Autumn spiced squash and apple muffins

Autumn spiced squash and apple muffins

I’ve taken the much loved U.S ‘pumpkin spice’ and used it with some more commonly found ingredients in the U.K. I love the scent of mixed spice and use it a lot in both savoury and sweet cooking, it’s definitely one of my store cupboard staples. There are pumpkins in the supermarket right now but they won’t be there past Halloween so I’ve used the humble butternut in this recipe as it can always be found in the veggie section. I’m a sucker for using veggies in my baking, not only because I love that the kids don’t even question why they are there, it’s a cake after all, but also because they make my baking beautifully moist and give a good texture. These are a one bowl wonder so why not measure it all out and let the kids do the elbow work!

You’ll see that I iced half my muffins and kept half back without icing. This is because my boys have these for breakfast, lovely as the icing is it’s not really right for breakfast unless we’re having a holiday treat. With so little sugar in these (without the icing) they are a great, healthier alternative for breakfast or an after school snack. 

I’ve realised that this is a great base for lots of different fruit and veg if you want to make muffins or a loaf and will be trialling it with loads of other ingredients. I’ll let you know when ‘Kate’s base’ has been thoroughly tested and what other ingredients I’ve managed to successfully hide in there!

Gluten free version tip

I use a mix of wholemeal flour, ground almonds and oat bran in my own muffins but if you are gluten intolerant then rice flour, almonds and millet flakes will work equally well, you will just need 2 more tablespoons of milk as these are much more absorbent and will require more liquid.

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Autumn spiced butternut squash and apple muffins recipe

Makes 12 muffins or one large loaf

Ingredients

300g grated butternut squash

100g grated cooking apple

100g ground almonds

100g oatbran or millet flakes

100g wholemeal flour or plain

50g sugar (I honestly would knock this back further, but try a batch first and see what you think. I now make this without any at all)

1 tsp baking powder (gluten free is available)

1 tsp bicarbonate of soda

1 tsp vanilla extract

2 serving spoons coconut oil or butter – melted

2 tsp mixed spice (I do use 3/4 myself but I like them super spicy!)

4 eggs

4 tablespoons milk

Zest of one satsuma/clementine or small orange

Icing

1 tub cream cheese

The insides of your zested satsuma/clementine or small orange

Icing sugar, add enough for your own taste – I used x 2 Tablespoons

Method

Preheat your oven to 180/350/Gas mark 4

Here’s the good bit! Put everything into a large mixing bowl and stir, or even better get a small helper to do it for you!

Once combined you’ll have a stiff batter, if it is not of a dropping consistency then add a tablespoon of milk at a time until it is right (this will depend on the flours you use).

Use a serving spoon to drop the mix into your muffin cases. Fill each case until it’s level on top.

Bake for 20/25 mins until golden on top. Remove from the muffin tin and cool on a baking rack.

If you are icing them then you’ll need a medium sized bowl, add your cream cheese and icing sugar. Then squeeze the citrus fruit hard into the mixture, don’t worry about getting a few bits of flesh into the icing, this will look lovely and only add to it.

Stir until fully combined and set aside until the muffins/loaf have completely cooled.

 

Ice once cooled.

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What’s world mental health day got to do with me?

What’s world mental health day got to do with me?

Mental health has been in the spotlight recently but I still hear people say, ‘what’s world mental health day got to do with me?’. It’s a good question, but honestly if you think you’ve never been affected by mental health issues then you’ve been living in a bubble and it’s time to pop it. We will all have a friend, a colleague or a member of our family who’s dealing with mental health concerns, whether we realise it or not. Some people, me included, are exceptionally good at hiding their mental health worries and it’s these people that we need to look out for in particular.

Kate's Table - world mental health day

Hiding my mental health issues felt normal when I was in my twenties. I worked a stressful job, had just come out of a long term relationship, moved home from another continent and things just didn’t feel ‘right’. I felt ‘off’ all the time, exercise, yoga and fresh air helped for sure but in the back of my head was still this feeling that I wasn’t living the life I wanted to. I became adept at ensuring that no one would ever realise that I wasn’t coping, booze definitely made me able to cope in a social situation but that quickly got out of hand as I needed more and more to cope. My panic attacks happened quietly in the gym changing rooms at work, if the stress and anxiety  got too much I’d take a day off, creating some easy to explain illness while in reality I was just under the duvet just trying to cope with existing. I went on like this for a good 10yrs and I suspect that anyone who knew me at that time would say that I was a pretty sorted person, I looked like I had it all under control. Things did change for me, I fell pregnant after trying for a very, very long time, I got married to the man that totally ‘got’ me, chilled out about work as what was happening at home became more and more important and I started to see my way out of the fog.

 

My point is that if someone had reached out to me during those tough years I might not have felt so alone, but nearly 20 yrs ago we just didn’t talk about those kind of things, at least no one I knew did. Today with a spotlight on mental health from organisations like Heads Together, The Mental Health Organisation and The Samaritans we are becoming more aware. Being aware can be as simple as going for coffee and a natter with a friend or colleague, asking them how they are and actually listening, or you could just need to get someone out and about.

Kate's Table - World Mental Health Day

I have a dear friend with agoraphobia and she just needs someone to make her go out sometimes and support her while she does. It’s no different to what we’d normally get up to but I’m mindful that busy places with lots of people can be overwhelming for her so we try and keep it simple, going to familiar places and not pushing her outside of her comfort zone. I’m also aware that stress in the workplace makes us all less efficient and able to work to the best of our abilities, affecting everyone that we work with. I have a client I work with who had managed to get to his late 40’s before anxiety hit him like a hammer as he began to feel the weight of responsibility from owning his own company and employing lots of people. He now runs ‘free time’ sessions for his team, encouraging them to spend an afternoon a quarter just reconnecting with one another, no work talk is allowed. He’s shaped those sessions to make sure that everyone gets heard, no one feels left out or like there is a spotlight being shone on them and them alone. It’s a simple strategy but has improved employee relationships immeasurably.

I recently shared an article on my Facebook page to remind friends and family that my door is always open, I’ve got teabags, cakes and a listening ear. Having learnt to live with and manage my own mental health issues I understand how sometimes it’s the little things that make all the difference so if you still need to ask yourself what mental health day has got to do with you, read this again and again until you understand that it’s just being part of a community, being a friend, being a colleague, being a brother, sister, mother or father, just talking, that’s all it is, it isn’t scary, it’s real life, life outside of the bubble.

Happy world mental health day and I mean happy, be the sun behind someone else’s cloud today.

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