Pumpkin Muffins with Chocolate Chips

My kitchen is a cornucopia of fibrous muffins.  I don’t know how it happened, but the counter went from zero muffins to two dozen in the blink of an eye.

The moment December hit, my neighborhood was bombarded with colorful LED lights that flicker “realistically” (because icicles naturally flicker?) in the night.  I even caved and put lights in the window.  I may even get a tree.

And every year, something in those lights trigger my eyeballs which trigger something in my belly that makes me want chocolate and peppermint and eggnog.  All day.  In my sleep.

There is a solid chocolate frog on the kitchen table.  Okay, half of one.

Whatever.  I just did 100 squats.  And these muffins are so hearty and fibrous they may as well be balls of flax and grain.

Except they taste sweet and fluffy.  And not flaxy.  And they aren’t shaped like balls at all.  And they have chocolate chips in them because I couldn’t resist.  It’s December.

I made this pumpkin pureé.  Yeah, yeah, yeah, it’s just another leftover Halloween pumpkin, but it’s so much tastier than canned pureé.  And I’m more likely to cut my finger on a can.

If you want to make your own, just chop up the pumpkin (after scooping out the innards), cut off the skins, and boil until soft.  Whip it up in a food processor and you’re golden.

Muffins dipped in Turkish espresso?  Don’t mind if I do.

Pumpkin Muffins with Chocolate Chips.

1 cup pureéd pumpkin
1/2 cup vegetable oil
3/4 cup packed brown sugar
2 large eggs
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 3/4 cup whole wheat flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
1/4 cup rolled oats
1/4 cup 10-grain hot cereal or millet
1/4 cup milk

1 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips (Optional.  But not really.)

Preheat the oven to 325 degrees Fahrenheit.

In a medium sized bowl, sift together the flour, salt, baking soda and spices.  Add the oats and hot cereal and toss until evenly mixed.

In a large bowl, whisk the brown sugar and pumpkin pureé until smooth.  Add the oil, eggs, and vanilla extract and whisk until the oil no longer separates (about a minute).

Slowly beat in the flour mixture.  Fold in the milk until the batter is fluffy.  Lightly fold in the chocolate chips.

Line or grease 18 muffin tins, filling each cup about 3/4.  Bake for 20 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean.

Makes 18 muffins.

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Autumnal Vegetable Soup

Exercise and I go way back.  We’re like the friends I had in elementary school.  You know, hanging out everyday for the summer (because we’re neighbors), then pretending we don’t even know each other during the year.  Or like in high school, when we hung out way to much and our relationship exploded with a hip fracture.

I can always rekindle my bond with exercise.  As I’ve gotten older, I’ve begun to treat my friendships with great care.  I have to take my friends on dates.  We have to pencil each other in.  I have to pay the bill.

Unless my workouts are blocked into my calendar, we probably won’t hang out.  I’m too cheap to pay for the gym.  Exercise is pretty reluctant to get back into my life right now.

But I did 60 squats the other day.  And stretched for half an hour.  I still won’t buy a gym membership, but as soon as I create a workout calendar, we’ll be biffles once again.  I hope.

It might go without saying, but working out won’t work out unless I’ve got the diet to go along with it.  Aside from the occasional cobbler, cookie, and cake, my diet is outrageously healthy.  Whole wheats.  Ryes.  Teas.  Beets.  Sweet potatoes.  Greens, greens, greens.

And sometimes the-pumpkin-I-carved-into-an-owl-turned-vegetable-soup.

Demolished.  Is it weird that I just pulled the pumpkin from its outdoor refrigerator, chopped it up, and threw it in a soup?  Am I going to get botulism?

To be perfectly honest, there was little to no measuring for this soup.  I also don’t really remember what I threw in.  I hope that doesn’t make you nervous.

Autumnal Vegetable Soup.

1 1/2 cups dry white beans
6 cups of water
1lb pumpkin meat, cubed
bunch of beet greens, chopped into 1in pieces
3 celery stalks, chopped into 1in pieces
5 medium carrots, chopped into 1in pieces
4 cloves of garlic, minced
4 vegetable bouillon cubes
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon chili pepper flakes
1/2 teaspoon ground mustard seed
1/4 teaspoon ground ginger
pinch of ground sage
pepper, to taste

Soak the beans in water in a large pot overnight, or at least 8 hours.  Once soaked, drain the water and replenish with another 6 cups.  Bring the water to a boil and add the bouillon cubes.  Reduce to a simmer and cook for about 45 minutes, until the beans are al dente (slightly firm).  Add the spices, garlic, celery, and pumpkin and cook for 20 minutes, until the pumpkin is soft.  Turn off the heat and add the beet greens (just to blanch).

Wait for it to rain and it’ll warm at least 8 pairs of cold hands.  And fill as many bellies.

Granola

There’s nothing more empowering than to walk down to the sketchy grocery store with a newly conditioned pair of leather boots (my first!).  Especially because I never wear heels and even an inch makes me nervous.  And I’m a heavy walker.  And they’re still breaking in, so I’ve got about two and a half blisters on each foot.

So really, there’s nothing more embarrassing than to walk down the street, tripping over each curb, stomping with each step, and limping/wincing with pain.

But damn, they’re nice boots.  And they were $6.

And the trip through the fog/rain was worth it.  I got all the ingredients I needed for this sweet and savory granola.

Mountains of fiber!

Do you know what’s cheaper and more effective than a KitchenAid mixer?  My hands.

Plains of grains!

You know, I originally had an elaborate set-up for my “finished product” shot.  There was a tea pot.  And crystal mugs of earl grey and milk.  Even a cup full of fresh sage.

But granola isn’t fluffy.  It’s hearty.  It’s rugged.  It’s rough.  It goes well with leather boots.

Also, granola is perfect for hiking.  Someone take me hiking.

Granola.

2 cups rolled oats (don’t use quick oats)
1/4 cup flax seeds
1/4 cup sesame seeds
1 cup almonds
1/2 cup pumpkin seeds
1/4 cup raisins
1/4 cup brown sugar
1/4 cup honey
1/3 cup olive oil
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Preheat the oven to 325 degrees Fahrenheit.

Throw the dry ingredients into a bowl and toss until the seeds are spread evenly.  Add all of the wet ingredients and mix until all of the grains, seeds, and raisins are covered.

Spread evenly on a baking sheet and bake for half an hour, tossing the mixture after 15 minutes.

Makes about 5 cups of granola.