This weekend was our #1 teenage son's first Duke of Edinburgh expedition - a 24km hike, including an overnight camp in the desert outside Dubai ... a practice trip for the real deal in a couple of weeks. There's been talk of the trip for a while, but it was only last week that the "oh my word, we need to get sorted out" thing started to kick in. Every time Joe came out of the pool after a training session he would be met with a flurry of 178 WhatsApp messages - "Who's taking ...?", "Are you bringing ...?", "Do I need a ...?". With that much talk going on it looked like they were going to be well prepared.
So, on Thursday evening, Joe gathered all the stuff he needed to take - clothes for hot, cold and rain; sleeping bag and mat; map and torch. And then the food. He had decided that he didn't want the fuss of cooking in the desert, so his provisions looked like this -
- 2 food flasks of spicy tomato pasta - 1 hot (dinner), 1 cold (breakfast the next morning)
- small box of cooked chicken (for snacking)
- a sachet of John West Tuna (with a Lime & Black Pepper dressing - ooh ... exotic) - squeeze it from the sachet to eat. Clever
- a number of protein bars and crunchy bars
- a couple of satsumas
- a large number of Arabic bread filled with crunchy peanut butter (he could live off these)
- a 4 pack of Toblerone (leftover from Christmas) ... important team bonding food
- and (my personal favourite item), self-heating hot chocolate for those chilly mornings in the desert. What a find! The instructions (all in surprisingly tricky French) pushed my rusty A level french to the limit, but with the help of Mr Google Translate, I think we roughly got it - although the bit where it had us standing on our heads while shaking the can felt wrong ...
Sounded like the perfect 'teenage boy fending for himself' menu.
We took him early on Friday morning to meet the rest of the intrepid explorers and to board the bus that would transport them all. It was quite early so they all looked a bit dazed and confused, but they were all present, with their enormous rucksacks so that had to be a good sign ...
"So," I said to Joe and his teammates, "Let's just do a final check that you've got all the important stuff. Tent?" .... A sea of blank faces, followed by AAARRRGGGGHHHH - someone had FORGOTTEN THE TENT! Now that really is a schoolboy error. Luckily, one of the other explorers in the team had brought a 'just in case backup' tent - he'd predicted that the tent monitor would appear empty-handed. Phew. I guess as long as someone is a bit prepared, it doesn't really matter who it is. And perhaps for the real thing in a couple of weeks, they might be a teensy weensy bit better prepared.
I suppose being a bit prepared in the kitchen is often the difference between cooking being a fuss-free pleasure and it being a hassle and a chore. But being a bit prepared can also sometimes be super quick and give you HUGE show-off opportunities in return. Bring on the Overnight Date and Granola Muffins - moist, tasty muffins which are not overly sweet and are topped with a golden sugared crust.
Ever fancied the idea of serving freshly-baked muffins to your family and friends, straight from the oven for a weekend breakfast? Do you dream of being 'Queen of the Kitchen' when you bring mouth-watering muffins to the table - while still in your PJs?
I like the idea of the glory, but the reality of starting from scratch in the early morning is less appealing. So here's a plan - but you will need to be a bit prepared the night before ... I reckon 10 minutes (tops) is all that you will need.
The night before your Moment of Glory -
- Mix all the ingredients (except the demerara sugar) in a large bowl and stir thoroughly.
- Cover the bowl with clingfilm and leave it in the fridge overnight.
- Have a gorgeous night's sleep or go out on the town - the choice is yours...
The following morning -
- Preheat the oven to 200°C, 400°F (gas mark 6).
- Fill a muffin tray with 12 paper cases and divide the chilled mixture between them. Now sprinkle the tops with demerara sugar.
- Bake in the oven for 20-25 minutes.
- Serve to your adoring fans with coffee or hot chocolate or a glass of cold milk and lap up the glory.
So here's a quick recap of why I am certain that you will love these Overnight Date and Granola Muffins -
- There is major show-off potential with these babies. Do the (not very involved) preparation the night before, so you can be all impressive the next morning and serve fresh muffins straight from the oven. That "Queen of the Kitchen" crown is within your grasp.
- These muffins are more wholesome than they are Hollywood, but not so 'holier than though' that they taste like they are TOO good for you. The dates give a beautiful moistness and the granola gives just the right amount of crunch.
- They are also still moist and delicious the next day ... if you can save them that long.
- Perfect with coffee, divine with hot chocolate, sublime with a glass of ice-cold milk.
- Throw in a banana and you've got a proper grown-up breakfast.
- But don't limit these to breakfast - they make an ideal treat in a packed lunch and you could even call them a 'healthy' snack.
So go on, gather your ingredients, get a bit prepared the night before and the next thing you know, you'll be wearing that crown and taking a bow before your adoring fans. Result.
And if you fancy reading about what happened when two teenagers tackled baking these muffins for a family breakfast, you can read about it here.Print