My reputation precedes me

Walking through the office last night, I ran into a coworker. I was overloaded with bags on my way home, per usual; I seem to carry a rotating set of objects back home each night.

Lunch bag.
Recycling.
Diet soda bottle.
Purse.
Cell phone I’m trying not to drop.

“I thought of you over the weekend,” she said. “I was out . . .”

“And you saw pumpkins?” I finished, laughing.

Indeed.

Pumpkin tablecloths. Table runners. Napkin rings. Pumpkin beverages and dishcloths, candles and body wash.

It’s always the same. As soon as fall rolls around, I get the most delightful messages from friends and family — all related to my favorite gourd.

My reputation as the Pumpkin Lady is well-earned, I’d say. Even folks I don’t get a chance to speak with often drop me little notes with recipes for homemade pumpkin spice lattes or coffee, pies and cookies, unconventional ways to use pumpkin as facial masks or home remedies.

If I’m super lucky, I even get pumpkin-themed gifts. A newspaper reader unexpectedly popped in last year with a set of pumpkin-scented candles — which has to rank up there as one of the nicest things ever. My lovely mother-in-law gave me pumpkin pasta sauce last year (delicious), then surprised us with pumpkin-shaped pasta shells on our last visit to New York.

Almost too cute to eat.

Almost.


Pumpkin pasta


Like the onslaught of Facebook messages on your birthday, hearing from old friends and new celebrating my favorite emblem of autumn never ceases to delight and entertain me. I started a set of bookmarks (plus my fall Pinterest board) with all things pumpkin ‘n’ spice, and I’m pretty sure these creations will keep me busy until Christmas.

And I have zero problem with that.

Pumpkin spice latte cupcakes
Pumpkin coffee in a Crock Pot (thanks, Jill!)
Pumpkin snickerdoodle cookie bars
Pumpkin spice granola
DIY pumpkin spice latte
White chocolate pumpkin snickerdoodles
Easy mini pumpkin cinnamon rolls


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Two ingredients. One delicious (pumpkin) cupcake.

photo


So.

Sometimes I’m all about crazy ingredient combinations. I relish creating something delicious from scratch; I become utterly absorbed in the hours-long process of sifting, combining, stirring and frosting. I wait by the oven. I allow things to cool. I pace around, reading and watching the timer, peeking into illuminated ovens and waiting. Waiting.

And sometimes, I just want to eat a cupcake.

I found this recipe by accident on Monday (thanks, Pinterest!), and it turned out to be perfect timing. I’d just moved the day before, meaning most of what I owned was still in trash bags or boxes in the living room. I was tired, grumpy; I was still feeling all kinds of out of sorts. I wasn’t used to baking anywhere than in my parents’ kitchen, which is always well-stocked and overflowing.

And ours, well . . . we’re working on it.

But never fear! I only needed two ingredients — yes, seriously, two ingredients — for these chocolate pumpkin cupcakes.

You ready?

Okay.

A boxed chocolate cake mix. (I used devil’s food.)

And a can of pumpkin.

No oil. No eggs.

Just chocolate cake mix and a can of pumpkin.

Pre-heat oven to 350. Beat pumpkin and cake mix until very well combined; batter will be super-duper thick. Fill cupcake liners about 2/3 full (batter will rise significantly). Bake for 20-25 minutes (I only needed 20), until toothpick inserted in center of a cupcake comes out clean.

Allow to cool. Frost as desired (I used store-bought cream cheese frosting). Garnish with pumpkin spice or sprinkles or whatever your heart desires. Rake in the compliments, feel like a total rock star.


Cupcakes cooling


And if you want to get fancy, follow The Picky Palate’s additional recipe for pumpkin spice brown butter frosting, which sounds amazing.

Or don’t, because you’re busy frolicking in fall leaves and drinking apple cider and listening to praise for your chocolate pumpkin cupcakes — all without mentioning how insanely easy they are to make.

Totally your call.

Also, I wound up bringing these to a “work potluck” yesterday that actually turned out to be . . . a surprise bridal shower for yours truly! And I may or may not have received a KitchenAid stand mixer from my coworkers. Um. I’m still kind of in shock.

And they totally have ulterior motives with that present, as they pointed out themselves . . . like bringing in more cupcakes like these.

Done and done.


Pumpkin whoopie pies

Pumpkin whoopie pies


I’ve been stress baking.

Leading up to my sister’s wedding on Saturday, I had tons of nervous energy that I channeled rather successfully into baked goods. Keeping my hands — and head — busy, especially during transitional times, is always a good idea.

And now her wedding’s over, and I’ve been popped. Popped like a balloon.

But that’s another post. Perhaps a long, rambling post I’ll never publish. And anyway, you’re not really interested in my tasty batter of emotions, are you?! After seeing a photo like that at top?

I didn’t think so.


Whoopie pies


So, whoopie pies. I kind of felt like I was cheating on my beloved cupcakes the whole time I mixed this batter, scooping tablespoons of it onto cookie sheets rather than into muffin tins, but the whoopie pie is actually rather adorable. And delicious. I’ve seen it described as an “inside-out cupcake,” and I totally dig that description.

