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Posts Tagged ‘Fall’

Pumpkin muffins

We’re almost in what my sister likes to call Pumpkin Time. Yes, I know Thanksgiving and Hallowe’en are over, and we’re all pretty much over celebrating the harvest. She means Pumpkin Time in the Cinderella sense, as in turning into one — the year’s fun has peaked; it’s done. Pumpkin Time is where Autumn turns to Almost Winter.

November and I have an uneasy relationship. My birthday’s this month, and when I was a kid I usually had snow for my birthday, though not enough for a fun outdoor party. (I really feel that my spiritual birthday is in April, but never mind.) As an adult, this month is when I really start to feel the descent into cold and dark. My brain starts to really miss the sunlight.

In fact, the descent usually starts this weekend, when we turn the clocks back and trade a brighter morning for a darker evening. I hate that we mess with time like this; it’s one of the few reasons why I would ever want to live in Saskatchewan. I’ve done better in recent years in managing my seasonal affective disorder, but even so, to me November is the Month of Dread.

BUT! This week the weather has granted me a bit of reprieve. Sure, there’s more of a chill on the air, but the past few days here have been so sunny and golden. The leaves have turned but the trees are still half-full. I want these days encased in amber.

For now, Pumpkin Time isn’t so bad.

These muffins are a recent happy discovery. Lately I’ve been working on introducing Penny to new tastes, and it turns out freshly-baked tiny muffins are the perfect vehicle for new tastes. Warm? Check! Starchy? Check! Slightly sweet? Check!

To up the nutritional factor I used whole-wheat flour along with white, and applesauce so that I could get away with adding a bit less sugar. The molasses and spices give it a touch of pumpkin pie flavour. It’s a big hit with the kid.

Pumpkin muffins
makes 1 dozen muffins or 2 dozen mini-muffins

1 cup all-purpose flour
1 cup whole wheat flour
1 1/2 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. baking soda
1/4 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. cinnamon
1/4 tsp. ground nutmeg
1/4 tsp. ground clove

1 cup pumpkin puree
1/2 cup applesauce
1/2 cup plain yogurt
1/2 cup  brown sugar
2 tbsp. canola oil
1 tbsp. molasses
1 1/2 tsp. freshly-grated ginger root
2 eggs, lightly beaten

Optional: 1/2 cup of toasted pepitas or pecans, plus more for sprinkling on top

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit and prepare a muffin tin; either with paper liners or lightly grease each well with butter or cooking spray.

Sift together all of the dry ingredients into a large bowl. (Or if you’re lazy, like me, you can measure all the dry ingredients into the bowl and then whisk to combine.)

In a smaller bowl, mix together the pumpkin, applesauce, yogurt and brown sugar; whisk together until the sugar is well incorporated. Add the oil, molasses and grated ginger and mix to combine. Last of all, add the eggs one at a time and mix just until combined. If you’re adding pepitas or pecans, mix them in now. Spoon the batter into each muffin well and top with extra pepitas or nuts.

Bake for approximately 25 to 30 minutes (about 15 for mini-muffins) and let cool for five minutes before removing the muffins from the tin.

Serve warm. These are delicious with maple butter, apple butter, almond butter or just plain butter.

Do-ahead: If you want to make these for breakfast, mix up the batter the night before and keep in a covered container in the fridge. As a bonus, I’ve noticed that the flavour of ths spices is more developed if you do this.

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Impromptu beet and apple salad

One of the things I love about working from home, whether in a paid capacity or a parenting capacity, is that lunch is generally a foraging affair. I don’t have to be too organized about what kinds of leftovers I can bring to the office with me, whether they go together, or whether it’s more or less pret-a-manger. These days, when I get hungry for lunch I can open the fridge door and make use of the random little bits that accumulate.  In this case, it started with roasted beets.  And celery, which deserved a chance to break out of its usual functions as a flavour base in soups or a veggie snack.

I made this for lunch at home the other day, and although salad at my house is usually a bit of a slapdash affair, this time I decided to make it pretty. 

It reinforces the idea that sometimes, great food can simply be improvised.

Impromptu beet and apple salad
serves 4 to 6 as a side dish, or 2 as a main

1 head of red-leaf lettuce (an assortment of greens would also be delightful)
4 small roasted beets*
1 tart, crispy apple, such as a Granny Smith
2 ribs celery, cut into chunks 1/2″ thick
1/4 cup pepitas, toasted

Cider vinaigrette

1 tbsp. dijon mustard
1 tsp. maple syrup
1/2 tsp. curry paste (I use Patak’s – you could also use curry powder)
salt and pepper to taste
1/4 cup apple cider vinegar
1/3 cup to 1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil

* Roasting beets is easy, but it can take a while. Simply scrub and trim the beets, toss them with a bit of olive oil and bake, covered with tin foil, at 400 degrees. Depending on their size, it usually takes no less than 45 minutes to cook them thoroughly. If you’re impatient like me, you can also halve or quarter them and they’ll cook more quickly.

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