

P.S. If you want to have freshly-baked muffins every morning with very little effort (and who doesn’t?), cut a silicone or foil muffin tin into pairs. Fill each muffin cup with muffin batter, carefully put the muffin tin sections into individual freezer bags. and toss them in the freezer! When you want to wake up to fresh muffins, throw one of the sections of muffin batter into the fridge to defrost overnight. In the morning, put the muffin tin section in the toaster oven for 15 minutes (180 degrees) while you take a shower, and PRESTO! MUFFINS!

Sabina swims

sabinaswims

Ben and I have started swimming lessons, which has been super fun. And the 2-hour mega-nap that Ben takes after swimming class is awesome (and maybe even my favourite part)!!

But I have to admit that my teeny-weeny bikini days are over for now, and I’m still wearing the FABULOUS maternity two-piece that I bought pre-Ben! It is no secret that maternity bathing suits are super ugly. But I have found that most amazing suit that has seen me through my “maternelle aqua-aerobics” class in France, our mini-babymoon in Europe, and now toddler swim classes, and I still love it! The company is called Sabina Swims, and they are headquartered in Hong Kong. The secret is in the flattering cut of the neckline, and the drawstring sides that expand as you do… and then back again, making them the perfect post-baby suit too! Their new patterns come out in April so I just might pick up another.

The best part? Sabina Swims has free international shipping!

Happy shopping!

Baby Massage

Before leaving France, a friend of mine, who is in the process of becoming certified to teach baby massage, taught me some moves! The “squeeze and twist”, “swedish milking”, the “water wheel”, and it all sounded pretty nice. Apparently, infant massage is great for encouraging bonding, and has a lot of other benefits as well such as improving sleep patterns, relieving colic, gas, and constipation, and promoting the release of calming hormones. I have also heard that it is best to start baby massage early on in baby’s life. So I’m curious:

Have any of you tried baby massage? When did you start? Did you notice any benefits? Any drawbacks? Would you do it again?

Practically Perfect Pancakes

I love pancakes. More than most, probably. So today I want to share my recipe, so that you can enjoy them at home! I also find that pancakes are a perfect meal for kids who need some extra nutrients, with the right secret ingredients!

1 cup flour

4 tblsp sugar

1 tsp baking powder

1 egg (whisked)

1 cup milk

3 tblsp melted butter

Mix the dry ingredients together in a large bowl, and the wet ingredients in a small bowl. Then pour the wet into the dry and mix them together gently with a wooden spoon (do not over-mix!). The pour the batter into a pan that is on medium heat. When the batter is dry on the outside and has bubbles in the centre, flip! This recipe makes about 8 pancakes.

This is the basic recipe, but can also be amped up in wholesome goodness by using whole wheat flour, a few teaspoons of ground flax seeds, an extra egg, and fruit or berries (blueberries, bananas, strawberries and apples work well!). They can be served with almond butter, nuts, jam, honey, or just plain butter. mmmm.

As a special holiday treat when I was young, my mom would add a bit of food colouring and make some great shapes! Orange ovals with chocolate chip faces for Halloween, pink hearts at Valentines, green trees or snowmen at Christmas, our initials just for fun.

Enjoy!

Weekend picks: favourite websites

Ever since I discovered I was pregnant, I have been trying to prepare for birth and parenting in some way or another, and in this day and age that means scouring the internet for help. Here are some of my favourite websites and blogs:

Baby Center – This by far has been my most well-used resource. Weekly updates tell me what the baby’s up to, what I should be feeling, and compares the babies size to a fruit or vegetable, which is endlessly entertaining. Especially when I catch myself freaking out in the produce aisle of Carrefour, or at the market. “reeaallly, a PAPAYA???!”. I’m immune to it now. I know this because this week baby reached watermelon and I barely flinched.

Swistle Baby Names – I am constantly checking this blog, because at 38 weeks pregnant, I still have no idea what we are going to name this child. Actually, this is a small lie, because we have about 3 solid names picked out for a girl. The problem is that we have a 50% chance of having a boy, and in that case we will be screwed. Or our son might get a really feminine name. This blog lets people write in with their naming dilemmas and it has been super informative. It’s given us lots and lots of maybes but I am still checking daily just in case “the one” turns up just in the nick of time.

Cup of Jo – This blog is by a writer/mother in New York who has great taste in just about everything. She posts about everything from fashion and restaurants to breast-feeding in public, and I love hearing what she has to say.

Lay Baby Lay – Nursery inspiration at its finest! I’m not even very in to home decorating (and have very little skill in this department) but I find myself checking this website often for inspiration and just to check out the new and beautiful things! My favourite is “Zoe Ellen’s nursery” which is filed under “turquoise”. I think that if I were to design a nursery for Baby (which I suppose I will eventually) I think I would go for something like that one; gender neutral and eclectic.

You Can’t Call it “It” – Another great baby name site with lots of cool articles and ideas on baby names. I am getting desperate so I spend a lot of time on baby name websites. This one is particularly good!

