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Pumpkin Cream Cheese Muffins

There’s nothing like pumpkin anything to kick off the fall season…  Pumpkin scones, pumpkin spice drinks, and of course pumpkin cream cheese muffins.  Starbucks really knows their pumpkin baked goods….

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(This photo is from a more successful pumpkin season…)  Unfortunately this year’s pumpkin crop in the backyard is pretty much non-existent because I was far too late getting the plants in the ground.  While there is no shortage of foliage to my plants, the actual pumpkins are maybe 2″ diameter and probably wont amount to anything.  Thankfully I still have perfectly good puree preserved from years’ past still in my freezer.  I was aiming for ‘as good as Starbucks’ with this muffin recipe, however I have to say I think these Pumpkin Cream Cheese Muffins are actually better!

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PREP TIME: COOK TIME: TOTAL TIME: 45 min    YIELD: 12
Ingredients:

Cream Cheese Centre:

  • 4 oz cream cheese (1/2 a package)
  • 2 tbsp granulated sugar
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla

Pumpkin Seed Topping:

  • 1/3 cup pepitas
  • 2 1/2 tbsp granulated sugar
  • 1/4 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/4 tsp salt

Pumpkin Muffin Batter:

  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup whole wheat flour
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1 1/2 tsp cinnamon
  • 1 tsp ginger
  • 1/2 tsp cloves
  • 1/2 tsp allspice
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 3/4 cup brown sugar
  • 1/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 1 cup pumpkin puree
  • 1/3 cup canola oil
  • 1/3 cup and 2 tbsp buttermilk
 Directions:
  1. For Cream Cheese Centres: combine cream cheese, sugar, and vanilla and mix until smooth.  Place in the fridge and chill until you’re ready to use; this makes it a bit easier to handle later.
  2. For Pumpkin Seed Topping (optional, but well worth it): Line a plate or baking tray with parchment paper and set to the side.  Heat large frying pan on medium-high heat, and add pepitas, stirring frequently.  When pepitas begin to pop after 3 to 5 minutes, add the sugar, cinnamon, and salt to the pan.  Stir continuously until the sugar begins to caramelize.  Carefully remove the seeds from the pan and place onto the parchment lined plate to cool.  Once cooled, break apart for sprinkling on top of muffins.
  3. For Pumpkin Muffins:  Preheat oven to 350 degrees F and line muffin tray with paper cups.  Combine dry ingredients: flours, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon, ginger, cloves, allspice, salt, and sugars.  I had substituted coconut palm sugar instead of brown sugar.   Whisk together and set aside.
  4. In large mixing bowl, combine eggs, vanilla, pumpkin puree, canola oil, and buttermilk and mix with an electric mixer just to combine.  Add the dry ingredients to the bowl gradually and mix just until combined, 30-60 seconds.
  5. Fill the muffin cups about 3/4 of the way full with batter.  Add a dollop (about a level teaspoon) of the chilled cream cheese mixture to the centre of each muffin, then cover with remaining batter to fill the muffin cup.  Sprinkle candied pumpkin seed topping on top, then place in oven.
  6. Bake for 25 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted (not through the cream cheese!) comes out clean.

 

lemonblueberry

Lemon Blueberry Cupcakes

I really can’t help but to wonder why “lemon blueberry” isn’t a combination that you see more often– because it’s delicious.

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Baking with whole blueberries is tricky– if the batter is too runny, berries generally sink to the bottom instead of being nicely distributed throughout.  Though when the batter is thicker, the texture of the cake also usually becomes more dense.  Full disclaimer: this batter tends to be on the runnier side, but some of the blueberries managed to stay in suspension.  And the light airy texture of these cupcakes is amazing!