And since we’re officially in the thick of my favorite season, you know I had to kick autumn off with some delicious pumpkin treats. This recipe from The Baker Chick provided the perfect cake base, though I definitely cheated and did not make the suggested homemade salted caramel filling (though that sounds amazing).

Hey, c’mon — I was stress baking, not stress frosting. I totally used a store-bought buttercream and it was still outstanding. Like, this recipe made about 35 of these babies . . . and I had barely a half dozen left after a few days. Like hotcakes, I’m telling you.

So I got the satisfaction of making a dessert, and the two-bites-and-you’re-done delicious quality kept me from overindulging. Eating a single whoopie pie gave me that sweet taste I craved without going crazy.

Though you could totally go crazy eating these. It’s not a giant leap.


Pumpkin Whoopie Pies

Recipe from The Baker Chick

Prep time: 15 minutes
Cook time: 12 minutes

Yield: Approximately 30 sandwich cookies

Ingredients:

3 cups all-purpose flour
1 tsp. salt
1 tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. baking powder
2 tbsp. cinnamon
1 tsp. ground ginger
1/2 tsp. ground nutmeg
1 cup granulated sugar
1 cup dark brown sugar, firmly packed
1 cup canola oil
3 cups pumpkin puree
2 large eggs
1 tsp. vanilla extract

Instructions:

Preheat the oven to 350° F. Line a baking sheet with parchment or a sil-pat and set aside.

In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, salt, baking soda, baking powder and spices. Set aside.

In a large bowl, whisk sugars and oil together. Add the pumpkin puree and whisk to combine thoroughly. Add the eggs and vanilla and mix until smooth and well-combined. Gradually mix the flour mixture into the pumpkin mixture, stirring until just combined.

Use a small ice cream scoop to drop a heaping tablespoon of dough onto the baking sheet, about 1 inch apart.

Bake for 10-12 minutes, until the cookies are just starting to crack on top and a toothpick inserted into the center of a cookie comes out clean. Remove from the oven and let the cookies cool on the pan for 5-10 minutes. Transfer to a wire rack to cool completely. Repeat with remaining dough.

To assemble, pipe buttercream or cream cheese frosting onto the flat side of one of the cookies and place another cookie, flat side down, on top of the filling. Press down slightly so that the filling spreads to the edges. Repeat until all the cookies are used.


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Pumpkin pie cupcakes: like the pie. But a cupcake.


Hi, I’m Megan. Have we met?

No?

Well, do you follow me on Twitter? I’m not self-promoting, friends; I’m asking out of real curiosity. Because if you do, you already know everything I’m about to tell you. In which case you’d probably prefer to skip down to the recipe or otherwise disembark from write meg! for the weekend. I’ll miss you, but I understand.

I have a thing about pumpkin. I love it, I want it, I need it. As soon as September arrives, I’m in line at Starbucks to buy a $5 drink neither my wallet or waistline need — and I don’t care. Repeat throughout the fall.

Lattes aren’t enough for me, though. I need to have pumpkin candles, pumpkin scones, pumpkin bread. I want pumpkins embroidered on tea towels in my bathroom and sitting in my boyfriend’s apartment window, where he will stare at them and scorn me for “girly-ing” his manly, masculine, rough-and-tumble bachelor pad.

If he thinks my minimalist fall decorations are bad? Oh, the fun he has in store. (Don’t tell him.)

In the pumpkin vein, I decided to do some baking last weekend — and I spotted this recipe on my fall-themed Pinterest board (yep, totally have one of those). It’s simple, delicious and — yes — tastes exactly like pumpkin pie. Just in convenient cupcake form.

It’s best consumed chilled and with a huge dollop of whipped cream. I sprinkled cinnamon on mine because, well . . . everything is better with cinnamon. Hope you agree.


Pumpkin pie cupcakes

Recipe adapted from Baking Bites

Ingredients:
2/3 cup all purpose flour
1/4 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp salt
2 tsp pumpkin pie spice
1 15-oz can pumpkin puree
1/2 cup sugar
1/4 cup brown sugar
2 large eggs
1 tsp vanilla extract
3/4 cup half and half (or evaporated milk)

Directions:
1. Preheat the oven to 350F. Line a baking tins with paper or silicone liners.
2. In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt and pumpkin pie spice.
3. In a large bowl, whisk together pumpkin puree, sugar, brown sugar, eggs, vanilla and half and half until well combined. Add in dry ingredients and whisk until no streaks of flour remain and batter is smooth.
4. Fill each muffin cup approximately 2/3 full.
5. Bake for 20 minutes. Cool cupcakes in pan. They will sink as they cool.
6. Chill cupcakes before serving. Top with whipped cream and cinnamon. Yield: 12-16 cupcakes.



For more fun cooking- and food-themed posts, don’t miss Beth Fish Reads’ Weekend Cooking!


Pumpkin ginger cupcakes — a zing and a pow

At a family gathering last week, there was no way I could show up empty-handed — and I can’t come to a fall party without something pumpkin, of course. But I wanted something different. Something a little technically challenging, because I’m apparently a sadistic baker.

