Harvest Pumpkin and Chocolate Muffins

As soon as there’s a slight nip in the air, my children start asking me to make my pumpkin chocolate chip muffins. I first made these muffins for a kindergarten party, and even now that my kids in their teens, they still ask me to make them like some sort of seasonal ritual! They are delicious and moist and, as with most of my recipes, lend themselves to putting your own spin on them, such as adding nuts or white chocolate chips. One change I made a while back, that I encourage you to stick with is using melted butter. I once heard a trick that if you melt butter you can use HALF of the required amount, reducing fat. But this only works with quickbreads and muffins! You won’t be able to tell the difference.

Harvest Pumpkin and Chocolate Muffins
Makes 12 regular or 48 mini muffins

Ingredients:

Pumpkin

Mix the wet and dry ingredients for Harvest Pumpkin and Chocolate muffins.

1 2/3 cups unbleached, all purpose flour. (You can also do half all purpose and half whole wheat flour.)
3/4 cup sugar
1 tablespoon pumpkin pie spice
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 large eggs
1 cup of plain pumpkin puree
1/4 cup butter, melted
6 ounces (1 cup) chocolate or white chocolate chips (or do half and half)
Optional – 1/2 cup chopped pecans or walnuts

Method:

Heat the oven to 350 degrees. Grease muffin cups or use paper or silicone inserts.

Pumpkin

Make sure there aren’t any lumps of dry ingredients as you mix the batter.

Mix the dry ingredients in one large bowl and the wet ingredients in a smaller bowl. If using chips and nuts, add them to the wet mixture and blend thoroughly to evenly-distribute them. Pour the wet ingredients into the dry ingredient bowl and mix thoroughly.

Spoon the batter into the muffin cups. They don’t rise a lot so you can fill them almost to the top. Bake them 20-25 minutes or until they are puffed up and feel a little springy when you gently push on the crown of the muffin. Let the muffins cool, out of the muffin tin, on a rack. They are delicious warm, with the melty chocolate but they are even better in the day or two after, when the flavors have melded and the chips solidify adding bites of fudginess to the soft, bready muffin.

Ta da! A

Ta da! A “bountiful” bunch of Harvest Pumpkin and Chocolate Muffins. It’s the perfect thing for fall.

Family mealtime a crock? Thank goodness!

A study recently came out from Cornell University questioning the benefits of family meal time. You know, that evening-time standard

upon which so many families, including mine, have based their parental success? That time of day that is supposed to increase family bonding, clue us in on what’s going on in our children’s brains and lives and is supposed to prevent them from getting into all sorts of trouble too terrifying to even think about. To this I say: What a relief!

I can’t tell you how many times I have stressed over making sure the whole family is together, gathered ‘round the table eating something fabulously healthy, engaging in worthwhile discussion and bonding. I have to confess, it hasn’t gone well.

Most nights, that lovely bonding experience collapses into cajoling them to try something new, eat their vegetables, stop tipping back in their chair, quit punching each other, don’t insult your sister, tell me what’s new in your life, etc. We can’t WAIT until dinner’s over! And now that it’s summer, we’re eating outside every night which, I’m sure, my neighbors just love. Maybe that’s why they started closing their windows and doors when they see the kids set the table…

Now before you think we are all heathens, I have to say it’s not like that every night (most nights, but not every night). Some nights, they eat what’s put in front of them. There are rounds of jovial laughter, thoughts are shared, people are happy and smiling and it’s almost like a Norman Rockwell painting. Why weren’t the neighbor’s windows open for those nights?!

Lest I feel like a complete failure as a parent because our family meal times are not all they are supposed to be, the Cornell study says all is not lost. They found that the association between family meals and kid well-being is due to other aspects of the family environment including economics, time spent together and the general closeness of the relationships.

In the June edition of the Journal of Marriage and Family, Kelly Musick, associate professor of policy analysis and management at Cornell and lead author of the study says “Meals may afford a regular and positive context for parents to connect with children emotionally, to monitor their social and academic activities and to convey values and expectations. This is what we suspect is driving any causal relationship between family dinners and child well-being. But family dinners also appear to be part and parcel of a broader package of practices, routines and rituals that reflect parenting beliefs and priorities, and it’s unclear how well family dinners would work unbundled from the rest of that package.”

This news takes so much pressure off of family meal times. They don’t have to be the be-all and end-all of success as a family anymore which is great because I always had my doubts as to their magical powers. My husband and I have often talked about the unplanned, magical moments that happen when riding in the car with one or more of the kids, or walking with them to school, sitting next to them on the couch watching a movie or even while we’re doing chores. All of the sudden, completely unprompted, they’ll open up and divulge something and a conversation starts. At those times, we know we have to bite our tongues and remain calm and cool even if what they are telling us is worrisome or goes against our very grain. We have to let it unfold and then let the conversation between us flow as calmly as we can so that they will want to do this again and again. That’s where our closeness and, I believe, the reinforcement of our family values are strengthened. And broccoli had nothing to do with it.

