Pumpkin Oatmeal Muffins

Well, it’s mid-October and pumpkin season is in full-swing. Good thing, too, because I haven’t forgotten my previous commitment to go “pumpkin craaaaaazy“!! But we’ll get to that in a minute.

Around here, pumpkin patches are appearing on street corners faster than you can say “Why am I paying so much for pumpkins?” I do enjoy our annual visit to the pumpkin patch, though. This year, our family (plus my dad and step-mom in town from Illinois) headed out to the far East Valley to check out the festivities at Vertuccio Farms. For $8 admission, you can’t do better than this place. Their fall festival boasts games, a bounce house, pedal race cars, farm animals for petting, a barrel train ride,

This is what I mean by “barrel train.” It’s made out of barrels.

and a 2-mile corn maze complete with a mystery modeled after the game Clue (in this case, it was which animal kidnapped Farmer Joe–I think it ended up being the chickens with the rat poison in the outhouse…or something similarly macabre. The instructions stated that “fowl play” was involved). The kids had a blast and we were all pretty wiped out by the end of the afternoon, so we finished our visit the way any sensible person would on a Phoenix-area fall day: with sno-cones.

Elliot had cherry. Gabe had cotton candy flavor.

At any rate, here’s another recipe involving everyone’s favorite orange vegetable. I wish I could say I made these muffins with pumpkin puree from a pumpkin patch pumpkin (try saying that three times fast), but no, they were created with the humble canned variety. But you know, they still turned out great! Very moist and pumpkin-y with the hardy texture of oats, these were super satisfying for a fall morning when you’ve been bitten by the pumpkin bug.

Pumpkin Oatmeal Muffins
(Adapted from Peanut Butter Fingers)

Ingredients:

3/4 c. whole wheat flour
3/4 c. all-purpose flour
1 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. salt
1 tsp. cinnamon
1 tsp. pumpkin pie spice (mix cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger, and cloves)
1 c. old-fashioned oats
1/3 c. brown sugar
1/3 c. white sugar
1 egg
1 c. pumpkin puree or canned pumpkin
3/4 c. milk
1/3 c. canola oil

Directions:

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Grease 12-cup muffin tin or line with paper liners.

In a large bowl, thoroughly mix whole wheat flour, all-purpose flour, baking soda, baking powder, salt, cinnamon, pumpkin pie spice, oats, brown sugar, and white sugar.

In a separate bowl, mix egg, pumpkin, milk, and oil. Pour pumpkin mixture into flour mixture and mix well to incorporate.

Fill muffin cups and bake for 18-20 minutes or until muffin tops spring back when touched.

Makes 12 muffins.

Chocolate Butterscotch Blondie Cake

As I mentioned in my last post, someone around here had a birthday last week. (Okay, it was me.) The great thing about having your birthday right around Labor Day–or frequently on Labor Day–is that you can generally count on a three-day weekend that feels pretty much especially for your birthday. For me, any of the other three-day weekends (Memorial Day, Veterans’ Day, Martin Luther King, Jr. Day) are tinged with just a little bit of guilt for not being more patriotic and/or social justice-oriented. As in, we don’t put out the American flag on those days (we don’t have one–I know, I know, that’s no excuse) and frankly, I don’t know what I’m supposed to do for Martin Luther King, Jr. Day. All the things I’m brainstorming right now just come out sounding patronizing and offensive, so I won’t even mention them…yikes.

As three-day weekends go, then, Labor Day feels like an irreproachable freebie. It was instituted in the 1880s and ’90s (various states adopted it at various times) as a “national tribute to the contributions workers have made to the strength, prosperity, and well-being of our country,” according to the U.S. Department of Labor.

Hey, I’m a worker! …Or at least I was before I had kids, and now I work harder than ever, though I technically don’t “have” a “job” (picture this statement with Chris Farley van-down-by-the-river air finger quotes). So, see? Like I said! This holiday’s for meeeee! And you, and you, and you. Pretty much anybody who’s ever had a job.

All that to say it’s an ideal time to have a birthday. Thank you, Mom, for going into labor in that Wendy’s drive-thru in Peoria, Illinois on Labor Day weekend 1982. You were on to something: labor on Labor Day. And I must say, this birthday was a really great day. In the morning, my husband made my favorite cinnamon pancakes (eventual blog post to come about this wonderful recipe), I went to a yoga class, got to do some shopping, and made my own birthday cake. Some people say you shouldn’t have to cook on your birthday, and I’m sure that’s true for people who don’t really like to cook, but I certainly enjoyed making this cake. It’s basically two layers of blondie brownies slathered in butterscotch and chocolate ganaches. It’s like if Brownie and Cake got married and made a sweet, sweet baby. “Brownie” in the sense of “dense blondie texture,” and “cake” in the sense that it’s “stacked” with “frosting” (again, Chris Farley air finger quotes–sorry, I’ll stop). So don’t be surprised if it doesn’t come out of the oven super moist and airy like a traditional cake. It might just be better.

