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Super Chocolatey Pumpkin Muffins

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Sometimes you want something fresh from the oven without all the hassle and time that goes into a homemade goody. Believe me, been there.

Secret time, in our house this happens, oh, more than once a week. So I make chocolate muffins, but not just any chocolate muffins. These are muffins that only take three ingredients AND are better for your health that they average muffin since no oil, eggs, or butter is used.

All you need is (no, don’t say love, these take a little more than that)

  • Your favorite chocolate cake mix (triple chocolate is my personal fave)
  • One can pumpkin
  • Half bag chocolate chips (optional)

That’s it!

Ready for the easiest directions in the world?

  • Mix carefully by hand (no mixers, of the cake mix will go flying).
  • Grease muffin tin.
  • Back at 350 degrees for 20 minutes. Take out.
  • Devour (actually, they taste best cooled the next day — richer).

Enjoy!

Pumpkin Pasties – Oh yes, we’re going all Harry Potter on you!

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My wonderful friend Renee is guest blogging today (so play nice!). This girl has known me since I was in junior high and still loves me, she gets major kudos for sticking with me during the awkward years and many crushes she had to hear more about that humanely possible. She’s cool, like we use to make up interpretive dances to instrumental music while cleaning the bathrooms at summer camp cool.

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Renee Says: I love Harry Potter. It didn’t start out that way. The books became very popular when I was in high school, so I wasn’t going to read those “baby” books.

However, in college, a friend of mine would not shut up about them. So I decided to take a look. And I was hooked.

Since then, I’ve gobbled up as much as I could about the magical world of Harry Potter. It even extended to a pilgrimage to Universal Studios in Florida to go to the Harry Potter theme park. (I actually just invited myself on my friend’s family trip – I became family, too! Thanks Michele!)

But one of the neatest things I have received (outside of the books themselves, which are now well-worn), was a gift of the Unoffical Harry Potter Cookbook by Dinah Bucholz from a dear friend of mine. The subtitle is “From Cauldron Cakes to Knickerbocker Glory: More than 150 recipes for Muggles and Wizards.”

Being firmly in Muggle territory myself, I knew that the first recipe I was going to try was one I had had my eye on every time I read the novels: pumpkin pasties. Every time the little witch with the snack cart came rolling by Ron, Harry, and Hermione’s place on the train, my mouth would water at the thought of a handheld version of my favorite dessert.

So as soon as the cookbook made it into my hands, I flipped to the pumpkin pasties recipe. It looked simple enough. A basic pie crust recipe with a very simple pumpkin filling. Easy peasy.

So, making pie crust looks simple enough. Flour, sugar, salt, and butter. Knead. Plastic wrap. Refrigerate. Aaaaand, this is where the problem lies.

I live in Florida. Not just Florida – central Florida. It’s the armpit of the state. Hot, sticky, sweaty and occasionally stinky. I like to consider myself somewhat of an amateur chef – I know the difference between a food processor and a blender, at least. However, whenever I get to baking, something always, without fail, goes wrong.

I took the pie crust out of the refrigerator, where it had dutifully sat for its required one hour. I plopped it on the counter, pulled out the rolling pin, and… pastry dough stuck to counter tops, rolling pin, fingers, everything. After some choice Muggle expletives, I tried sprinkling the dough with flour, to no avail. My only choice was to refrigerate the dough longer and try again.

A longer chill time, for both the dough and me, proved to be the solution I needed. However, due to my admittedly amateurish baking, the appearance of these pumpkin pasties definitely leaves something to be desired. Lumpy and bumpy, with varying sizes between them, I baked the little buggers. But I needn’t have worried. The heavenly smell of pumpkin and spices filled the house, and 30 minutes later, my family and I enjoyed our delicious, if ugly, treat.

While I will never be America’s next top chef, or even the little witch who pushes the snack trolley on the Hogwart’s express, I’ll always be game for trying new recipes. I really wish sometimes that I could just wave my wand (a stunning replica of Hermione’s – don’t judge me), and those recipes would look just like they do in the pictures. But the fun is in the trying, and the proof is in the pudding.

Pumpkin Pasties

Crust:
1 ¼ C all purpose flour
1 TBS granulated sugar
¼ tsp salt
5 TBS  cold butter, cut into chunks
3 TBS vegetable shortening, chilled, cut into chunks
4-6 TBS ice water

Filling:
1 C canned pumpkin (NOT pumpkin pie filling)
¼ C granulated sugar
¼ tsp ground nutmeg
1/8 tsp ground cinnamon
(To be honest, I just use pumpkin pie spice and dump in a lot. I love pumpkin pie spice.)

Directions:

Place the flour, sugar, and salt in the bowl of a food processor. Pulse a few times to combine. Scatter the butter and shortening over the flour mixture. Pulse about 15 times until the mixture resembles coarse yellow meal, with no white powdery bits remaining.

