I love to think that as I age, I get wiser. I love to think that, but whether it is true or not, is another story, I imagine. Still, I do think that years of preparing for holiday madness have taught me a few things…like skip the madness and just enjoy your friends and family with simple wholesome meals. No cooking until midnight, no extravagant buffets, and no exotic, out-of-season, carbon emission-heavy recipes, either.
So here is a bit of wisdom about planning ahead, using what you have in season and still spreading love through good food at the holidays…and it comes in the form of a simple (well…mostly simple) love muffin.
It’s been a while since I worked up a good love muffin for this blog, so certainly it is about time. The beauty of a delicious muffin (especially during the busy holiday season) is that it is single-serving size (encourages healthy portions) in its own paper cup (great for transport to Grandma’s house), can be made weeks ahead and frozen for fresh taste (so there when you want and need them), decorated with an easy sprinkle of powdered sugar (no fuss, no muss), and….wait for it….they are deliciously healthy (no guilt)!
So here we go with the ultimate winter harvest muffin. Do not be daunted by the list of ingredients—seems like a lot but will be stuff you have or can easily get. No one will know if you decide to use canned pumpkin instead of fresh—well you will know, so consider. Now…let’s start our ovens!
- One cup raw pecan halves
- One cup unsweetened coconut flakes
- One-half cup rolled oats
- Two cups whole wheat flour
- One-half cup all purpose flour
- One-half cup corn flour (not cornmeal)
- One teaspoon baking powder
- One tablespoon baking soda
- One teaspoon fine sea salt
- One and a half tablespoons of your favorite fall spice mix. I chose cinnamon, nutmeg, a pinch of clove and allspice
- One cup light brown sugar
- Two tablespoons blackstrap molasses
- Two tablespoons maple syrup
- The zest and juice of one large orange
- One teaspoon vanilla
- One cup buttermilk
- Three-quarters cup plain, whole milk Greek yogurt
- Two large eggs, slightly beaten
- One-half cup fresh pumpkin (Pumpkin freezes really well, so roasting a pumpkin and freezing the puree for later is an option.)
- One cup fresh shredded carrot
- Begin by lightly toasting the pecans, coconut and oats. Place this mixture on a parchment paper-lined baking sheet and put in a cold oven. Turn the oven on to 350 degrees and allow it to come to temperature. Turn off the oven and check the mixture—if it is lightly toasted and aromatic, take it out of the oven. If you think it needs a bit more toasting, leave it in the warm oven a couple of minutes more. Do not let it over brown.
- Once this mixture cools, process it by pulsing a few times in a food processor until it resembles light flour. It should not become too moist, so a light touch on your processor.
- Whisk this mixture with the flours, baking powder, baking soda, salt, spices and brown sugar. Make sure all the ingredients are well blended.
- In a separate bowl, whisk together the molasses, maple syrup, orange juice and zest, vanilla, buttermilk, yogurt, eggs and pumpkin. Fold in the carrot. Everything should be completely combined.
- Make a well in the center of the flour mixture and pour in the liquid mixture. Using a rubber spatula, fold the ingredients together until completely combined. Try not to beat aggressively or over mix.
- Preheat the oven to 375 degrees, and while the oven heats up, line your muffin pans with paper liners. This recipe should give you 16 to 18 oversized muffins. I like to use a small-sized ice cream scoop to fill the muffin cups nearly three-quarters full. They will puff up and rise slightly over the sides of the cup.
- Bake the muffins for 20 minutes, turning halfway through. Typically, these muffins are pretty true to 20 minutes, but everyone’s oven is a bit different so it is wise to keep a close eye during the last five minutes.
- Remove from the oven and let them stand in the tins for a couple of minutes. Then, remove and cool completely on a baking rack. Just a sprinkle of powdered sugar will finish them perfectly. But if you plan to freeze for later, do not decorate or frost until you are ready to thaw and serve.
These are not a super sweet muffin. This makes them perfect for breakfast, brunch or even as a bread with soup or quiche.
There are also a lot of pumpkin and carrot recipes: my grandma’s pie with lard crust, my friend Susan’s Spectacular Spelt Carrot Cake, pumpkin snickerdoodles, and gluten-free Granola-Bar Pumpkin Pudding Squares. So search around–there’s more!