Want to win $5,000? By Edan Goode

I thought that would get your attention. I know it got mine.

The fine folks at Smuckers® are running a contest that’s ridiculously easy to enter while being fun in the process.  In an effort to make getting ourselves and the kids out the door in the mornings easier, Smuckers has created Snack’n Waffles™ — get this — presweetened waffles that are perfectly portable for families to enjoy on the bus, in the car, on the bike. Well, maybe not on the bike. That wouldn’t be too smart. As someone who has dripped syrup onto my clothes (and seat and steering wheel) more than once because I tried to make a waffle and syrup sandwich, I think this idea is brilliant. Now, about this contest:

Smuckers teamed up with television personality and lifestyle expert Hannah Keeley to launch the Smuckers Snack’n Waffles On The Run Promotion where you can select your favorite “morning personality” for a chance to win $5,000 to make over your morning routine.

Now, through November 17, 2011, you can visit www.snacknwaffles.com to select the morning routine style (and corresponding Snack’n Waffles variety) that most closely matches your family’s morning routine.  The Grand Prize Winner will win an “on the run” morning routing makeover in the form of a check for $5,000 and a one hour, one-on-one consultation via telephone with Hannah Keeley who will advise on the winner’s morning routine makeover.

Also on the http://www.snacknwaffles.com website, you’ll find some really helpful morning organization tips from Hannah Keeley, who is the host of the national public television series, “Hannah, Help Me” and author of Total Mom Makeover.

Some of Hannah’s clever tips for making mornings easier include:

  • Make a lunch center in your fridge so the kids can prepare their own lunches the night before. Use the bottom drawer of the fridge to store mini bags of fresh veggies, already washed and prepped, in addition to extra goodies the kids like in their lunches.
  • Keep an “Oops! Kit” in  your car so you don’t have to waste time with common morning mishaps. Stock it with items like a stain remover, a jacket, mints, baby wipes, pencils and pens, detangler, and a comb (sorry, but you’re on your own with the homework).
  • In order to keep up with everyone’s schedule, post a huge calendar in the kitchen. Buy a pack of multi-colored pens and designate each color to a family member. Tie ribbons to the pens and attach them to the calendar so they don’t wander off. This way, everyone can be responsible for making their own updates to the calendar and you can immediately see who is doing what.

Smucker’s Snack’n Waffles presweetened waffles (SRP of $2.99, 4-pack) go from freezer to fingertips with no mess — you can microwave in 15 seconds or thaw the whole grain waffles in four flavors, including Blueberry, Maple, Cinnamon and Chocolate Chip.

The Promotion runs now through 11:59 a.m. ET on November 17, 2011. Open to legal residents of the United States and D.C., 18 and older. Void where prohibited. No purchase necessary.

Now, THAT’S a Sandwich By Edan Goode

The one thing my children dread about a new school year (well, besides homework, long hours, having to get up so early and tests) are sack lunches. They are “sick, sick, sick of sandwiches”, they’ll tell you and I can’t say that I blame them. No matter how much I try to switch things up with different bread and different fillings, sandwiches just get boring after a while. Now, if I was a really fabulous, inventive, high-energy, creative parent (which is never going to happen and I’m fine with that), I would make “Insanewiches” (http://www.insanewiches.com/, St. Martin’s Press), as inspired by the book of the same name by Adrian Fiorino.

This new book came across my desk recently and put my ham and cheese between two slices of wheat bread to shame.  It’s a fun, incredibly inventive book with great photos that could, and should, double as a coffee table book!

Adrian Fiorino was kind enough to share one of his recipes with you, dear E.A.T. blog readers.  I think I could actually manage this one, although, for my kids’ tender palates, I’ll substitute mayonnaise for horseradish sauce.

Sandwich Dominoes
by Adrian Fiorino, author of “Insanewiches” and creator of “insanewiches.com”

Competitors often slap dominoes down emphatically when they’re lining up the dots. “Take that!” they’ll say, harshly rubbing it in. But if they tried the same with these Sandwich Dominoes, they’d just end up with a smooshed sandwich. When eaten as a snack, this finger food fills in the hunger gap quite nicely between games.

This recipe makes two dominoes

You’ll Need:

2 small sandwich wraps

1 tablespoon prepared horseradish

1 slice of roast beef (have it cut thick at your deli counter)

1 large slice of Swiss cheese

1 romaine lettuce leaf, washed and dried

Instruments:

Cutting board, 23⁄4-inch square cookie cutter, chef’s knife, black edible marker

Assembly:

  1. Lay the first sandwich wrap on the cutting board, and slather it with horseradish.
  2. Next, lay the roast beef, Swiss cheese, and romaine lettuce on top of the first wrap and top all ingredients with the second wrap.
  3. Place the cookie cutter on top of the second wrap.
  4. Using the cookie cutter as a guide, carefully cut away the excess with your knife. You will be left with a square sandwich.
  5. Cut this square in half to make two identical rectangles.
  6. With your marker, draw a line centered along the width of each rectangle.
  7. Lastly, draw the dots with your marker.

