A pumpkin crumb muffin sits ready for eating. (Carrie Sanford/for Peninsula Daily News)

A pumpkin crumb muffin sits ready for eating. (Carrie Sanford/for Peninsula Daily News)

PENINSULA KITCHEN: Remember to enjoy the little moments

THE TELEVISION AND internet ads are claiming this to be a beautiful time of the year.

Some might even declare it “The most wonderful time of the year.”

I don’t like to put that much pressure on these few December weeks or my own expectations for what it means to have a meaningful holiday season.

I figure if we all make it through our family gatherings without yelling at Uncle Jim for his politics or snapping at our mothers-in-law for giving our children another dang cookie 10 minutes before bedtime, then we’ll have done just fine.

And, doing just fine is still better than many who are less fortunate than ourselves, struggling with something difficult, or surfing the holidays without a loved one for the first time.

I am not concerned in the least about making my home “Martha Stewart holiday ready” or preparing immaculate meals or hosting perfection.

That seems a tad hollow to me any time of year.

Instead, I’ll focus on the right-in-front-of-me opportunities to have some warm, winter memories with loved ones in my home.

One such opportunity presented itself last week when I found myself home in the morning on a day when my daughter’s school starts an hour later than usual.

I had left-over pumpkin puree that I’d made for our Thanksgiving pie in the fridge.

It was begging for a rare, but delicious weekday muffin baking.

These come together very quickly, are delicious and the spices make the house smell especially festive.

What a sweet and wonderful surprise for my middle-schooler to have warm muffins Wednesday morning.

We listened to our favorite holiday music and savored a few extra moments together.

It was a simple moment, not especially memorable for anything other than being just fine.

I’ll take it.

Pumpkin crumb muffins

Adapted from SallysBakingAddiction.com

1¾ cups all-purpose flour

1 teaspoon baking soda

2 teaspoons ground cinnamon

¼ teaspoon ground nutmeg

¼ teaspoon ground ginger

¼ teaspoon ground cloves

½ teaspoon salt

½ cup canola oil

½ cup granulated sugar

½ cup packed brown sugar

1½ cups puree made from one, 2-3 pound winter squash

2 large eggs

¼ cup milk, half and half or heavy cream

Crumb Topping

¾ cup all-purpose flour

¼ cup granulated sugar

¼ cup packed brown sugar

½ teaspoon cinnamon

6 tablespoons butter, melted

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

Spray a 12-count muffin pan with nonstick spray or line with cupcake liners.

This recipe makes 15 muffins, so prepare a second muffin pan in the same manner. Set aside.

To prepare the pumpkin puree: Cut pumpkin or other winter squash in half and remove seeds and pulp.

Place the cut side down on a rimmed baking sheet.

Bake until a fork can easily pierce the squash (about 30-45 min).

Remove from the oven and let cool for an hour.

Remove cooked flesh from the skin and process in a food processor until smooth.

You can freeze extra puree for up to three months.

Reset the oven to 425 degrees.

To make the muffins: In a large bowl, whisk the flour, baking soda, cinnamon, pumpkin pie spice and salt together until combined. Set aside.

In a medium bowl, whisk the oil, granulated sugar, brown sugar, pumpkin puree, eggs and milk together until combined.

Pour the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients, then fold everything together gently just until combined and no flour pockets remain.

Spoon the batter into liners, filling them almost full.

To make the crumb topping: Whisk the flour, granulated sugar, brown sugar and pumpkin pie spice together until combined.

Stir in the melted butter until crumbs form.

Spoon crumbs evenly on top of the batter and gently press them down into the batter so they’re snug.

Bake for five minutes at 425 degrees then, keeping the muffins in the oven, reduce the oven temperature to 350 degrees.

Bake for an additional 16 to 17 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.

The total time these muffins take in the oven is about 21 to 22 minutes, give or take.

Allow the muffins to cool for 10 minutes in the muffin pan as you make the icing.

For mini muffins, bake for 11 to 13 minutes at 350 degrees or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.

________

Carrie Sanford, who shares the Peninsula Kitchen column with Betsy Wharton, is a mother, wife, educator, artist, activist and cook.

She writes the newsletter for Salt Creek Farm in Joyce during the growing season and volunteers with nonprofits and schools in Port Angeles, where she lives with her husband, Tom Sanford, and their daughter, Abby.

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