Friday 6 January 2012

Christmas cheese muffins, icy poles and the beach

We had a lovely break between Christmas and the New Year.  I didn't spend much time in the kitchen.  Instead our days were filled with pool, holidays bumper crosswords, beach, fish and chips, birthdays, tv and dollies before we headed back to work this week.
I have made a conscious effort to keep my mind out of the kitchen these holidays.  I needed a break after all that activity before Christmas.  So the two recipes I have followed since then are both ones that I had in mind before Christmas.  The first is a batch of Jarslberg Cheese, Cranberry Sauce and Thyme Muffins.  The idea popped into my head in the supermarket when I bought too much cheese and cranberry sauce in one of my mad pre-Christmas shopping sprees. 

After Christmas, I made them just because I was too tired to go to bakery for bread and too tired to think of anything else.  We all enjoyed them warm from the oven for lunch.  I had mine with leftover nut roast and cranberry sauce.  E had nut roast with tomato sauce and Sylvia liked hers with promite. 

I also made icy poles (or popsicles or iced lollies, depending on where you live) based on a Vikki Leng recipe I had seen a while back.  The reason I made it was, again, a surplus of food.  This time I had been too excited by all the luscious summer fruit and had too much before heading down to my parents' place after Christmas.  It seemed a great idea to freeze it as icy poles.  I even took a lovely photo of Sylvia licking her icy pole that got deleted by mistake, so I had to take a photo at night instead.

It was warm over the Christmas - New Year break and I had a hankering for swimming.  Not real swimming.  These days I rarely get a chance to swim laps.  Instead I splash about with Sylvia in a shallow pool.  I am glad she has started to enjoy being in a pool.  Unfortunately she is yet to appreciate the joys of the beach.  So I have decided I need more time at the seaside.  We started with a trip to the South Melbourne beach because it has a great playground.  Lots of fun wooden play equipment and large shade cloths.

I love how this playground is surrounded by terrace houses, palm trees and the sea.  Underfoot is lovely soft sand.  Unfortunately if you walk onto the beach the sand is a little less pure.  Worse than that was the water on the day we visited.  I love to walk along the waters edge but it was a murky brown.  It was no surprise to read the next day that people were being warned not to swim in the metropolitan beaches due to pollution from the stormwater.

Ah well, we had a nice time of fish and chips from Mussels, ice creams and a swing.  Sylvia and I were nice and neat with our peppermint choc chip icecream but E made a right mess of his bubblegum one.

A couple of days later, we went out of town to the beach at Torquay.  It was so beautiful.  Soft clean sand and clear blue water.  By then E had sunburnt feet and stayed in the shade, and Sylvia cried at the waves.  I enjoyed myself.  Unfortunately I can't show you a picture of the Torquay beach.  They were also among the photos I deleted by accident.

(It seems I am still getting used to my new camera but I am sad about the photos I lost.  Gorgeous ones of Sylvia giggling in my new strawberry apron and snuggling with Molly the [toy] sheep, of my brother in law blowing out his birthday candles, of my nieces helping E do the crossword and a classic photo of Grace in reindeer antlers!)

After going to Torquay, we visited my parents where we had fish and chips. E thought they were better than the ones in South Melbourne.  He focuses on the fish.  I loved the pumpkin ring in Torquay (see above).  What is it about the sea that makes you so hungry for hot salty greasy fish and chips!

E is not into the beach.  His Christmad tradition is the telly.  This year we managed to watch The Christmas Dr Who (magical), The Birds (I didn't finish watching it because it was too horrible), and The Christmas Bunny (adorable and so so sad).  We've also started watching the Sea Change box set.

But today is the Epiphany and the tree was taken down tonight while I made green pancakes.  And the chocolate and fig Christmas cake is now finished.  Those melty chunks of chocolate together with the rich soft dried fruit were amazing in the warm weather.  Honestly, who needs to bake anything else when you have a cake this good in the kitchen.

Actually, I have instigated a ban on new recipes for the time being.  No new recipes will be cooked in my kitchen until I get some of my blog  backlog cleared up.  To get some of my backlog published I have decided that next week will be blog amnesty week.  That means a week to publish a few posts that have been in draft for quite some time.  Not recipes.  Lists and advice and philosophy.  January always puts me in the mood for a clear-out.  You may find something there to interest you but if not then I have a recipe or two in my backlog and I am sure the new recipes will start again soon.

Previously on Green Gourmet Giraffe:
This time last year: Christmas puddings of 2010
This time two years ago: Baby Food, Cookies and a Day at the Zoo
This time three years ago: Miso Soup for after the feasting!
This time four years ago: WHB Vegetable Stories and Potato Salad Glory

Savoury Cheese, Cranberry and Thyme Muffins

Makes 12 regular muffins or 30-36 mini muffins
Adapted from

1 cup white plain flour
1 cup wholemeal plain flour
1 cup grated Jarlsberg cheese (or cheddar)
1/2 cup chopped spring onions (I didn't use)
2 tbsp fresh thyme leaves, rubbed
1 tablespoon baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
Generous pinch each of cayenne and smoked salt (or smoked paprika)
1 egg, beaten
3/4 cup milk, plus 1 tbsp
1/4 cup cranberry sauce (or use 1/2 cup dried cranberries and add 1/4 cup milk)
1/4 cup canola oil

Preheat oven to 200 C or 400 F.  Line a 12 hole muffin tray with muffin cups (or line a few mini muffin trays).  In a large bowl, mix together flours, cheese, spring onions, thyme, baking powder, salt and spices.  Lightly whisk together the egg, milk, cranberry sauce and oil in a large jug.  Pour into the dry ingredients and stir until just combined.  Spoon stiff batter into prepared muffin cups and bake for 25 minutes (or 15-18 minutes if you want to make mini muffins).  Cool on a rack.