Chocolate Butterscotch Blondie Cake
(Adapted from Annie’s Eats, originally from Bakerella; chocolate ganache from Baking: From My Home to Yours by Dorie Greenspan)

Ingredients:

For the butterscotch brownie cake:

2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. salt
1 cup unsalted butter, softened
1 3/4 cups packed light brown sugar
1 tbsp. vanilla extract
2 large eggs
1 (11 oz.) package butterscotch chips, divided

For the butterscotch ganache:

3/4 cup butterscotch chips
6 tbsp. heavy whipping cream
3 tbsp. unsalted butter

For the chocolate ganache:

4 oz. bittersweet chocolate, finely chopped
1/2 cup heavy cream
2 tbsp. sugar
2 tbsp. water

To make the cake, preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.  Butter and flour the sides of two 8-inch round cake pans. In a medium mixing bowl, sift together the flour, baking powder, and salt.  In a large bowl, combine the butter, sugar and vanilla.  Beat on medium speed until creamy.  Scrape down the bowl and mix in the eggs until well incorporated.  Gradually beat in the flour mixture on low speed just until combined.  Stir in 1 cup of butterscotch chips with a rubber spatula.

Divide the batter evenly between the prepared pans.  Sprinkle with the remaining butterscotch chips.  Bake for 25 to 30 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.  Transfer the pans to a wire cooling rack and allow to cool completely before carefully removing from the pans.

To make the butterscotch ganache, combine the cream and the butter in a small saucepan.  Warm over medium-high heat until the mixture is almost boiling.  Place the butterscotch chips in a small, heatproof bowl.  Pour the cream mixture over the butterscotch chips and allow to sit for 30 seconds.  Stir until smooth. If too runny, place in refrigerator until it thickens enough to not run too quickly off the cake.

To make the chocolate ganache, place the chopped chocolate in a small bowl.  Bring the cream, sugar and water to a boil, then pour the liquid over the chocolate and let sit for 30 seconds.  Gently whisk the mixture together until smooth.  Leave the glaze to sit until it thickens a bit to your desired consistency.

To assemble the cake, place one of the cake layers on a wire rack with a sheet of wax paper.  Drizzle butterscotch ganache over the top so that it drips over the edges of the cake.  Drizzle with a small amount of chocolate ganache as well.  Lay the remaining cake layer on top of the first and top with remaining chocolate ganache so that it drips over the edges. If desired, place remaining butterscotch ganache in a squeeze bottle and use it to decorate the top of the cake–or simply use extra butterscotch chips to decorate. Transfer the cake to a serving platter.

Cinnamon Pear Muffins

If you’re thinking about staging a Muffin Intervention for me right about now due to the inordinate number of muffin posts on this blog, well…….

…..you might be on to something.

We pretty much perpetually have a batch of muffins on hand around here. Muffins rock my breakfast world. I believe “muffintastic” should be a complimentary adjective, as in “Muffintastic pants, bro!” And frankly, I’m especially proud of these particular muffins because I came up with the recipe myself and they were quite tasty. (I’m only just learning to be adventurous in the recipe creation department.)

The other thing I like about this recipe is that it gives the often-overlooked pear the limelight (or the pearlight? too many fruits in this sentence) with the more frequently chosen apple. In the world of baked goods, the pear is like the slightly-less-pretty-but-makes-up-for-it-with-spunk younger sister to the attractive, popular apple, a la Little Women or A League of Their Own. Apple strudel, apple bread, apple pie–yes, they’re all delicious, but the pear deserves a chance, people! It’s easily as sweet as an apple, and sometimes juicier. When baked, I find its graininess softens to the perfect texture. So do yourself a favor and use it in a muffin….like this one.

Cinnamon Pear Muffins

Ingredients:

1 1/2 c. whole wheat flour
1/2 tsp. salt
1 tsp. baking powder
3/4 tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. cinnamon
1/4 c. brown sugar
1/4 c. maple or agave syrup
1 egg
1/3 c. oil
1/2 c. applesauce
1/3 c. almond milk
1/2 tsp. vanilla
1 large pear, peeled, cored, and finely chopped

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Grease a 12-cup muffin tin.

In a small bowl, combine flour, salt, baking powder, baking soda, and cinnamon. Set aside.

In a large bowl, mix brown sugar, maple syrup, egg, oil, applesauce, almond milk, and vanilla. Slowly mix dry ingredients into wet ingredients until just combined. Fold in pears.

Bake for 18-20 minutes. Makes 12 muffins.

Mango Coconut Muffins


I’m probably the last food blogger on earth to discover the world-famous site Smitten Kitchen.  So I’ve spent pretty much every waking second of free time in the last 48 hours gawking through the hundreds (if not thousands) of posts the First Lady of Food Blogging Deb Perelman has created since 2006. There’s plenty to gawk over: this woman does incredible recipe development, gorgeous photos, and has a great sense of humor–and all this in a 42 square foot galley kitchen in New York City. Are you reading between the lines here?