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PREP TIME: COOK TIME: TOTAL TIME: 50 min    YIELD: 
Ingredients:
  • 8 egg whites
  • 1/4 cup white sugar
  • 2 cups sifted cake flour
  • 3/4 cup white sugar
  • 2 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 3 egg yolks
  • 1/3 cup canola oil
  • 3 tbsp water
  • 3-4 tbsp lemon zest (requires 2-3 lemons)
  • 1/3 cup fresh lemon juice
  • 1 1/2 cup frozen blueberries, divided
 Directions:
  1. Preheat oven to 325 F, and prepare muffin tins by lining with cupcake wrappers.
  2. Whisk egg whites on high until stiff peaks form, gradually adding in 1/4 cup white sugar.  Set aside.
  3. Combine flour, remaining sugar, baking powder and salt in separate bowl and also set aside.
  4. Beat together egg yolks, canola oil, water, lemon zest, lemon juice until combined.  Gradually add in flour mixture and mix , beat on medium just until smooth.
  5. Carefully fold in eggs whites to the batter, then add blueberries, making sure not to overmix.
  6. Spoon batter into cupcake wrappers and place in preheated oven.  Bake 20 min or until toothpick comes out clean when inserted.
  7. Frost with your favourite cream cheese frosting and enjoy!
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Strawberry Sauce

Making your own breakfast fruit toppings may seem intimidating, but it’s actually really easy.  I typically prefer to make my own rather than buying the stuff in a bottle, namely because then I’m able to control how much sugar goes into it.  It’s also a good way to use up berries that are looking a tad over-ripe or have been sitting in the fridge a bit too long.

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PREP TIME: COOK TIME: TOTAL TIME: 20 min    YIELD: 1 cup
Ingredients:
  • 2 heaping cups of strawberries, sliced 1/4″ thick
  • 1/2 cup unsweetened orange juice
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 2 tbsp granulated sugar
 Directions:
  1. Thoroughly wash, then hull and slice up strawberries.
  2. Add strawberry slices, orange juice, vanilla, and sugar to sauce pan.
  3. Over medium heat, bring to boil then reduce to low-medium and allow the mixture to simmer for about 10-15 minutes, stirring occasionally until the sauce thickens slightly and strawberries soften.
  4. Remove from heat, and using a hand-immersion blender (carefully, because the mixture is HOT) purée until smooth, or if you prefer your sauce to have a chunky texture, just purée slightly or avoid this step all together.
  5. Allow the sauce to sit for 5 minutes or so, then serve warm with pancakes, waffles, oven pancakes, or french toast.
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Pumpkin Scones

Exclamation Mark!  Why? because of pumpkin season, and that means pumpkin baked goods, among other pumpkiny things… and one of my favourite pumpkiny things: Pumpkin Scones.

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Thank you to google for helping me stumble upon this Starbucks pumpkin scone copycat recipe from Cooking Classy and adjusted the recipe slightly.

PREP TIME: COOK TIME: TOTAL TIME: 40 min    YIELD: 12
Ingredients:

Scones:

  • 2 1/2 cups all purpose flour
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 tbsp ground cinnamon
  • 1 tsp ground nutmeg
  • 1/2 tsp ground ginger
  • 1/2 tsp ground cloves
  • 1/4 cup coconut palm sugar
  • 3 tbsp granulated white sugar
  • 1/2 cup cold unsalted butter or shortening
  • 3 tbsp milk + 1/2 tbsp vinegar
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1 tbsp honey
  • 1/2 cup and 1 tbsp pumpkin purée

Glaze:

  • 3 tbsp cream cheese
  • 1 1/2 cups icing sugar
  • 1/4 tsp cream of tartar
  • 1 tbsp (or as needed) milk

Pumpkin Spice Icing:

