Wednesday, 12 September 2012

Carrot and date muffins - perfect for the school lunch box

School has started again and so has the struggle to find "acceptable" foods to put in Sophie's lunch box. My guidelines are four to five items of which one has to be fruit or veg and another yoghurt. 

I recently found a good book in our local FARA charity bookshop in Teddington called The Healthy Lunchbox which inspired me to try harder to fill her lunch with less shop bought items (not that she had that many) and more variety. There was also an article in the daily paper last week which commented that although school dinners have improved hugely (thanks mostly to Jamie Oliver's campaign), packed lunches were still full of fats and sugars and all sorts of undesirables. 

I don't blame the parents. I would say the biggest culprit for this is time: it is much easier to buy pre-packaged items designed specifically for the school lunch box than spend hours baking. I buy yoghurt covered strawberry bits, fruit strings and mini packets of biscuits because they are quick and easy to pop into the lunch box. But, if I was to look at the ingredients in detail, I know I wouldn't be overly happy with what I see.  
The newspaper article last week suggested including carrot muffins in the lunch box, so today when both children where at school/nursery I searched for a recipe for them. Most of the carrot muffins used wholemeal flour which I don't have, but I did have dates so I searched for carrot and date muffins and up popped a recipe from Simply Great Meals. I adapted it slightly (using fresh grated carrots) and as I ran out of milk, I used half a cup of natural yoghurt to make up the quantity. 

The resulting muffins are yummy, although they don't peel away from the cupcake case cleanly which is a shame (I hate leaving yummy cake crumbs attached the case!) I deliberately made them small (cupcake size rather than muffin size) for the lunch box. I will have wait and see what Sophie thinks when she gets home from school tonight; Justin has already given the thumbs up. I am also going to freeze some, as the recipe made about 40 cakes - perfect to last for a little while still.

Carrot and Date Muffins

250g grated carrot
3 cups self-raising flour
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp mixed spice (if you don't have this mix, cinnamon, ginger and a pinch of nutmeg)
1½ cups brown sugar
1 cup dates, pitted and chopped
100g butter, melted
1 egg, beaten
1½ cups milk
Icing sugar for dusting

Sift the self-raising flour, baking powder and mixed spice into a large bowl. Stir in the brown sugar, grated carrot and dates. Make a well in the centre of the dry ingredients, add the melted butter, beaten egg and milk, stirring to combine thoroughly, then spoon the mixture into paper cases in a muffin tray and bake in a preheated oven at 190ÂșC/gas mark 5 for 25 minutes. Allow to cool on a wire rack.
© 2012 Nicola Noble: Please observe the rules of copyright and blog etiquette. If you use my ideas or images, please link back to my blog. And do let me know - I'd love to take a look.

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