So while my parents were relishing the power in my mom’s New York apartment this past weekend, in my house we were spending the days in our pajamas while blowing our noses. For some reason these family-wide colds make me highly effective in the kitchen. This weekend I made a batch of pumpkin muffins with cream cheese and a streusel topping. They were delicious. Thank god I made them, too, because they’re the only thing sick little M has wanted to eat for days.
I found the recipe at allrecipes.com. There were several delicious looking alternatives I might just have to try soon.
1 (8 ounce) package cream cheese
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
3 tablespoons brown sugar
4 1/2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
5 tablespoons white sugar
3/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
3 tablespoons butter
3 tablespoons chopped pecans
2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
2 cups white sugar
2 teaspoons baking powder
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 1/3 cups canned pumpkin
1/3 cup olive oil
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
Preheat oven to 375 degrees F (190 degrees C). Grease and flour 18 muffin cups, or use paper liners.
To make the filling: In a medium bowl, beat cream cheese until soft. Add egg, vanilla and brown sugar. Beat until smooth, then set aside.
For the streusel topping: In a medium bowl, mix flour, sugar, cinnamon and pecans. Add butter and cut it in with a fork until crumbly. Set aside.
For the muffin batter: In a large bowl, sift together flour, sugar, baking powder, cinnamon and salt. Make a well in the center of flour mixture and add eggs, pumpkin, olive oil and vanilla. Beat together until smooth.
Place pumpkin mixture in muffin cups about 1/2 full. Then add one tablespoon of the cream cheese mixture right in the middle of the batter. Try to keep cream cheese from touching the paper cup. Sprinkle on the streusel topping.
Bake at 375 degrees F (195 degrees C) for 20 to 25 minutes.
So, my mom’s stuck living in the part of the country that is freezing and living in darkness without flushable toilets or showers. Though I’ve been given a good deal of grief over living where I do over the years, I think it’s pretty clear that I officially live in the right place. I mean, otherwise there’d be no blog posts until my mom’s part of the grid turns back on (current forecast for that is next week…yup…NEXT WEEK) and then clearly you all would starve…or, at least die of boredom.
The mornings have turned cooler here, crisp and nipping and lingering longer over the days than they did a few weeks back. And though it’s really not particularly fall-like here (we took M trick-or-treating in a sleeveless dress, for instance), I find myself craving the crackle of leaves beneath my feet and the pop pop pop of a wood fire.
So, I’m making fall happen.
I’m spending this afternoon (after I finish my grant proposal…you know, in case my boss is reading this) roasting butternut squash and white onions to puree them into soup. I’m peeling a million apples to fill the kitchen with a sweet cinnamon-y aroma while they macerate and turn into sauce. And then, time allowing, I’m going to whip up a batch of pumpkin muffins (I haven’t chosen a recipe yet for these, though…suggestions anyone?).
And while it all roasts and simmers and whatnot, I’ll step outside into the sunshine and savor these last few warm days before the rain comes and soaks us through and makes me start to hate soup all over again.
What’s happening in your kitchen lately?
As with most things, it’s one, if not both, of your parents’ faults. This is true for everything from why you can’t stay in relationships to why your nose is clearly bigger than you’d prefer. What the “it” is, doesn’t really matter.
So it is that I blame my father for my fear of making pie crust. An expert baker, my dad was the pie baker in our family; my mother wisely decided not to compete after sitting through a famous family moment in which my father and his mother — also apparently a great pie baker, although I don’t remember sampling her wares — had a pie bake-off. They each baked a pie and then my mother, luckly lady, was among those asked to pick the best one. Talk about the proverbial family win-win. I’m not sure how she weaseled out of it, but she did — and she never, not once, not ever, baked a pie for our family. Quel surprise!
My dad’s pies were the stuff of dreams. He mostly made them annually for Thanksgiving since he worked all the time and frequently came home after I went to bed at night. His apple pies were at least six or seven inches high, no joke, while his pumpkin pies were delectable. But while the fillings were terrific, it was all about the crust, which was buttery and simultaneously light and doughy at the same time. Post-holiday, my sister and I usually ate the pies for breakfast for as long as they lasted, which wasn’t long, believe me.
Now while I pride myself on being a good cook and a damn fine baker, I’m no fool. I’m not competing unless I think I have a shot, and as long as my dad was alive, I wouldn’t even enter the starting gate. That fear lingered long after my father was dead, indeed until this past Thanksgiving when I decided, at Rachel’s urging, to make a pie crust from scratch.
I finally realized — aging really does make you wiser — that my fear wasn’t about making a bad pie crust; my worry was that I might make a good pie crust and therefore somehow shatter the myth behind my father, a myth that has helped keep him alive and with me somehow even though he’s been dead for over 20 years. It was a silly worry, of course. As I stood at the counter before Thanksgiving kneading and rolling the dough, I actually felt as if he was there with me. I only wish I’d done it sooner.