Autumn Cupcakes

autumn-cupcake

Okay, so first things first– I’ve got to admit that these are a shameless cheat. They’re technically my Pumpkin Pecan Chip muffins with frosting, not cupcakes. But really, once you’ve added white chocolate chips to muffins, they basically become cupcakes by another name anyway, right? And the topping makes all the difference, I promise you!

To take these muffins over the top into cupcake territory, slather them with a brown sugar/cream cheese frosting, then top them with candied ginger and toasted pecans. The combination is amazing– creamy, crunchy, spicy, and everything you’d want in an autumn dessert!

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Pumpkin Pecan Chip Muffins

pumpkin-muffins

I’ve been making these muffins for years now, and they are invariably hailed by my friends as “the best muffins ever.” They’re moist, tender, with plenty of flavor from the pumpkin and spices, and studded with white chocolate chips and pecans as nice surprises in the middle. I tend to make them in fall (our freezer always has a batch ready to defrost for snacks at this time of year) but have been known to make them on a whim out-of-season– they’re that good! Make them yourself if you don’t believe me, and you will be converted!

I will note that the recipe below makes 12 muffins, but if you don’t want to find yourself with half a can of leftover pumpkin and half a bag of leftover chocolate chips, you may as well make a double-batch. You won’t regret it!

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Pumpkin Pecan Fudge

pumpkin-fudge

So remember how I made Frosting Fudge with chocolate frosting and semisweet chocolate chips? It’s still my favorite, but now that it’s fall and the ubiquitous pumpkin spice flavoring is invading every food item in sight, I decided to jump on the bandwagon and try another fudge variation– Pumpkin Pecan Fudge. (Okay, it’s not really fudge since there’s no chocolate in it, but it’s a better descriptor for the texture than just calling it Pumpkin Pecan Squares)

I was really just winging it when it came to ingredients, but the finished product is smooth, creamy, and tastes just like fall! I admit there’s very little pumpkin in there, but that’s probably the case with most “pumpkin spice” flavored things– it’s really the spice mixture that defines the flavor profile. Anyway, give it a try!

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Roasted Brussels Sprouts with Bacon and Hazelnuts

brussels-hazelnutsI’ll admit right now that I shamelessly stole the idea for this dish from a local restaurant’s seasonal sandwich, which combined sprouts, mustard, and hazelnuts in such a delicious way that I was inspired to make my own (non-vegetarian) version.

This side dish practically screams fall, and is hearty enough to use as a main dish for a light meal. The sprouts get almost sweet while roasting, while the hazelnuts add earthiness and crunch, the bacon adds salt and fat, and the mustard sauce is sharp and creamy at the same time. The flavors just blend together so well that I can’t believe I’d never heard of the combination before.

I can’t really put down quantities here, since I basically just threw things together until they looked about right. This is the kind of dish that will always be made “according to taste.” So here’s how:

Ingredients:

Brussels sprouts

Olive oil

Bacon

Mustard

Mayonnaise

Hazelnuts

1. Take a bunch of brussels sprouts and cut off the stems and outer leaves. If they’re particularly large, cut them in half.

2. Toss the sprouts in olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Roast at 400 degrees F for about 25-30 minutes, stirring occasionally, until tender with crispy brown bits.

3. In the meantime, cut up several slices of bacon and fry until crispy. Remove the bacon bits to drain, dump out most of the grease, and toss a small handful of chopped hazelnuts into the pan. Toast them in the bacon grease for a few minutes, until they start to smell nutty.

4. Mix up some sharp mustard and some mayonnaise in a small bowl in about a 1:1 ratio.

5. Toss the sprouts, bacon, hazelnuts, and mustard sauce together and serve hot.

brussels-hazelnut-components

Secret Ingredient Apple Pie

miso-apple-pie-pretty

It’s fall in New England, and that means apple-picking! Our family recently took advantage of a gorgeous fall day to head out to an orchard and participate in that most quintessential of fall activities, and came home tired, happy, and weighed down with a full nineteen pounds of apples. While my daughter has been doing her part to consume them (at least insofar as “taking two bites out of an apple and declaring it ‘all done'” can be considered consumption), that’s still a mountain of apples. So I thought I’d try my hand at another quintessential favorite– the apple pie, but with the added twist of a secret ingredient. What is it, you ask? Read on…

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Velvet Pumpkins

pumpkins all

This is one of the projects that my husband will roll his eyes about. Truth be told, I roll my eyes at myself, too, because it was just such a useless project in the end (and I spent way too much on supplies). Here’s how it went:

Every fall, the artsy boutiques start putting up displays including these velvet pumpkins. They look amazing all piled up, with all the different colors and sizes, and they’re oh-so-touchable and soft. And so easy to make! It was a classic “I want these! I could make these! Let’s buy ALL THE SUPPLIES!” thing for me.

While these really were genuinely easy to make, a few problems arose. The first, of course, is that you need to make a big circle of velvet to gather up into a pumpkin, so you can’t just buy a regular quarter-yard of velvet– it’s too narrow (a fat quarter would work, though). You need to buy at least a half-yard. And the dinky brick-and-mortar fabric stores near me didn’t stock stretch velvet (regular velvet was too expensive and only came in three colors there), so I had to buy online, which basically meant that any orders under $20 weren’t worth paying shipping for, so I bought more. And it’s kind of weird to just make one pumpkin, you have to have at least three or four to make a nice display, and they can’t all be the same color, and the colors have to go together but not be too matchy-matchy… and before I knew it I had 16 different colors of stretch velvet in my fabric stash. Continue reading