Muffin Mondays: Mom’s Pumpkin Quinoa Muffins

This post begins a fall series on that best-loved of breakfast foods: the muffin. In all its varieties, the muffin captures special moments in the guise of the commonplace.

I am honored to present this inaugural guest post by my mother, Sheri Ward, whose solution to one of life’s transitions inspired the idea to devote my Mondays to muffins. I’ve invited some of my favorite bloggers and writers to share their most muffin-esque words and recipes, which I will dutifully post on Mondays throughout the coming weeks.

So if your mornings are lacking luster on these chilly days, check back often for new reasons to mix up a muffin or two.

Hello readers, this is Jen’s Mom writing. As I was thinking of how to begin my first (and hopefully not last!) guest post here on my daughter Jen’s food blog, I thought what better way to begin than this?

With the word “Mom” comes many things … gifts that have been lovingly passed down through generations of mothers before me, gifts that I have endeavored to pass on to my own children. For my love of cooking, and especially baking, comes from my own mother, and hers before that, and hers before that. It seems we all just can’t bake enough! It is almost a sacred thing to the women of our family: the dreaming and planning, then the creation of some warm and wondrous treat. And then of course the best part, the tasting — usually with a mug of freshly brewed coffee. We women have been known to curl up in bed with a favorite cookbook or food magazine, in search of another new recipe.

My husband Don and I recently embarked on a new stage of life: We are now “empty nesters” On the one hand it’s a lovely time of life, with a quieter household and a time of re-discovering each other. But after almost 30 years of baking and cooking for a family of 5, I found myself somewhat lost in this new chapter. Who would I bake for now? Yes, we both still enjoy fresh cookies, but a dozen muffins for two people? It was a real dilemma!

And then it came to me. I would start a muffin club with my Mom and sister Judi, also a recent empty nester. Every Monday morning we’d take turns baking a dozen muffins or scones, and deliver four of them to the others, keeping 4 for ourselves. And so, the “Monday Morning Marvelous Muffin Club” was born.

We are blessed to live within three miles of each other so this has made it somewhat easier. What a delightful treat is has been to open the door into my garage on Monday morning to find a basket of warm muffins waiting. We are all loving it.

Fall always draws me to the fragrant spiciness of all things pumpkin: pie, scones, and of course, muffins. And so it was that the first recipe I baked for our Monday Morning Muffin Club was Pumpkin Quinoa muffins, a new and healthy twist on what is no doubt a favorite with many of you. Quinoa, an ancient grain, is a comlete protein and gives these muffins a nice texture and a slightly nutty taste. The addition of pepitas, or pumpkin seeds, adds just the right amount of crunch.

I hope you enjoy this recipe, and that maybe I’ve inspired you to start your own muffin club with one or two close friends. Happy baking!

~Sheri Ward

Sheri and Jen

Pumpkin Quinoa Muffins

makes 12 large muffins

In a large bowl combine:

1 ½ cup whole wheat flour
½ cup packed brown sugar
1 ½ tsp cinnamon
½ tsp ground cloves
½ tsp ground ginger
½ tsp salt
1 tsp baking powder
¾ tsp baking soda
1/3 cup pumpkin seeds
1/3 cup raisins
¾ cup cooked and drained quinoa (best made the day before, the grains fluffed with a fork).

Combine in another bowl:

2 eggs, beaten
1 cup unsweetened pumpkin puree
¾ cup buttermilk or kefir
4 Tbsp melted butter
2 tsp vanilla extract

Instructions:

Stir wet ingredients into dry ingredients until just incorporated. Spoon into muffin pan lined with paper liners or buttered. Sprinkle with a little cinnamon and sugar, and bake at 400 for 25 minutes (until nicely browned and passes the toothpick test). Let rest 5 min, then remove to a rack to cool.

