Pumpkin Madness

You could say I went a little pumpkin crazy in October, even showing up uninvited at a friend’s place, late one night with a pumpkin pie, a can of whipped cream and two forks. Having known me for most of my life this friend is quite accustomed to my spontaneous and often ridiculous schemes and was happy to oblige when I insisted that we were going to finish the entire thing in one sitting. (Needless to say it was demolished in record time.) By the looks of things November is going to be awfully similar.

I think the reason for my pumpkin madness is the sheer number of possibilities when it comes to cooking with pumpkin. Sweet, spicy and savory, my list of pumpkin recipes is getting longer every day, and I’m doing my best just to keep up. This particular recipe comes from Janet & Greta Podleski’s second cookbook; “Crazy Plates”. They also wrote “Looneyspoons” and “Eat, Shrink and Be Marry”. These sisters specialize in delicious food that just happens to be good for you. Their books are filled with corny humor and cute cartoons. My Mom is a big fan of their cookbooks and presented me with my very own copies when I moved away from home. Inside are lots of family favorites, but also quite a few that my Mom never tried. In the last little while I’ve been working my way through some of the untouched recipes.

These muffins, which go by the title; “Pumpkin and Spice and Everything Nice” are a recipe that my Mother (to my knowledge) has never made before. Not that I blame her; my Mom has lots of great muffin recipes up her sleeve and whether banana, bran or carrot, a muffin on the way out the door was basically my breakfast every day for all of high school.

These muffins caught my eye. They filled my need to cook with pumpkin as well as my desire to have a quick snack to grab on my way out the door, allowing me an extra few minutes of sleep before those early morning classes! And although I can’t say it’s what drew me to the recipe, these muffins are pretty healthy (in keeping with the Podleski style). They’re sweetened with honey and get most of their moistness from the pumpkin and carrots, so you don’t need much fat (only a smidgen of butter). They’re also made with wheat bran which in the words of the authors is “an inexpensive way to add flavor and fiber to baked goods”. Healthy, tasty and cheap? Sold.

I substituted some of the flour for whole wheat flour and threw in some ground flax because I had it around, and well, why not? The authors suggest adding walnuts, which sounded delicious but also expensive so I passed this time. In retrospect I wish I hadn’t. These muffins are good, but the nuts would really put them over the edge.

The original recipe also calls for 2 tsp pumpkin pie spice which I didn’t have and couldn’t find so I ended up substituting with cinnamon and ginger. If you have pumpkin spice use it. If you don’t, make some. Like walnuts, the proper spices would really help to nudge these muffins into the “make again” pile. And in my opinion, upping the spices to 3 or 4 teaspoons would be a really good idea. Another thing to keep in mind is that these are definitely muffins, not cupcakes. They aren’t really very sweet at all. I like them that way, but I’m thinking of experimenting with brown sugar next time, I think the flavor would be delicious and oh-so autumn. I guess I’m a little on the fence about these muffins. They’re good but not crazy good. I’ll probably make them again when I have walnuts and pumpkin pie spice before scrapping them completely.

The recipe is supposed to make 12 muffins, but I made them little so that they’d last me a bit longer, and because more muffins means more sharing with the roommates, and isn’t sharing wonderful? Just keep in mind the baking time will be shorter if you make the muffins small.

Oh, and guess what? I have lots of pumpkin left over so stay tuned for more of the tasty orange stuff!

Pumpkin Spice Muffins
Adapted from Crazy Plates
1 cup all purpose flour
1/2 cup whole wheat flour
1/2 wheat bran
3 tbsp ground flax
2 tsp baking powder
2 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp ginger
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
1 cup canned pumpkin
1/2 cup grated carrots
1/2 cup milk
1/2 cup honey
1/4 cup butter, melted
2 tsp vanilla
1 tsp orange zest

Preheat oven to 375. Grease muffin tin and set aside.

In a large bowl, combine flour, wheat bran, flax, baking powder, spices, baking soda and salt. Set aside.

In a medium bowl, whisk together pumpkin, carrots, milk, honey, butter, egg, vanilla and orange zest. Add wet ingredients to flour mixture and stir just until moistened. The batter will be pretty thick. If you’re adding walnuts gently fold them in now.

Divide batter among muffin cups. Bake for 15-20 minutes, depending on size. You can test if they’re done by inserting a toothpick in the centre. Remove muffins from pan and let cool.

Makes 12 large muffins or about 18 small ones

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