What are some of the websites that you visit for pregnancy/baby/parenting advice? And how the heck did you find and decide on a name for your child? (I would love some tips! …and suggestions too!)

Baby-wearing

Another thing that I saw a lot of in Germany is baby-wearing. Two of the world’s most popular woven baby wraps (Didymos and Storchenwiege) are made in Germany and it seemed like everywhere I went I saw people wearing them! They are made from beautiful fabrics and come with instructions on a variety of wrap styles. I ended up buying the Storchenwiege Inka (pictured above) and I can’t help but practice wrapping almost every day! I’m very excited to try it out for real, but I do have some apprehensions about its’ practicality.

Did any of you carry your babies in a wrap or sling? Did it meet your expectations? Would you use it again? What are some pros or cons that you experienced?

Kindercafes

What I loved most about living in Berlin this summer was the family-friendly atmosphere just about everywhere. In my neighbourhood of Prenzlauer berg in particular there were dozens of parks and natural playgrounds, and best of all, Kindercafes! Coming from a typically grey and rainy hometown myself, I can completely appreciate parents’ need for a place to go for a break and for some time to commune with other adults, especially during those dreary winter months. Kindercafes offer a child-friendly environment where kids can play and be kids (noisy, playful, messy, crazy!) and parents can take a time-out and enjoy some top-notch kaffee and kuchen (coffee and cake)! What I loved most were the interesting menu items ranging from personalized pizza faces to homemade baby food, along with some super creative play spaces! Here are a few links to my favourites:

Cafe shoenhausen

Emma & Paul

Freund Blase

Knilchbar

Milchbart

Cafe Kreuzzwerg

Keiz Kind

Aren’t these amazing? If I had a coffee shop dream, this is exactly the kind of coffee shop that I would want to have! And if I had any type of artistic talent, I would love to design one too! As it stands, I will stick with what I know: taste-testing 🙂

Fatherhood Friday

I have a special place in my heart for dads. Maybe it’s because I have a great one, and I’m pretty sure I married one too.

Because of this, I have dedicated fridays on this blog to fathers!

Today I want to share this picture that a friend sent to me from Sweden:

I love it. As someone who has worked with children and families in Canada for many years and in many different capacities, I am overly aware of how mother-centric some family services and environments can be. Not so in Sweden! As well as having some awesome family policy, Sweden is a mecca for primary caregiving dads! I love that this sign challenges some of our assumptions about gender and child care.

What are your thoughts? Would you find a sign like this in your city/country/neighbourhood?

a post about not making pumpkin muffins

Today I was planning a leisurely post about pumpkin muffins (my absolutely obsessive pregnancy craving of late) but Baby had other plans. Instead, I spent the greater part of yesterday and today with painful contractions (at 36 weeks!) and decided to call my doctor. Apparently this and a few other fun symptoms led her to believe that I was in early labour and she told me to head to the hospital for tests. If they came back positive, I would have to deliver within the next 2 days! This was not what I was hoping to hear, I quickly threw together some necessities in case we would need them later (toothbrush, car seat, change of clothes) and we were off! After a few tests and a couple of hours of monitoring, all was deemed well and it was clear that Baby had changed it’s mind about an early exit.

From here I could go on to explain the quirks of the medical system in France, especially as they pertain to birth, or the weird and wacky practices I have experienced this year managing prenatal care in four different countries, but I won’t. Because I already did that here.

But I will conclude with the pumpkin muffin recipe that I would have made (and devoured) if I had not been so rudely interrupted. (Braxton-Hicks, you are an SOB). Please let me know how it goes for you if you decide to make them.

Also, if you have any tips on staying pregnant (at least until 38 weeks), I would really appreciate them!

Ingredients

I cup of pumpkin puree (roast the pumpkin in the oven
for 1 hour, skin, and puree)

1 cup all-purpose flour

2/3 cups brown sugar

1 teaspoons baking soda

1/4 teaspoon baking powder

1/2 teaspoons ground cloves

1 teaspoons ground cinnamon

1/2 teaspoons ground nutmeg

1/4 teaspoon ground allspice

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/4 cup vegetable oil

1 egg

Directions

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C). Grease 12 muffin
cups or loaf pan.

To roast the pumpkin, remove seeds and strings. Place it on
baking sheet, cut side down. Cover with foil and bake in preheated oven until
tender, about 90 minutes. Remove pumpkin pulp and puree in blender. Measure out
1 cup pumpkin puree.

In a large bowl, stir together flour, sugar, baking soda, baking
powder, all of the spices and salt. In a separate bowl, beat together pumpkin
puree, vegetable oil and eggs. Stir pumpkin mixture into flour mixture until
smooth. Scoop batter into muffin cups or loaf pan

Bake in preheated oven for 20 to 25 minutes, until a toothpick
inserted into the center of a muffin comes out clean.