Hi…I’m Jen’s Mom. As I was thinking of how to begin my first (and
hopefully not last!) guest post on my daughter Jen’s food blog,
freshcrackedpepper, I thought what better way to begin than this? For with
the word “Mom” comes many things….gifts that have been lovingly passed
down through generations of mothers before me, gifts that I have endeavored
to pass on to my own children. For my love of cooking, and especially
baking, comes from my own mother, and hers before that… and hers before
that. It seems we all just can’t bake enough! It is almost a sacred thing to
the women of our family…first the dreaming and planning, then the creation
of some warm and wondrous treat, and of course the best part…the
tasting…usually with a steaming mug of freshly brewed coffee. In our
family, we women have all been known to curl up in bed at night with a
favorite cookbook or new food magazine, in search of yet another new
recipe…we enjoy this more than most novels!My husband Don and I recently embarked on a new stage of life…we are now
“empty nesters”! While it is a lovely time of life, with a (much!)quieter
household and a time of re-discovering each other, after almost 30 years of
baking and cooking for a family of 5, I found myself somewhat lost in this
new chapter of life. Who could I bake for now? Yes, we both still enjoy
fresh cookies and baking, but a dozen muffins for 2 people? I was in a real
dilemna! And then one day it came to me….I would start a muffin club with
my Mom and my sister Judi,also a recent empty nester! Early every Monday
morning, we’d each take turns baking a dozen muffins (or scones) and deliver
4 piping hot muffins to each other, keeping 4 for ourselves. We are blessed
to live within 3 miles of each other so this would make it easy. And so the
“Monday Morning Marvelous Muffin Club” was born! And what a delightful
surprise and treat is has been to open the door into my garage early every
Monday morning and find a basket of fresh warm muffins waiting for me on my
freezer! And it is so nice to bake one week, then have a surprise waiting
for me the next 2 weeks. We are all loving it!

 

The season of fall always draws me to the fragrant spiciness of all things
pumpkin….pumpkin pie, pumpkin scones, and of course pumpkin muffins. And
so it was that the first recipe I baked for our Monday morning muffin club
was Pumpkin Quinoa muffins, a new and healthy twist on what is no doubt a
favorite with many of you. Quinoa, an ancient grain, is a comlete protein
and gives these muffins a nice texture and a slightly nutty taste. The
addition of pepitos, which are pumpkin seeds, also adds a nice crunch.

I hope you enjoy this recipe, and that you are inspired to start your own
muffin club with one or two close friends…enjoy!!

Happy baking!
Sheri Ward

pumpkin puddin’ pie

Nation, I know you’re stuffed. But you didn’t think all I was going to say about Thanksgiving was drunken cranberry sauce, did you? Oh no. Besides, in Canada, we eat this stuff right through Christmas.

Yet another winner from the good (ahem, OCD) folks at Cook’s Illustrated, this is pumpkin pie as if it’s gone through all the rounds of America’s Next Top Model. Only it’s pie—and so much better for the soul. 

I never really thought there was much to mess with when it came to pumpkin pie. Take a recipe off the back of the can and you’ve got yourself a winner. But in the words of one of my editors, there’s always room to make good better. 

Soft and smooth as pudding, there’s ne’er a curdled spot of pumpkin in this baby. With the perfect shade of pumpkin-orange throughout, this pie doesn’t look like it’s spent too much time in a tanning booth either.  

As I read through Cooks Illustrated’s version of the classic, I decided to heed most of their advice. Following those those test kitchen folks’ advice is like becoming a teenager and learning that some rules are made to push. Take, for example, the following:

Silly Rule #1) Straining the filling through a fine mesh strainer. Yeah, right. (My friend Aaron, my favorite Cook’s Illustrated mocker, joked that he was surprised they didn’t want you to strain them through a series of mesh strainers, graduating in fineness. Borrowing a tip from his wife, I put my hand-held blender to work where the old strainer once ruled.)

Silly Rule #2) Using 3 eggs PLUS 2 more egg yolks? Um, since when did I not need my arteries?

Other than that I followed the recipe verbatim, except for this one not-so-secret ingredient I would now like to share with you. The story goes a little something like this:

Last year I was making my first ever pumpkin pie for our first American Thanksgiving when I discovered I didn’t have any evaporated milk. Gosh! Darn it! Whatever would I do? Neither of us felt like leaving the house, and as I pawed through my fridge for a reasonable facsimilie, there it was, smiling back at me: a carton of premium, thick-as-molasses eggnog. 

With my deepest apologies to evaporated milk. As much as I loved you, something taller, darker, and more handsome came a knockin’ at my oven door. And let me tell you, things have never been so hot as this here pie. 

