Monthly Archives: December 2011

Pumpkin Muffins: Easier Than They Look… Unless You’re Me.


Saturday afternoon I went grocery shopping and tossed a can of pumpkin into my cart on a whim. I. Love. Pumpkin. And I’ve been dreaming of pumpkin muffins so Sunday morning when I saw that new can of pumpkin in my pantry, I thought, What the heck. I found an easy peasy recipe on Smitten Kitchen and went to work. It took all of 15 minutes to throw this together, and then I was nestled in the couch with coffee, inhaling the scent of autumn coming from my oven. Took the muffins out at allotted time… heavy, dense, and uncooked. Back in the oven. Ten minutes later? Heavy, dense, and cooked. I tasted them. Huh. Kinda weird… Checked the recipe. …Oh. Baking powder. Yes, baking powder. Kind of a key ingredient in muffins, huh? Oh… and only ONE CUP of pumpkin. Not the whole can.

However, these babies aren’t bad. In fact, they’re actually pretty good. They’re just not what you think of when you think “light, fluffy pumpkin muffin”. They’re dense but incredibly moist, not too sweet, and would be perfect toasted with a little butter.

On the menu:
Pumpkin muffins
Makes 12
Adapted from Smitten Kitchen

1 tsp baking powder [optional!]
1 1/2 cups flour
1 15-oz. can of pumpkin
1/3 cup vegetable oil
2 large eggs
2 tsp plus 1 tsp ground cinnamon
1 tsp nutmeg
1 tsp all spice
1/2 tsp ground ginger
1 1/4 cups plus 1 Tbsp sugar
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

Mix together flour and baking powder. In a separate bowl, with a large whisk, combine pumpkin, oil, eggs, spices, sugar, baking soda, and salt together until combined. Whisk in flour mixture. Pour into greased or papered muffin tin until 3/4 filled.

Mix together 1 Tbsp sugar and 1 tsp ground cinnamon. Sprinkle on top of the muffins. Bake for 28 – 32 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean. Let cool in tin for 5 minutes and then transfer to a cooling rack to cool completely.

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Sweet Pumpkin Dip and Vanilla Wafers

Happy Monday! Oh, who are we kidding, Monday sucks. Bake these tonight and tomorrow will be a little bit sweeter.

On the menu:
Sweet pumpkin dip
Makes 5 cups, 32 servings [aka a LOT of dip!]

8 oz. package of cream cheese, softened to room temperature
1 cup confectioner’s sugar
1 15-oz. can of solid packed pumpkin
1 Tbsp ground cinnamon
1 tsp ground nutmeg
1 tsp ground ginger
1/2 tsp all spice

In a medium bowl, blend cream cheese and confectioner’s sugar until smooth. Gradually mix in the pumpkin. Stir in the spices until smooth and blended. Chill until serving.

Vanilla Wafers
Adapted from this recipe at Ezra Poundcake
Makes about 65 cookies

1 cup unsalted butter, softened
1/2 cup sugar
1/4 tsp salt
2 large egg yolks
1 Tbsp vanilla extract
2 cups flour

Preheat oven to 350. Blend sugar, salt and butter together until smooth with an electric mixer. Add egg yolks and vanilla and blend until smooth. Add flour. Divide dough into 4 portions and roll each into a log about 1 1/2 inches in diameter. Wrap each log in saran wrap and chill in the refrigerator at least an hour.

Once chilled, slice each roll into slices 1/4 inch thick. Place slices on cookie sheet [NOTE: these don’t spread so you can place them pretty close together]. Bake for 12 – 15 minutes or until the bottoms are golden brown. Let cool and then dip them into your delicious pumpkin dip.

Note: These cookies are not your traditional in-the-box vanilla wafers. They are definitely a cookie, and they’re sweeter than the boxed kind. However, the dip plus the cookie is not overly sweet so don’t worry about a sugar overload. Not that I ever do anyway.

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How to Throw a House Party and Make Friends While You’re At It

A month or so ago The BF and I threw a little housewarming party to show off our phat new pad (yes, phat. what of it?). I also used it as an excuse to wow my friends with my culinary talents. If you think that’s obnoxious and pompous, well, in the words of Andre 3000, “I’m… just being honest.”

Sweet pumpkin dip with homemade vanilla wafers, blue cheese dip with veggies, chewy chocolate cookies, onion dip with Ritz, and pizza squares

Here are a few tips on preparing successful dishes for housewarming parties:

1. Finger foods: There’s nothing more awkward than carrying around a plate while you socialize, or trying to shovel salad into your face while hitting on a potential beau. You drop some on the carpet, you’re juggling the fork, the plate, and your beverage… it’s not cute. Enter finger foods. There are only a bajillion versions of utensil-free dishes and your spread should be full of them. My favorites are bite-sized squares of pizza, cookies, and cut up veggies. Which brings me to my next point…

2. Dips: I made 3 dips: sweet pumpkin for dipping cookies, tangy blue cheese for the veggies, and hot onion swiss for Ritz crackers. It’s interactive, it’s delicious, and it allows you to make literally everything the day before. Which brings me to my next point…

3. Make things in advance: I spent hours the night before the party baking cookies, chopping veggies, and mixing dips. Not only is most dip better after it’s had a chance to sit in the fridge overnight, but the day of the party all you have to do is pop it on the table and remove the plastic wrap. Easy as pie.

4. Room temperature foods: What’s grosser than hot food that’s been left to harden and coagulate on your dining room table for 6 hours? Well… lots of things. But during a party no one wants to see that. Try and stick to food that still tastes good at room temperature, or that tastes delicious both hot and cold (i.e. pizza squares).

5. Print out a menu: Everyone thought I was such a loser because I printed and framed my menu. Okay, maybe the frame was overboard… It cost $.99! And it looked sweet. Anyway, providing a menu allows your guests to know exactly what they’re eating before they taste it. Also avoids those pesky allergies. And saves you from having to say 809 times, “It’s sweet pumpkin dip! You eat it with the cookies!” Because after 10 beverages (just kidding, mom, I had THREE I said THREE beverages) it might not come out so nicely.

Starting next week I’ll be sharing with you some of the standout recipes from the party. In the meantime I served this onion dip to rave reviews, even though I accidentally microwaved instead of baking it. It separated… and it was gross.

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