Sunday, September 22, 2013

Perfectly Pumpkin

Since we've had 3 or more days below 70 degrees this September, I deem it officially fall!  And that means pumpkin spice and apples.  I already made some of my Shiny Happy Cookies in the shape of apples and acorns for "A" week at preschool.  I'd like you to believe that I'm super mom and did this wearing pumps and a cute apron.  I'd like you to believe I didn't curse myself for offering to make cookies for show-and-tell during the busiest week ever, and then I'd like you to believe that I did not yell at my kids for asking to help.  So, yeah.  Believe all that.

We had to run to Grown Up Disney World (aka Costco) to grab milk and chicken today. (yes, we drink cows' milk and eat meat)  Whenever I go to Costco, I leave with at least twice as many items than are on my list.  On my way to the chicken, I passed the seasonal gallons of fresh apple cider and had to pick one up so I could mull it with some spices and feel cozy and warm (even though the weather is calling for 80's this week).  On my way out of the frozen chicken isle, there was a 6 pack of Libby's pumpkin.  My mind went to that happy place of fall baking smells, so I had to grab that too.  Costco knows my weakness.

I'm such an impulse buyer.  I'm an impulse baker too.

So today I share with you my pumpkin muffin recipe topped with a mild cream cheese frosting for added breakfast nutrition. I like this recipe because it has a perfect amount of cloves in it.  Most pre-made spice cake or muffin mixes and recipes are way too heavy on cloves.  I like cloves, but I like the flavor to be more subtle than overpowering. This is also an egg free muffin/bread recipe, so if you have a sensitivity or allergy to eggs, it's perfect for you.

Serve this to your kids for breakfast and you'll earn "worlds best mom" for the day. And you can feel good about giving them a serving of vegetables so early in the day.  So what if it's also their weekly allotment of sugar?  That's why we send them to school and let the teacher deal with the sugar high, right?

Pumpkin Muffins/Bread
2 c. all purpose flour (I used an ultra-grain white flour so I could convince myself that these are healthy)
1 3/4 c. sugar
2 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. salt
1 1/2 tsp. ground cinnamon* (see note)
1/4 tsp. ground ginger
1/8 tsp. ground cloves
1 can pumpkin
1/2 c. melted butter (1 stick)

In a large mixing bowl. Mix together dry ingredients.  Add pumpkin and butter and mix until well blended.  Bake at 350F degreese in a greased and floured 9" bread pan OR fill 24 lined muffin pans 2/3 full of batter.  Bake bread for 70-75 minutes or muffins for 20-25 minutes, until a toothpick comes out clean from the center.  Freeze what you don't eat right away.  They'll stay fresher for a long time.
(don't you love my uber-artistic photo?)

If you're wanting more of a dessert muffin, add a swirl of my calorie-free** frosting to the top:

Cream Cheese Buttery Frosting:
3 oz. softened cream cheese (the real stuff, not the spread)
1/4 c. softened butter (1/2 stick)
1 tsp. vanilla
1/4 c. milk
2-3 cups powdered sugar

**for those of us in denial

In a mixer on medium speed, whip together butter and cream cheese.  Add vanilla and half of the milk.  Alternate adding powdered sugar and milk until it reaches your desired consistency.  I never really measure the sugar in my frostings.  I go by consistency and then beat the crap out of it (which means beat it on high for at least 2 minutes) so it gets nice and fluffy.  If it's not fluffy, add more powdered sugar.  If it's too stiff add another tsp. of milk. (If you don't like cream cheese frosting, just swap it out for butter.)
another wonderful artist quality photo

* NOTE: I don't promote specific products unless I really love them, and I REALLY love Penzy's Vietnamese Extra Fancy Cinnamon, so if you want to splurge for it, it's SO worth it.  If you use cinnamon a lot, buy a bigger bag of it.  Incidentally, every time I walk into a Penzy's spice shop I feel like I'm in my happy place of peacefulness.  I imagine that is what heaven smells like. When I come home with a little bag of happiness and a $70 receipt, I have a hard time convincing my husband how blissful it really is.  So I just bake him something.  That usually helps soften the blow.

Happy Fall and happy baking!

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