  • 1 cup icing sugar
  • 1 tbsp pumpkin purée
  • 1/2 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/4 tsp nutmeg
  • 1/4 tsp cloves
  • 1/4 tsp ginger
  • 1/4 tsp cream of tartar
  • milk just as needed
 Directions:
  1. For Scones: preheat oven to 425 degrees. In a food processor pulse together flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger, cloves, brown sugar and granulated sugar until well blended (if you don’t have a food processor you can whisk by hand in a large mixing bowl, then cut in butter with a pastry cutter). Add butter and pulse mixture several times to cut butter into mixture (large pieces of butter should no longer be visible). Pour mixture into a large mixing bowl and create a well in centre.
  2. In a bowl whisk together chilled pumpkin purée, buttermilk, egg, vanilla extract and honey. Pour mixture into well in flour/butter mixture. Stir mixture with a wooden spoon to incorporate, then knead in bowl (or on work surface) by hand several times to bring mixture together. Dust a work surface with flour then invert dough onto surface. Pat and shape dough into an even 8-inch round. Using a large knife, slice into 8 equal wedges (dust knife with flour as needed while cutting, it will be fairly sticky).
  3. Transfer scones to a Silpat or parchment paper lined baking sheet. Brush tops with 1 tbsp half and half then bake in preheated oven 13 – 15 minutes until tops are golden brown and toothpick inserted into centre comes out clean. Transfer to a wire rack and cool 10 minutes (no longer) before spreading with glaze.
    1. In small bowl, combine all ingredients and allow to sit for at least ~15 minutes before using.  Use right away on pizza or as desired, keep refrigerated for 2-3 days, or (what I like to do) make a bigger batch of it then portion it out and freeze it for future use.

    2. For glaze: In a mixing bowl whisk together powdered sugar and half and half, adding more half and half as needed to reach desired consistency (it should be fairly thick not runny). Spoon and spread mixture scones to evenly coat tops (use all of it). Let glaze set at room temperature.
    3. For pumpkin spice icing: In a mixing bowl (I just used the one from the glaze above without cleaning out) whisk together powdered sugar, pumpkin puree, cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger and half and half. Transfer mixture to a small Ziploc bag, seal bag, cut a small tip from corner and drizzle mixture over tops of scones. Allow icing to set. Best served day prepared.

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    Fruit Salsa and Cinnamon Chips

    This dish is always popular at potlucks.  It’s probably one of my favourites because it’s sweet, but not heavy (like maybe a piece of cake or a few cookies), which makes it perfect for summer.  It’s also easily adaptable to what fresh fruit might be readily available.

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    PREP TIME: COOK TIME: TOTAL TIME: 45 min    YIELD: 1 L
    Ingredients:

    Fruit Salsa:

    • 1 granny smith apple
    • 1/2 tsp lemon juice
    • 2 nectarines (or peaches)
    • 2 kiwis
    • 1 pint fresh strawberries
    • 2 tsp fruit preserves (I prefer apricot jam)

    Cinnamon Chips:

    • 8 10″ diameter plain soft tortillas
    • 1 tsp cinnamon
    • 1/3 cup brown sugar
    • 2 tbsp granulated sugar
    • 2 tbsp melted butter (or margarine)
     Directions:
    1. For fruit salsa: first peel apple, and dice into small’ish salsa-sized pieces.  Mix apple with lemon juice right away to avoid apple from browning.  Peel and dice nectarines and kiwis.  Hull and dice strawberries and mix with remainder of the fruit.  Add 2 tsp fruit preserves (or to taste).  Chill the mix until you’re ready to serve.
    2. For cinnamon chips: Preheat oven to 375 F.  Mix cinnamon, brown sugar, and granulated sugar together.  Brush melted butter on tortilla, and sprinkle with cinnamon-sugar mixture.  Cut into chip-sized triangular pieces (a pizza-cutter works well for this) and arrange in a single layer on a baking sheet.  Bake for ~8 min or until just starting to brown (do not over cook!).
    zucchinichocolate

    Chocolate Zucchini Muffins (Healthier)

    These were a pleasant surprise tonight! While I’ve never made anything quite like this before, I mainly just wanted to use up some zucchini that I had frozen last fall (see “What To Do With Zucchini“).  We are attempting a No Spend Challenge for the month of February, with the intent to use a lot of the food currently taking up space in our pantry and freezer.

    The hint of cloves/cinnamon make this recipe work very well! This is definitely a keeper.  If muffins aren’t your preference, this would also make a good chocolate zucchini loaf, or bundt cake.  Just increase the cooking time to ~55 minutes.