Fruity summer icy poles
Adapted from Vikki Leng's a Vegetarian Feast

juice of 2 oranges
125g strawberries, hulled

125g raspberries, frozen
1 apricot, diced small
2 nectarines or 1/2 cup pineapple, diced small
pulp and seeds of 2 passionfruit

Puree orange juice and strawberries.  Mix raspberries, apricot, nectarines and passionfruit and spoon into icy pole moulds (I used 6 large and 6 small).  Pour the orange strawberry puree over them, leaving a little room at the top for the mixture to expand when frozen.  Place caps on icy poles.  (If you don't have moulds, you can use little cups and stick icy pole sticks in.)  Place in freezer to harden - at least 4 hours but preferably overnight.  To eat, run the mould under cold water until the icy pole will slide out of it.

On the Stereo:
Like A Man: Adam Cohen


  1. Well just look at those blue blue skies! Great post, and wishing you and your lovely little family a great new year, Johanna.

  2. What a great way to spend vacation. . . I can only dream of spending Christmas by the water, under shade cloths and with palm trees nearby! I love the night-time photo of the icy pole, actually, with the tree lights glistening in the background. :)

  3. I'm sorry to hear about the lost photos, but the ones you posted, and the words that complement them, are delightful in their own right. I like the look of these muffins even though I'm not fond of cheese - they look like they might lend themselves to cheese-less adaption. Your beach visits also remind me of the aspects I do enjoy about the beach, and the shade cloth and playground at the first are great innovations (no shade cloth at Perth beaches, regrettably). I'm now looking forward to your amnesty week of posts!

    PS. We watched the Christmas Dr Who just this week and loved it :)

  4. Yes I am with you. Kitchen time has been limited for me too, Hubby and I are on strict diets anyway ;0(
    Fish and chips, the beach and pool are all making me homesick lol

  5. I like the mix of flavours in your muffins - it sounds delicious. And what beautiful sunny days you had at the beach- just gorgeous. I watched the Dr Who Christmas special too - David Tennant will always be my favourite Dr, but I enjoyed Matt Smith's performance and the story of the tree spirits.

  6. Ice lollies in the same shot as a Christmas tree jsut seems so wrong to me! Although it is a glorious sunny day here!

    Happy New Year and all the best for a wonderful 2012!

  7. Happy New Year Johanna!

    I love the sound of those muffins and I am so jealous of all that sunshine. I could really do with some.

  8. What a lovely day by the beach Johanna! And those ice lollies look so welcoming as does the deep fried bounty! They go with the salt air perfectly :)

  9. Beautiful day at the beach! But what on earth is the circular fried thing with the hole in the middle?!

  10. Thanks Nurpur - blue skies are great for summer cheer

    Thanks Ricki - come and spend Christmas down under and it wont seem so unachievable :-) I was pleased with the icy pole photo but the one I deleted was lovely and sunny which seemed even more fitting

    Thanks Kari - from my brief visits to perth beaches I can understand why you love them - glad you can find something to love in the muffins even if the cheese isn't for you

    Thanks Chele - of course you would be homesick away from the Aussie beaches but you have lovely edinburgh to comfort you (when it is not too windy)

    Thanks Cakelaw - david tennant is my favourite too but the matt smith ones are still enjoyable - esp the christmas special - they are so lovely to look at

    Thanks Helen - you would have found the pic of sylvia licking the icy pole in the sunshine even more odd then but given we don't have snuggly woollies and winter lights, we need summers joys to comfort us in christmas

    Thanks jac - would send you some sunshine if I could - though we had heavy rain this morn if that is any consolation :-)

    Thanks Lorraine - oh I am sorry to say it is a corn jack rather than a deep fried bounty but I would love a deep fried bounty

  11. Thanks Hannah - it is a pumpkin fritter which was rather good - but at first I thought they have given me a pineapple fritter

  12. Your muffins sounds so good & tempting to me! A must make!

    MMMMMMM,...Your lollipop's are looking eaqually tasty!
    Summer in Australia ,...Oooh I miss summer!

  13. One of these days, Johanna, one of these days. . . !!! ;)

  14. Good to hear you had a nice break, your icy pole looks gorgeous and sounds so healthy. I planned to spend heaps of time in the kitchen but it didn't eventuate after all of the Christmas baking.

    Blog amnesty week - what a great idea! I was planning a similar thing but hadn't given it such a great name. There are a few drafts I need to complete, most are meals that I make regularly. It doesn't feel right that they are unblogged.

  15. Those muffins sound SO good! I love savoury muffins and have never thought to add cranberry sauce to them like this before. The beach looks really nice though I'm enjoying our snow. :)


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