I found this recipe for pumpkin ginger cupcakes and knew I’d found my calling. My attention was captured with the mention of crystallized ginger, though I was worried I wouldn’t be able to find it . . . but alas, that anxiety — like most in my life — was for nothing. Target had a decent-sized bottle, made by Archer Farms, for around $6. I mashed that baby up and was ready to roll.

The only thing I didn’t notice about this recipe? It’s strictly for the cupcakes. And I’m proud to say that, for the first time, I created my own concoction for frosting! A tasty buttercream with a hint of cinnamon, which complemented these cupcakes perfectly.

Am I bragging? A little, yes. But I’m pretty proud of these — and they disappeared as quickly as I could pull them from the oven. I topped some of mine with walnuts and others with sprinkles. What wasn’t eaten by my family was taken to work, and I’m currently continuing my reign as Office Cupcake Queen.

It’s a title I’m proud to have.


Pumpkin ginger cupcakes

Recipe from Allrecipes.com

Ingredients:
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 (3.4 ounce) package instant butterscotch pudding mix
2 teaspoons baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
1/2 teaspoon ground allspice
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
1/3 cup finely chopped crystallized ginger
1 cup butter, room temperature
1 cup white sugar
1 cup packed brown sugar
4 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 (15 ounce) can pumpkin puree

Directions:
1. Preheat an oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C). Grease 24 muffin cups, or line with paper muffin liners. Whisk together the flour, pudding mix, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, ground ginger, allspice, cloves, and crystallized ginger in a bowl; set aside.

2. Beat the butter, white sugar, and brown sugar with an electric mixer in a large bowl until light and fluffy. The mixture should be noticeably lighter in color. Add the room-temperature eggs one at a time, allowing each egg to blend into the butter mixture before adding the next. Beat in the vanilla and pumpkin puree with the last egg. Stir in the flour mixture, mixing until just incorporated. Pour the batter into the prepared muffin cups.

3. Bake in the preheated oven until golden and the tops spring back when lightly pressed, about 20 minutes. Cool in the pans for 10 minutes before removing to cool completely on a wire rack.


Cinnamon buttercream

Ingredients:
1 cup butter, softened
4 cups powdered sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla
1/4 cup milk
2 teaspoons cinnamon, or more to taste

In a medium bowl, cream butter with electric mixer. Beat in vanilla and gradually add powdered sugar until well blended. Add milk until frosting reaches desired consistency.


Cool and creamy pumpkin pie mousse

While searching for healthy twists on traditional holiday recipes, I knew right away I couldn’t leave out my most favorite of all autumn items: pumpkin! (Were you really expecting me to say anything else?) I’m doing a magazine spread of healthier alternatives to the dishes that make this season great, and it’s not like I could print and promote a recipe I hadn’t tried myself. Am I right?

I said, am I right?

Yes. Of course. So I whipped up this pumpkin pie mousse, adapted from a recipe found online. I actually lost track of where I originally found this one, but it’s pretty similar to this version. The biggest change from traditional pumpkin pie is that we’re not using a real pie crust, and there’s no additional sugar. Plus, we’re using all fat-free or low-fat ingredients.

And do you think the pumpkin pie fanatics around my house missed those calories? Absolutely not. This light, fluffy and decidedly pumpkin-y concoction tasted delicious, and the added crunch from the crushed graham crackers kept it from feeling too much like dipping into simple pie batter. It’s cool, refreshing — and simple. Very, very simple.

So when you’re eager to try out a pumpkin dish this fall but aren’t ready to commit to a full-blown pie, keep this one stashed in your repertoire. This pumpkin nut wouldn’t steer you wrong.


Pumpkin pie mousse

Ingredients:
1 (15 ounce) can pumpkin puree
1/2 cup skim milk
1 (1 ounce) package instant sugar-free vanilla pudding mix
1 teaspoon pumpkin pie spice
1 (8 ounce) container fat-free frozen whipped topping, thawed
1/2 cup crushed graham crackers
Cinnamon, to taste

Directions:
In a medium bowl, mix together the milk, pumpkin and instant pudding mix. Stir in the pumpkin pie spice, and fold in half of the thawed whipped topping. Pour into an 8-inch pie plate and spread remaining whipped topping over top. Sprinkle with crushed graham crackers and lightly dust with cinnamon. Chill for one hour, or until set. Serve in individual cups for an added touch.


Etsy Find Fridays: Pumpkin for you, pumpkin for me

Since September is here and I’ve already had the pleasure of partaking in my first pumpkin spice latte of fall, I figured it’s high time to enjoy the scents of the season.

As time goes on, simply drinking my pumpkin isn’t enough; now I want to decorate with it, too. And if you think I can resist the allure of an embroidery hoop emblazoned with a piece of pumpkin pie, friends? Well, you’re wrong.

Nothing screams autumn and seasonal joy quite like pumpkin (and dessert), and just looking at these items makes me happy! I’m definitely guilty of owning pumpkin-scented lotions, soaps and more, and the lip balm below is one of my favorites. Click through to visit or purchase these lovelies.