This past weekend, J and I celebrated our one year anniversary. Boy, how time flies.
We made it a point to go back to the place where we married, an old golf resort in the Pocono Mountains — a Dirty Dancing meets The Shining ambiance, perfect for a weekend getaway with 130 of our closest friends and family. We also made it a point (okay, maybe my insatiable sweet tooth made it a point) to go back to the bakery that created our delicious red velvet and chocolate-chip layered wedding cake; we left the morning after our wedding without the customary top to freeze. Our valiant effort to salvage good luck bestowed 6 vanilla cupcakes. Sweet nostalgia.
The Sunday we returned home was a day spent cheering for our fantasy football players and toying in the kitchen. While it was a relatively warm day in Philadelphia, I couldn’t help but turn on the oven to bake something wholesome for the upcoming work week. To be fair, the “Pumpkin” in the title of this recipe is somewhat deceptive; I used the sweet kabocha squash, also known as the Japanese pumpkin, to create this simple and healthy muffin. When I uncovered the squash from my Landisdale Farm CSA share, I refrained myself from carving a frightening face into its flesh and sitting it out on our front door step. Doesn’t it look like the perfect pumpkin?
Speaking of deception, the Corn Refiners Association is lobbying the FDA to change the name of the oft-maligned ingredient “high fructose corn syrup (HFCS)” to a seemingly more innocuous “corn sugar.” Considering the controversial health effects of HFCS (most recently, researchers at Princeton University found that the ingredient caused significant weight gain and increases in abdominal fat and triglyceride levels in lab animals), it’s clear the Association is desperate to revamp it’s image. But a change in the name doesn’t equate to a healthier product; just more label confusion for consumers — the last thing this weight-challenged country needs.
An effective way to food shop without label anxiety is focusing on fruits and vegetables — they don’t come with food labels yet they are nutritional heroes. I admit it — I’m not one to regularly snack on carrots and celery; but throw a vegetable in a muffin, cookie, or cake and I’m smitten. As we learn that Americans are missing out on valuable produce, we need to get creative in the kitchen. Muffins are particularly attractive because they provide instant portion control; I pack one in my lunch sack each day and have a filling and nutritious mid-morning or afternoon snack.
I’ve discussed the merits of kabocha squash before, so I’ll refrain from any redundancy in this post. Kabocha’s sweet flavor and fluffy texture won’t disappoint in this muffin recipe; you may even want to use some cinnamon, nutmeg and ginger to dress these in a more seasonal outfit. Feel free to substitute the squash with different pureed fruits and vegetables, even use real pumpkin if you have it hand.
Apologies for the deception; but at least they satisfy your sweet tooth and nourish your body. Anniversary cupcakes excluded, of course 😉
Simple Pumpkin Muffins
Very loosly adapted from Food and Wine Annual Cookbook 2010’s Bluberry-Sour Cream Muffins, p 282.
- 1 cup whole wheat flour
- 1/2 cup all purpose flour
- 1/4 tsp baking soda
- 1 tsp baking powder
- 1/2 tsp salt
- 1 egg
- 3/4 cup turbinado sugar*
- 1/2 cup yogurt
- 1 cup cooked kabocha squash, mashed (it’s okay if there are some chunks in the batter if you get tired of mashing)
- 1 tsp pure vanilla extract
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Prepare a 12-muffin pan with no-stick cooking spray or foil liners.
- Combine flours, baking soda, baking powder and salt in a medium bowl.
- In a large bowl, use a hand mixer to beat egg until frothy. Add the sugar, yogurt, squash, and vanilla and beat until well combined.
- Slowly incorporate dry ingredients to wet and beat at low speed until just blended.
- Equally distribute the batter to fill each muffin cup to about three-fourths full.
- Bake in oven for 15-20 minutes, or toothpick comes out clean.
*Recipe Note: I like to use turbinado sugar in my baked goods because it is less processed than white sugar and actually contains fewer calories. It adds a deep, molasses flavor that helps maintain the richness you expect from baked goods despite a trimmed fat content.