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     This was a new (to me) recipe, slightly modified to suit the ingredients I had (and didn’t).  I actually didn’t have any honey on hand, so (right or wrong) I substituted a mix of white sugar and water.  I’ve also been experimenting recently trying to substitute palm sugar in place of brown sugar, just for kicks- I will say I think it worked here.

    PREP TIME: 15 min    COOK TIME: 40 min   TOTAL TIME: 55 min    YIELD: 8
    Ingredients:
    • 1/4 cup canola oil
    • 1/2 cup of plain or vanilla yogurt
    • 1/3 cup honey
    • 1/2 cup of brown sugar
    • 2 eggs
    • 1 tsp vanilla extract
    • 1/3 cup buttermilk (or mix 3/4 tsp of white vinegar with regular milk, and allow 3-5 minutes to sour)
    • 1 cup all purpose flour
    • 1 cup whole wheat flour
    • 1/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
    • 1 tsp baking soda
    • 1/2 tsp baking powder
    • 1/2 tsp salt
    • 1/2 tsp cinnamon
    • 1/2 tsp ground cloves
    • 2 cups approx shredded zucchini (if frozen, be sure to thaw and drain excess liquid)
    • 1 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips
    Directions:
    1. Preheat oven to 325 degrees F.
    2. In large bowl combine oil, yogurt, honey, sugar, eggs, vanilla, and buttermilk and mix until well blended.
    3. In separate bowl, combine remaining dry ingredients and mix well.
    4. Add dry ingredient mixture gradually to wet ingredients, mix.
    5. Fold in zucchini and chocolate chips until just combined.
    6. Pour into greased muffin tins, bake 40 minutes or until toothpick inserted in center of muffins comes out clean.

    Ornamental Cookie Frosting

    This frosting is ideal to be used with Gingerbread Men cookies.

    PREP TIME: 20 min  COOK TIME: 0 min  TOTAL TIME: 20 min  YIELD: Varies
    Ingredients:
    • 1 1/4 cups confectioners (icing) sugar
    • 1/8 tsp cream of tartar
    • 1 egg white
    Directions:
    1. Combine sugar, cream of tartar, and egg white in bowl.  Mix at high speed until mixture is so stiff that a knife drawn through leaves a clean path.  (add small amounts of additional sugar if required to achieve this).
    2. To decorate cookies, spoon mixture into a cake decorator.  If you don’t have a cake decorator, use a plastic freezer bag instead by spooning mixture into bag and cutting a small piece from the corner of the bag to pipe icing and decorate as desired.

    Gingerbread Men

    It’s starting to feel like Christmas!  We managed to get our tree up today, and with that comes gingerbread cookie season…(photos to come soon).

    This recipe comes from The Good Housekeeping Illustrated Cookbook (a classic from 1980).  This cookbook reminds me of my grandma, and baking these cookies at her house when I was younger… so much that the book automatically opens to this page because of how well used this recipe is.

    PREP TIME: 2 min   COOK TIME: 8 min   TOTAL TIME: 10 min   YIELD: 24-36
    Ingredients:
    • 2 1/4 cups All purpose flour
    • 1/2 cup White sugar
    • 1/2 cup butter (I use non-hydrogenated margarine)
    • 1/2 cup Light molasses
    • 1 Egg
    • 1 1/2 tsp Ground cinnamon
    • 1 tsp Baking powder
    • 1 tsp Ground ginger
    • 1 tsp Ground cloves
    • 1/2 tsp Ground nutmeg
    • 1/2 tsp Baking soda
    • 1/2 tsp Salt
    Directions:
    1. Mix sugar, margarine, molasses, and egg together.
    2. Mix remaining ingredients together well, then add margarine mixture until well blended.
    3. Cover and refrigerate for at least 1 hour.
    4. Preheat oven to 350 ºF.
    5. On lightly floured surface, with floured rolling pin, roll chilled dough 1/8″ thick (crispier cookies) or 1/4″ thick (softer cookies).  With cookie cutters, cut out men (or any other shapes that you might like).
    6. Don’t have a gingerbread man cookie cutter?  Make one easily enough by tracing the gingerbread man shape onto a piece of paper, cutting it out to use as a stencil, and just cut gingerbread dough around using a small knife.
    7. With pancake turner, place cookies 1/2″ apart on cookie sheets.
    8. Bake for 8 to 9 minutes in preheated oven, remove and cool cookies on rack before decorating.  Overcooked gingerbread cookies will be crunchier/dryer (we prefer them soft/chewy around our house).
    9. Decorate (cooled) cookies with Ornamental Cookie Frosting.
    blueberrymuffins

