Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Muffins

It’s a recipe for fall, y’all! It’s been a while since I’ve posted…anything. I started two other special posts which have both been patiently waiting to be finished and published, but work kinda took over while I was traveling so I’ll get ’em up this week. Promise!

What’s up next? So glad you asked! Two new “TOP 5” posts: one is on my top five travel tips, while the other is on my top five tips for those of you considering blogging. Stay tuned!

Snow!I’m really excited to share both of those, but just for today I had to start with this bad boy of a post in honor of a perfecly snowy Sunday here in Oklahoma! We only got a little snow…but of the little we got – it was enough to inspire the crazy wannabe baker in me to get started. I felt compelled to bake something pumpkin-like with the cans of pumpkin puree lining the aisles at the local grocery store, the fire in our fireplace, and the simple fact that I’m home. Home home home.

I love being home.

I found a recipe that deliveres a perfect little dose of pumpkin as my favorite season of autumn comes to a close: Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Muffins. High fives for this post goes out to Marg from food.com – thanks for the recipe!

Now, I’ll have you know that before I left for my last two week stretch of work-travel back East, I put on my fancy pants and actually made pumpkin puree from scratch. Like, from an actual pumpkin…not a can. Totally did! I was so proud of myself. I followed the instructions from my favorite Oklahoma homecook, Ree Drummond. Check out how to make it from scratch here: Homemade Pumpkin Puree.

I made it, froze it, and when I came back from my trip it was gone. Gone. I was devistated. No wonder Justin Timberlake wrote a song about it. Gone. It’s heartbreaking to make something from scratch and then have to start over when you’re toooootally not in the mood. It wasn’t Sean’s fault, btw. Just for the record – there was an issue with our new fridge/freezer’s power while I was gone and the poor guy had to throw everything out and buy new stuff. Sooooo those cans of pumpkin puree were lookin’ pretty good today.

Here’s what you’ll need:

Ingredients

2 Eggs (the picture above looks like 3, but 1 was a double yolk…so I just went with it!)

1 cup – Sugar

1/2 can (8 oz) – Pumpkin Purree

1 & 1/4 cups – Canola or Veg Oil

1/2 tsp – Vanilla Extract

1 tsp – Ground Cinnamon

1 tsp – Baking Powder

1 tsp – Baking Soda

1/2 tsp – Salt

6-8 oz – Semi-sweet chocolate chips

 

*Pre-heat your oven to 400 degrees.

STEP 1:

Mix the eggs, pumpkin puree, vanilla, and oil into a bowl until it’s nice and smoooooooth lookin’.

STEP 2:

Then add the cinnamon, baking powder, baking soda, and salt.

STEP 3:

Easy, right? Then the flour…in stages. Dumping it in all at once means that you will be wearing most of the flour. Ain’t no time for that. So add it in slowly, but steadily. It’ll look like this: Steps 1 and 2

STEP 4:

Then, remove the whisk/paddle/whatever if you’re using an electric mixer, and make sure you fold in the chocolate chips with a spoon/spatula.

STEP 5:

I’m a HUGE fan of these parchment paper wrappers. They’re so easy. Now, this recipe calls for about 15 muffins but I wasn’t about to use two different trays, so I just made all 12 a little larger and it worked out beautifully. So, either spray or greeze the pan or fill the paper cups about half way. IMG_7821

STEP 6:

Into the oven they go for about 20 minutes or less! 20 minutes was great for these rockstars since I filled ’em pretty well.

STEP 7:

Let them cool for about 5 minutes and enjoy!!! IMG_7846

Boom. Delicious muffins prepared, baked, and enjoyed in under an hour.

Happy baking!

 

A Tale of Two Muffins

This morning I woke up, made myself a cup of coffee, and watched the 8:30 a.m. episode of The Pioneer Woman – pretty standard Saturday morning so far. Ree made her precious family  some cinnamon sugar muffins to kick off some hard work on their beautiful Oklahoma farm. And then it happened. My eyes widened…my caffeine-induced energy spiked…and I wanted to bake. There was no stopping me. I turned to Sean…

Me: So I wanna bake something. I think muffins.

Sean: Chocolate chip and banana.

Me: No bananas.

Sean: Chocolate chip and cinnamon.

Me: Hmmmm….I was thinking about apple cinnamon. I’m pretty sure I want apple cinnamon.