I’m jealous.

Well, not jealous about the 42 square foot galley kitchen. Just all the other stuff. This is Deb Perelman’s full-time job. She spends her days doing what sounds like creative dynamite to me: innovation through cooking. She even has a published cookbook (with dozens of 5-star reviews on Amazon).

Still, Deb Perelman seems like a totally down-to-earth, accessible person I’d love to be friends with. I’m sure she is. And when I grow out of the maturity level of an 8th-grade-girl I’m sure I will feel far more delight than jealousy while perusing her wonderful blog. For now, I know I can learn SO much from her experience, her cooking methods, her process of recipe creation, and of course the recipes themselves.

Speaking of which, I’m waxing awfully heavy here for a post about such light, delicious muffins. These mango coconut cuties (adapted from–where else?–Smitten Kitchen) really came together beautifully, a very nice change from my usual choices of fruit in muffins. And despite the fact that, upon seeing them, my 2-year-old exclaimed, “The muffins are hairy!” they do not contain any actual hair. Just “polka-nut,” as she later revised her description.

And Deb Perelman, if you ever read this, thank you for blazing the trail for food bloggers all around the world, and for just generally being awesome. Can we be friends?

See? No hair. Just some lightly toasted polka-nut.

Mango Coconut Muffins
(Adapted from Smitten Kitchen)

Ingredients:

3/4 c. all-purpose flour
1/2 c. whole-wheat flour
1 1/2 tsp. baking powder
1/4 tsp. salt
1/2 c. vegetable oil
1 c. Greek yogurt
1/2 c. white sugar
1 large egg
1 tsp. vanilla
3/4 c. unsweetened shredded coconut, divided
1 c. mango, peeled and finely chopped

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Grease muffin cups or line with paper liners.

In a medium bowl, combine flours, baking powder, and salt. Add 1/2 c. shredded coconut. In a separate bowl, mix oil, yogurt, sugar, egg, and vanilla. Stir wet ingredients into dry until just combined. Fold in chopped mango. Divide between 12 muffin cups and sprinkle the remaining 1/4 c. coconut on top.

Bake about 20 minutes.

Chocolate and Peanut Butter Two Ways

How would you describe the perfect cookie? I think I would describe it like this:

Wait, no. Like this:

Nope, changed my mind again. Like THIS (as in most of the way eaten):

Hmmmm, I’m sensing a theme here. Chocolate and peanut butter…peanut butter and chocolate…Finkel and Einhorn….wait, what? Certain food pairings were simply meant to go together–wine and cheese, strawberries and banana, and definitely peanut butter and chocolate. I have this daydream that in the Garden of Eden the peanut butter tree was located right next to the chocolate tree, and that’s how the magic started. And even though Adam and Eve went and royally messed things up, at least this flavor combination has endured to make for happy tongues and tummies to this day.

In a nutshell, with peanut butter and chocolate, you can’t go wrong. Well, okay, maybe you could if you went and added eggplant or something, so just steer clear of a move like that. (I’m guessing you knew that.)

These are two of my favorite PBCH desserts: a soft, chewy chocolate drop cookie with peanut butter chips and a decadent Reese’s cup-type bar. Both satisfy the craving for good-to-the-last-crumb dessert comfort food. Now just imagine what it would be like to eat them together.

Chocolate Peanut Butter Chip Cookies
(Adapted from Allrecipes.com)

Ingredients:

1/2 c. butter, softened
2/3 c. white sugar
1 egg
1 tsp. vanilla extract
1 c. all-purpose flour
1/3 c. cocoa powder
1/4 tsp. baking soda
1/8 tsp. salt
1 c. peanut butter chips

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

In a large bowl, beat butter, sugar, eggs, and vanilla until light and fluffy. Combine the flour, cocoa, baking soda, and salt; stir into the butter mixture until well blended. Mix in the peanut butter chips.

Drop by rounded teaspoonfuls onto ungreased cookie sheets and bake for about ten minutes, or until just set.

Makes approx. 20 cookies.

A bit ironic that I made both of these the week I did a lesson on dietary fat for my nutrition course…

Chocolate Peanut Butter Bars
(Also adapted from Allrecipes.com)

Ingredients:

1/2 c. butter, melted
1 c. graham cracker crumbs
1 c. powdered sugar
1/2 c. peanut butter
1 c. semisweet chocolate chips

In a medium bowl, mix together the butter, graham cracker crumbs, powdered sugar, and  peanut butter until well blended. Press evenly into the bottom of an ungreased 8×8 inch pan.

Melt chocolate chips in the microwave until smooth. Spread over the prepared crust. Chill at least one hour before slicing. Store in the refrigerator.


If you ever need to identify me by my dental records, please refer to this cookie.