Archives for the month of: January, 2012

Something reminded me recently of a recipe I used to have for gorgeously golden cheesy muffins. I haven’t made them for years, but yesterday I was determined to track down a similar recipe and try again!

Thanks to Google I quickly found a new one, and I can tell you now that these are just as delicious as the ones I used to make. They are extra golden because they have cornmeal in them. I love cornbread and these muffins are like cornbread with cheese. Mmmmm!

I started by gathering up all the things I would need, including two mixing bowls, a grater, two muffin tins, paper muffin cups, measuring spoons, flour, butter, baking powder and an egg. Oh, and cheese! Before you start it’s a good idea to wash your hands, too.

Here is a list of the ingredients:

3/4 cup plain flour

1/2 cup fine cornmeal

1/2 teaspoon salt

2 1/2 teaspoons baking powder

1 tablespoon sugar

1 cup shredded Cheddar cheese

1 egg

3/4 cup milk

2 tablespoons melted butter

The first thing to do is put all the DRY ingredients into a big mixing bowl. (It looks like I was working in a very dark kitchen, doesn’t it?) I could see fine, really!¬†Once these are all mixed together you grate the cheese into a measuring cup and add that to the dry ingredients.

The milk, melted butter and egg must all be beaten together in a smaller mixing bowl, then poured into the dry ingredients and stirred just until the whole mixture is moistened (no beating until your arm is sore or anything like that).

Fill the muffin cups about two-thirds full with the mixture, which looks rather like scrambled eggs at this point. The recipe says it makes twelve muffins, but I found it made only ten. Perhaps my muffin tins were bigger than normal, or I was filling them too much.

Bake the muffins at 180 degrees Celsius (350 degrees Fahrenheit, Gas Mark 4) for about 20 minutes. Keep an eye on them to make sure they don’t get too toasty on top! Mine turned out very well, and straight out of the oven they tasted fabulous! I found they were hard to get out of the paper cups when they were warm (a lot of muffin stuck to the paper) but once they had cooled that problem disappeared. To avoid this whole issue, just rub butter or oil in the muffin tins and forget the paper cups altogether.

These muffins use Cheddar cheese, but the ones I used to make had Gouda instead. You can experiment with different cheeses if you have a particular favourite. It should work fine if you keep to the same measurements.

Good luck and happy baking!

A few weeks ago a friend of mine went to visit the Just Imagine Story Centre in Chelmsford, Essex. It is a fantastic bookshop which runs lots of author and illustrator events, craft workshops and even story-themed parties for children! My friend sent me a photo of the Alphabet Wall where my letter G stands proudly with letters painted by lots of amazing illustrators. I have written about my G before (with the little troll popping up) but I thought you might like to see some of the other letters too. Perhaps you can recognise the painting styles of some of your favourite illustrators?

It may be a bit hard for you to see the detail in this picture. I can see that the letter X is painted by Anthony Browne (it’s Willy in a funny pose). The letter S is done by Sue Eves and the letter Z is by Axel Scheffler¬†(who illustrates many of Julia Donaldson’s stories).

My friend took another photo to let me see my G more clearly, so here is a closer look at just a few of the letters:

I have discovered that the owl flying through the letter O is the work of Emily Gravett. Can you guess some of the others? The letter F seems to be covered in bats, and the H has a cat playing guitar and a knife and fork chasing a sausage! I love the pirate P with its moonlit galleon and scull-and-crossbones flag. Do you know who those artists might be? I think there is a guide to all the artists at the Just Imagine Story Centre, so I really must get there some day and see for myself!

Letters of the alphabet have long been a source of artistic inspiration. In medieval times, about 700 years ago, monks would spend hours carefully writing out books (there were no printers back then!) Some of them were very talented because they produced beautiful illustrations like the ones you can see here:

This is a letter P decorated with flowers and real gold!

This page from a choir book shows St Stephen inside a letter H. Those funny squares are musical notes!

In Victorian times, about 150 years ago, children’s ABC books were full of detailed drawings. (You can tell they are Victorian children by the way they are dressed). Not only were these books meant to teach children about the alphabet, but they also had strong messages about how children should behave. Here is an example (I chose the letter L because my name is Lynne). It describes Lads and Lasses who Learn their Letters and Lessons! (I think the Lazy ones and Laughing ones probably got in trouble…)

I have written before about the beautiful letters drawn by Jakub Konvicka. His pencil drawings are so realistic you almost expect the little bird perched on a branch to move! This letter A is part of a whole alphabet Jakub has drawn. You can see more of his letters here. His letters spell out a whole poem about the month of May.

If you would like to illustrate your own letter, I have found a website called Colouring Printables where you can choose any letter you like and print it out. You could print all the letters of your name, then fill them with drawings or magazine clippings of things you like. When they’re all finished you can cut the letters out and put them on your bedroom door, or on the fridge.

Time to get creative!