Sean: Chocolate chip…and….chocolate chip…….chocolate…….chip.

Hehe. He’s pretty cute. But oohhh it was ON! Who was gonna win this battle? Luckily – brilliance stepped in.

I researched a few simple apple cinnamon recipes scattered online and decided to adjust the basics to my own variation for the batter and then split it into two separate bowls right before adding the final key ingredient. Problem solved! One dozen muffins – 6 apple cinnamon, 6 cinnamon chocolate chip.

As Ree Drummond, the Pioneer Woman, says, “Here’s the cast of characters:

Flour – 1 1/2 cups

White Sugar – 1/2 cup

Light Brown Sugar – 1/4 cup

Baking Powder – 1 1/2 teaspoons

Ground Cinnamon – 1 teaspoon

Ground Nutmeg – 1/8 teaspoon (or…just 3-5 sprinkles if it has a filter)

Milk – 1/2 cup

Unsalted Butter (melted) – 1/2 cup

Salt – 1/4 teaspoon

1 Egg (slightly beaten)

1 Apple (pealed, cored, and diced up into little cubes)

1/2 cup of Semi Sweet Chocolate Chips

Penzeys Spices

I’ve gotta add a little shout out here to my girl Jeanne for her contribution to this recipe. For my 30th birthday back in February she and her husband, Travis, gave me some AMAZING Penzeys spices. You better believe I packed these bad boys up carefully when we moved from MD to OK last month. It was time to break out the Penzeys nutmeg and cinnamon for today’s little tale. Jeanne’s fellow blogger who loves to try new recipes, so be sure to check out her delicious recipes here: Jeanne’s Kitchen!

And there you have it! The entire “cast of characters” needed for my own little adjusted recipe for 6 apple cinnamon muffins and 6 cinnamon chocolate chip muffins. Be sure to PRE-HEAT your oven to 375 degrees. Now, here’s how “the tale of two muffins” unfolded:

STEP 1

Combine the flour, white sugar, light brown sugar, baking powder, salt, ground cinnamon and nutmeg together in a bowl/mixer.

STEP 2

Add in the milk, melted butter, and slightly beaten egg to the dry ingredients. Stir slowly, or have the mixer on low. Combine until it looks all fabulous…like this:

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STEP 3

Are you on the edge of your seat!?! Here’s where the magic happens. Separate the batter evenly into two bowls. In one bowl add as much chocolate chips as you’d like. In the other, yes – very good, add the diced up cubes of apple. I didn’t use the whole apple by the way. I only really used like, half of it. You can use as much as you’d like…but be mindful of how the apple will create way more moisture in the muffins depending on how much you add.

STEP 4

Grease or spray a 12-cup muffin pan. Fill 6 with the apple cinnamon batter and the other 6 with the chocolate cinnamon batter. Then, into the oven it goes for 18 minutes.

6O9C1974STEP 5

Check on them periodically, but 18 minutes at 375 degrees should definitely do the trick. Take them out and let them sit for about 5 minutes. Meanwhile, melt a tablespoon of butter and brush it over ONLY the six apple cinnamon muffins. Then…sprinkle over a little sugar! Tehe!

STEP 6

Woooohoooo! Enjoy. We sure did. We each thought our original preference was the best. Sean loved the Cinnamon Chocolate Chip Muffins, while I loved the Apple Cinnamon Muffins.

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The beauty of this recipe is that you can add anything to it. There are so many possible variations to the key ingredient that you could play around with, like…blueberries with a little lemon or orange zest thrown in there? Heck yeah! Or maybe go a little crazy during the holidays and make some white chocolate chip and cranberry muffins with this batter. Ooohhhh the possibilities 🙂

Happy baking, friends!

 

We’re moving to…

This post packs some news with a lil’ punch. Are y’all ready for this?

We’re moving!

Last month Sean came home with some news of an opportunity to relocate within the company he works for. This news prompted a solid 30 seconds of silence from me to contemplate what he just said (that’s a long time for me to not talk…trust me). So we turned off the T.V., poured a couple drinks, ignored any chores (hah…twist MY arm!), and really took time to let this opportunity sink in.

We didn’t have to say yes. It was just a really great opportunity for his career…and a location that we never considered, but knew we’d love. We were totally in! Pretty excited about it actually…but were we crazy?!