    Blueberry Bran Muffins

    It’s getting to be that time of year.  The time when fresh blueberries are plentiful and stinkin’ cheap in the grocery stores (compared to the rest of the year anyway).

    And also, sadly, the time of year when it starts to cool off enough in the evenings that the idea of baking and using the oven isn’t completely unbearable.  I found this recipe  for Bran Muffins at the Joy of Baking blog and made some small adjustments, including adding some berries.  Definitely a keeper.

    PREP TIME: 15 min   COOK TIME: 20 min   TOTAL TIME: 35 min   YIELD: 16
    Ingredients:
    • 1 1/2 cups wheat bran
    • 1/3 cup boiling water
    • 1/2 cup non-hydrogenated margarine
    • 1 cup brown sugar, unpacked
    • 2 eggs
    • 2 tbsp cooking molasses
    • 1 tsp vanilla extract
    • 1 cup all purpose flour
    • 1 cup whole wheat flour
    • 2/3 cup old-fashioned rolled oats
    • 1/4 tsp salt
    • 2 tsp baking soda
    • 1 tsp baking powder
    • 3/4 cup milk
    • 3/4 cup butter milk (or just add 1 tbsp vinegar to regular milk)
    • 2 cups blueberries (fresh! or if frozen, don’t thaw them)
    Directions:
    1. Measure wheat bran and stir in the boiling water. Set aside.
    2. Combine the margarine with the brown sugar and mix until light and fluffy. Beat in the eggs, one at a time.  Add the vanilla and molasses and beat until well blended. Add the wheat bran and beat until combined.
    3. Whisk together dry ingredients in separate bowl.
    4. Mix milk and buttermilk together.  Add dry ingredients and milks gradually to the bran mixture by alternating between the two, combining well after each addition.  Cover, and refrigerate batter for a few hours (or overnight).  {I, personally, skipped this step because I was impatient and thankfully my muffins didn’t explode… however I can see the value in waiting to allow the texture of the bran and oats to soften.}
    5. Preheat oven to 375 degrees.  Spoon batter into greased muffin tin or tin lined with paper liners.
    6. Bake for 20 minutes, or until toothpick comes out clean.
    piecupcake1

    BBQ-Themed Cupcakes: Pie

    Clever.  A dessert disguised as a dessert.  And a fun addition to my BBQ-themed cupcakes.

    For “Pie” cupcakes, you’ll need:

    – Cupcakes (any kind will do)
    – Silver cupcake wrappers
    – Buttercream frosting, dyed brown
    – Smarties

    Decorating “Pie” Cupcakes:

    1. Whip up some cupcakes and bake them according to the recipe directions.  Any kind will do.  I suggest using silver cupcake wrappers (as they look more like little pie-tins).

    2. While those cupcakes are cooling, mix buttercream frosting according to the recipe directions.  Add yellow and red food colouring, and 1 drop of blue to turn a brown sort of colour.

    3. Divide frosting into 3 parts.  Leave 1 part in a bowl.  Put 1 part in a ziploc bag, and the last part in a separate ziploc bag.  Cut a small corner off of one of the bags with icing.  For the last bag with icing, either insert a decorative icing tip and cut the corner off OR just cut a larger corner off of the bag.

    4. Frost cupcakes with some of the frosting from the bowl, just using a butterknife or similar.

    5. Using bag with a decorative tip OR just larger corner cut off, frost around the perimeter of the cupcake.

    6. Arrange smarties on top of cupcakes.

    7. Lastly, pipe finer crisscrossing lines over top of the smarties using the bag of icing with the smaller tip cut off.