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a lesson in pumpkin gingerbread

I knew there was a difference between baking powder and soda, but this pumpkin gingerbread really hammered it home. Before trying two different versions, I just trusted recipes. Baking soda? Yes sir. Now powder? All right, you’re the experts. But good food is chemistry, and that means open to all kinds of experiments. Once you understand the basics, the possibilities explode.

I made one version of pumpkin gingerbread for my cousin’s visit last weekend. Unfortunately, we gobbled it up before I could get the Nikon to it, so it’s not featured here. I used a recipe in Prevention magazine, which I’d picked up at a talk given by the magazine’s fitness editor just days before. I was surprised by the breadth of the little magazine. In flipping through its pages for the first time, I found two recipes that looked worthy of a shot.

A fall dessert with only 1/4 cup of oil that uses pumpkin for sweetness and moisture? Sign me up. Not to mention the health benefits of the humble orange squash: beta carotene, potassium, vitamins A, C, B6, B3 and fiber.

The first round of this cake was dense and moist, with the warming flavors of cinnamon and nutmeg. It was popular, but I wondered if it would be better with a little more lift. Really I just wanted so badly to incorporate kefir, my new best friend. I went searching for a recipe that included an acid ingredient, and began to experiment.

Because I had this huge can of pumpkin puree to use up, I went at it a second time. I was amazed, it yielded an entirely different species of dessert. I used a muffin recipe that otherwise looked almost exactly the same, and adapted it to the baking pan. What I got was something resembling a gingercake more than a traditional gingerbread.

I’m no chemist, but according to Mark Bittman, when you’re working with acidic ingredients (yogurt, buttermilk, kefir, lemon juice) you use baking soda as your leavener. The acid reacts with the baking soda and causes the cake to rise. Baking powder is used when there is no acid–just liquid, eggs, and heat causing the leavening. By playing around with ingredients, you can create your own custom texture.

Because, you know, all of us just have tons of time to sit around doing this.

I leave you with the two experiments while I scheme about ways to finish off that still leftover pumpkin puree. My ideal for this particular gingerbread would lay somewhere in between. Until then, both, I assure you, are delightful with coffee on a day full of woodsmoke and crunching leaves.

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bourbon banana bread

For all who shake in their boots at the prospect of yeast breads – weighing, mixing, rising, timing, punching and shaping – I’ve got something promising a more instant gratification: quick bread a la bananne. (Why I randomly insert French phrases in my food writing I do not know. Perhaps it’s some primordial desire to put some haute in my humble cuisine?)

Quick breads. The faithful easy-come, easy-go friends so unlike traditional yeast bread. (Who, let’s face it, can be a bit of a drama queen.) I know I know, banana bread doesn’t make a very good turkey dijon panini, but they more than make up for it when it comes to tea, unexpected guests, or cloudy mornings.

So you say you can’t bake. Quick breads are about to whisk you to lands flowing with cinnamon and molasses. Innocently pretending to be bread, the quick bread family is a cross between muffins and cake. Plus, they can be a lot healthier.

The recipe I’ve used most frequently for the classic quick bread (banana) is actually from Runner’s World magazine. I liked it enough to stick with it for a few months, but I’m not as loyal to recipes as I am to people, and I cheated.

It’s like this: when I stumbled upon a recipe with bourbon in the title, I abandoned my running shoes for the bottle of Granddaddy Bourbon I got for my birthday last year. I’ve always thought it tasted faintly of bananas anyway, and so the idea of having more banana in my bread – with highlights of caramel and butter to boot – seduced me.

If anyone asks, just tell them the bourbon made me do it.

It turns out there were things in the original I wasn’t willing to give up. Rather than making a complete switch, I let both recipes into the ring to duke it out for my affection. A tweak here, an addition there, and I had it. The shoes were back on.

My next project: a name. I couldn’t use “Runner’s World Banana Bread” as I’m sure that would turn many of you non-runners off, causing you to walk away from my site immediately. An’ I shur as hay-ell couldn’t tell it laik it was, wit that there bourbon n’ it n’ all, lest some of you think me lower than a snake’s belly in a wagon rut.

And so I present to you, ladies and gents, a hot new recipe out of the NY State pseudo-south: my very own Bourbon Banana Bread. And, for no extra charge, the recipe that taught me how to make these quick-draw breads the right way.

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