Winter is here a bit late, but it’s a welcome guest, as are muffins. Let me introduce the homemade spicy pumpkin muffin, good year-round and especially when it’s cold outside and snow covers the ground of our South Shore. Muffins are an easy-to-make and bake “quick bread” and not as sweet as a cupcake. Savory and sweet muffins include vegetables or fruits. And yes, wonderful, filling pumpkin muffins can be found at coffee shops and also put together and baked at home.
I recall a canine-loving neighbor whom embraced my dog. During this time of year, one night I walked around the corner with my best friend, Brittany Simon, and knocked on the front door. We were greeted with a smart and upbeat rat terrier jumping up and down for joy. I put on the tea and unwrapped homemade warm pumpkin muffins and the four of us watched the Westminster February Dog Show as our dogs roughhoused and played with a box of toys. We were in dog heaven. But as time passed, my good neighbor moved, which has left a void in my life like an empty basket of muffins.
The other night I had an unforgettable dream. I lived in a friendly neighborhood. The mix of dog breeds, big and small were happy, smiling and on leashes — walked by their humans, and everyone got along. It was bliss. But then, I woke up. It was mid-week. I brewed a cup of caramel-flavored coffee and warmed up a pumpkin muffin I made the day before. And in the real world, I thought, “Leash walking my two dogs is for safety’s sake.”
Spicy Pumpkin Nut Muffins
1 cup each whole-wheat flour and all-purpose flour
1/2 cup organic brown sugar
1/4 cup white sugar
3 teaspoons baking powder
A dash of sea salt
2 teaspoons pumpkin pie spice
2 teaspoons cinnamon
1 stick European style butter, melted
1/2 cup of canned pumpkin puree
1/2 cup half-and-half
2 eggs, brown
3/4 cup walnuts or shelled pumpkin seeds, chopped (save 1/4 cup for sprinkling muffin tops)
Raw or confectioners’ sugar for dusting muffin tops
In a bowl, combine dry ingredients. In another bowl, mix butter, pumpkin, milk and eggs. Combine all ingredients and stir till well-mixed. Use a 1/3 cup ice cream scoop to put batter into cupcake tins. Bake at 350 F for about 20 minutes or till golden brown and firm. Makes 12. Serve warm. Slice with a pat of real butter, organic jam or cream cheese.
Special Toppings: Sprinkle muffin tops with organic raw sugar or confectioners’ sugar. Or melt 2 tablespoons each butter and honey, drizzle on top of muffins and sprinkle with chopped walnuts. Try a pre-Valentine’s treat: Mix 1 cup confectioners’ sugar, 1 cup whipped cream cheese, 1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract. Put a small dollop of frosting on top of muffins. Top with a chocolate heart or whole strawberry.
These muffins are savory with the heart healthy pumpkin and nuts; and sweet with the topping you choose. As we head toward spring, it’s still wintertime and a muffin paired with a cup of tea like green or black — with its cold/flu-fighting antioxidants and a bit of caffeine for energy — brings contentment as more snow is on its way. It’s time for winter wonderland muffins!
Motto: You cannot control people who do not understand leash laws but you can control your dogs and food.
— Cal Orey, M.A. is an author and journalist. Her books include “The Healing Powers” series (Vinegar, Olive Oil, Chocolate, Honey, and Coffee) published by Kensington. Her website is www.calorey.com.