That’s how the cookie DOESN’T crumble! By Edan Goode

That’s how the cookie DOESN’T crumble – tips for sending treats to your child at camp     

No matter how much fun your child may be having at camp, a care package from home is a welcome treat. However, there are certain precautions to take to make sure your kids don’t open the box to find smashed banana bread or cookie dust.

Before you start baking (or shopping): Consider what the rules of the camp are for “outside” food.

“Families need to be sure they understand the camp’s policy,” said Peg Smith, CEO for the American Camp Association (http://www.acacamps.org/). “Often camps provide guidelines to families for sending food or drink items to camp. It is important to comply with camp requirements. What families see as a harmless treat from home may prove problematic while at camp. For example, some children have severe food allergies and contact with certain foods may cause problems, or perhaps there are requirements in place to ensure that animals do not get into cabins or tents.”

What to send?: Once you’ve checked on camp restrictions, send what you know your child would love, of course, but also think about risk for perishing. For instance, cookies, brownies or granola bars will hold up better than a loaf of quick bread like pumpkin or banana which can spoil rapidly due to their moist nature. Think, too, about the container you put the food in. While a tin will help keep contents in one piece, you don’t want to saddle your child with a tin they have to kick around until camp is over (unless it can be used as a handy storage container, of course). Plastic zipper bags work great for most goodies.

Packaging is everything: The United States Postal Service website (www.usps.com) recommends these packaging guidelines:

  • If you use a regular box, use one strong enough to protect the package contents with no writing on the outside.
  • Cushion contents with newspaper, bubble wrap, or styrofoam. Pack tightly to avoid shifting.
  • Use pressure-sensitive or nylon-reinforced packing tape.
  • Do not use wrapping paper, string, masking tape, or cellophane tape outside the package.
  • Write “Perishable” on the outside of the box.

When deciding how quickly you want the package to get there (and therefore how much you’re willing to pay), consider how long that food item would normally last, unrefrigerated, in warm conditions.

Whether your child opens a lovingly prepared package of grandma’s chocolate chip cookies, deeply decadent brownies or just a package of lollipops, having everything arrive crumble-free will surely make for a very happy camper!

Breakfast with a twist By Edan Goode

As you have noted from previous posts, I believe it’s ok to be a little sneaky with food if it results in added nutrition in my family’s everyday favorites. While I’d prefer they say, “Please Mom, make some of your whole wheat bread and throw in some extra oat bran,” it won’t happen in my lifetime. So instead, I augment here, tweak there and they’re eating healthy without even realizing it.

Our weekend breakfasts are no exception. I have a great recipe for pancakes that is good on its own but beautifully adapts to some healthful changes. I happily share it with you, here. Feel free to sneak in your own healthy additions.

Edan Goode’s Secretly Healthy Pancakes
Makes 8-10 pancakes depending on the size

1 cup whole wheat flour
1/4 cup all purpose, unbleached white flour
1 egg
1/4 cup granulated sugar
1 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. vanilla
3/4 to 1 cup skim milk
3 TBS safflower or olive oil
2 TBS flax meal or oat bran
Fruit and nut mix-ins such as berries, banana slices, chopped pecans, walnuts or almonds.

Preheat a skillet over medium heat. Use a nonstick skillet or add a little butter. Combine all of the ingredients until smooth. Pour the batter into a measuring cup for ease of pouring. Or, use a gravy ladle to spoon up perfect portions. Place fruit and/or nuts on each pancake at this point while the top side is still wet. Don’t add them to the batter in the bowl because they’ll just sink to the bottom and won’t be evenly distributed.

When the edges begin to dry and harden, flip the pancakes. Cook the second side until it is golden brown. Keep the pancakes warm until the entire batch is done.  Sprinkle more fruit and/or nuts over the top of the pancakes.

It’s good to be sneaky by Edan Goode

I believe being a little sneaky is a critical element of a parenting tool box…as long as it’s used for good, not evil.  I came across some recipes from one of my favorite food-oriented websites, Zis Boom Bah that hide healthy food in baked goods. Yes, I know it is quite “au courant” to do this these days but these recipes sound particularly doable.

So give them a try as you bake things up for the holidays, with or without the kids. If they are baking with you, no need to tell them that the orange puree they are adding is for their health. Just tell them it is to help make the goodie extra good.  There I go again, being sneaky.

Thank you to the good folks at Zis Boom Bah for providing me with the link for these recipes (go ahead, click here).