Transfer the mixture into a large mixing bowl. Sprinkle 4 tablespoons of ice water over the mixture. Toss the mixture together with a spatula until it starts clumping together. If it’s too dry, add more water 1 tablespoon at a time (better too wet than too dry). Gather the dough into a ball and pat it into a disk. Wrap it in plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least one hour (or a whole day, if you live in Florida).

Combine the pumpkin, sugar, nutmeg, and cinnamon in a mixing bowl. Mix well. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. Roll out the dough to 1/8 inch thick. Use a saucer to cut out 6 inch circles.

Put 2 to 3 tablespoons of filling in the center of each circle of dough. Moisten the edges with water, fold the dough over the filling, and crimp with a fork to seal the edges. Cut slits to make vents. Bake on an ungreased cookie sheet for 30 minutes or until browned.

Makes 6 pasties

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Renee Becker is a middle school language arts teacher and tries to get her students to love reading as much as she does. She writes blog articles for her parent’s business, The Office Helpers, and spends her summers at Phantom Ranch Bible Camp.

Starbucks’ Secret Scone Recipe

During Fall and Winter I become a Starbucks frequenter. I’m not much of a coffee drinker (as in, I don’t seek it out, but if it’s there I’ll drink it), but I’d die for one of their pumpkin scones. And then I came across a recipe claiming to be Starbucks’ secret recipe and I thought, surely not.

I didn’t think the recipe could come close. I mean, I’ve tried plenty ‘secret’ recipes for famous foods only to be disappointed (although, I have Olive Garden’s Zuppa Toscana down to an art…a recipe for another day). But, believe me, these scones are right on the money. And I’m a scone snob.

Starbucks Pumpkin Scones

For the Scones:
2 cups all-purpose flour
7 Tablespoons granulated sugar
1 Tablespoon baking powder
½ teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
½ teaspoon ground nutmeg
¼ teaspoon ground cloves
¼ teaspoon ground ginger
6 Tablespoons cold butter
½ cup canned pumpkin
3 Tablespoons half-and-half
1 large egg

For the Powdered Sugar Glaze:
1 cup plus 1 Tablespoon powdered sugar
2 tablespoons milk

For the Spiced Glaze:
1 cup plus 3 Tablespoons powdered sugar
2 Tablespoons milk
¼ teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/8 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1 pinch ground ginger
1 pinch ground cloves

1. Preheat the oven to 425 degrees F. You MUST line the baking sheet with parchment paper.

2. Combine flour, sugar, baking powder, salt, cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves and
ginger in a large bowl. Use a pastry tool or a fork to cut the butter into the dry ingredients until mixture is crumbly. Set aside.

3. In a separate bowl, whisk together the pumpkin, half-and-half and egg.
Fold wet ingredients into dry ingredients, and form the dough into a ball. Pat
out dough onto a lightly floured surface and form it into a 1-inch thick
rectangle about 3 times as long as wide. Use a large knife or a pizza cutter to
slice the dough twice through the width, making three equal portions. Cut each
of the portions in an X pattern (four pieces) so you end up with 12 triangular
slices of dough. Place on prepared baking sheet. Bake for 14-16 minutes, or
until light brown. Place on wire rack to cool.

4. To make the powdered sugar glaze, mix the powdered sugar and milk together until smooth. When scones have cooled, spread plain glaze over the top of each scone.

5. To make the spiced glaze (which is a MUST, scones are just not the same without this glaze), while the powdered sugar glaze is firming, combine all of the ingredients for the spiced glaze. Drizzle over each scone and allow the icing to dry before serving (about an hour).

The Fall Must-Do List

Autumn, the glorious season when the trees burst forth, like girls gussying up for homecoming, in their boldest colors and jeans and hoodies are the acceptable dress code no matter your age. A chill breeze carries the whimsical, sweet breath of freedom as we fling open our windows and finally breathe fresh air in the house again. I love Fall, and I don’t want to miss a moment before winter frost sends me for my scarf and gloves. In that vein I’ve created a must-do list to fully enjoy the season:

  • Go apple picking and make applesauce and apple pies from scratch (I’ll give the recipe in weeks to come)
  • Take evening walks with my husband
  • Find the perfect pumpkin at a pumpkin patch (pick it yourself, none of this buy from a box at Jewel junk)
  • Savor the end of the Farmer’s Market season, making sure to buy one more chocolate croissant from the French nun
  • Get lost in a corn maze
  • Make pumpkin pancakes and pumpkin muffins
  • Sleep with the windows open
  • Carve a jack-o-lantern and roast the pumpkin seeds with cinnamon
  • Pack up the car and go on a Fall picnic
  • Seek out and devour pumpkin scones from Starbucks
  • Sip warm apple cider while reading a good book
  • Rake the yard, wear flannel and turn it into a photo-shoot, the light and colors in Fall make for the best pictures.
  • Attend Scarecrow Fest
  • Experiment with crock-pot recipes
  • Host a friends Thanksgivings dinner earlier in November. Bust out the full turkey and fixings with your best friends before going your separate way with family

Did I miss anything? Please add to the list. What’s your favorite Autumn activity?