Many couples our age who live in such an exciting area like D.C. would be like “Hhhhaaaaaaaayyl no!” to this type of move. But for a while now we’ve been dreaming of open land, a significant decrease in traffic, and more simply – just someplace new and different in our beautiful country. We also realized that this is falling into our lives at a time where we don’t have kids, we’re still young (30’s better still count as young), and we don’t know when an opportunity like this will come our way again.

So you’re probably like…”KATHERINE…omg seriously, just tell us where you’re moving!!!”

Hehe…okay.

Watch the first 30 seconds of the video below to get the grand announcement:

Surprise!!! Now I’d like to poll your reaction:

 

So that’s our big news.

As of this August, so less than 3 months, we’ll be all packed up and headed across the country to Tulsa, Oklahoma. This is huge for us!!! Here’s the very little that I knew about Oklahoma when I said “…sure!” last month:

  • Ree Drummond, The Pioneer Woman, lives there! Think we could become BFF’s? We’ll see.
  • Tornadoes. Tornadoes. Tornadoes. Are you following me on Instagram yet? I have a feeling that my posts of the weather are about to get MUCH more exciting.
  • Cowgirl boots! I own one pair. I’m totally in love with them and feel severely out of place when I wear them around here in MD sometimes. Not for long!

That’s about all I knew at first. But now, day by day I’m learning a ton about “the Sooner state” and plan to post more as the countdown to this exciting adventure draws near.

It was an easy decision in some ways, but really difficult in others. Our family and friends mean the WORLD to us, and 90% of them are all here along the east coast, accessible within a day’s drive. Luckily as we’ve started to share this news, everyone has been incredibly supportive and can’t wait to visit! This support has given us the affirmation that we’ve needed. It also means that my time working as the D.C.-area Regional Admissions Counselor for The Culinary Institute of America will come to a close this year as my position is territory based. I have loved working for such an incredible school and will always be an enthusiastic little cheerleader for the world’s best culinary college. That said – the hunt is on to find my next professional venue. More news on that front one day!

In the meantime – I’ll take ANY moving advice I can get. I feel like 3 months is a good amount of time to pack, search for a rental in OK, prepare to be a landlord for our home here in MD, find a great new job for myself, and while we’re at it…plan one heck of an amazing cross country road trip in August! Any advice? Words of wisdom?! Throw ’em at me and comment below!

Thanks for hearing our big news, friends. 🙂

 

Bacon Mac & Cheese

Oh yes. Yes I did. I know what you’re thinking…

BACON aaaannnd Mac & Cheeeese?! Whaaaat?! Oh my gosh, Katherine, you’re such a little rebel!!!!

– you.

No? Not what you’re thinking? Fine. But I’ve gotta show you how fun and easy it was to make. It was a dream to eat and relatively simple to throw together.

Sean has been working ’round the clock on a work project lately, so I decided to make this for him/us earlier this week. I don’t cook dinner like…every night, but I try to as often as I can. When I used to come home exhausted from my last job’s awful commute, he would often cook for me and it made me so happy. So now that I work from home (anyone else work from home!? Isn’t it AMAZING!?) I’ve tried to “spice” up my cooking skills (proud pun moment # 438839058430). The look on his face when he comes home exhausted and sees a home-cooked meal waiting is just priceless.

He loves bacon. I was in the mood to make home-made mac & cheese. Put ’em together and what’dya yet?! Wooohooo! Bacon Mac & Cheese. I researched a few recipes and liked this one the most: http://www.foodnetwork.com/recipes/tyler-florence/mac-n-cheese-with-bacon-and-cheese-recipe/index.html (thanks Food Network!). I threw in a little of this and that to change it around a bit though. Here’s what you’ll need to make what I made:

*Pre-heat your oven to 400 degrees.

  • 1 box (which is usually 1 pound) – Elbow Macaroni
  • Salt (just have plenty handy)
  • 4 cups – Milk
  • 3 or 4 sprigs – Thyme
  • 2 Tbsp – Garlic Powder
  • 1 Tbsp – Paprika
  • 3 Tbsp – Butter
  • 3 Tbsp – Flour
  • 5 1/2 cups – Sharp White Cheddar Cheese
  • BACON

Got ’em? Let’s do this.

STEP 1:

Start by doing something very important. SHRED THE CHEESE YOURSELF!!!!! DOOO IIIIITT!!! I’m hoping I scared you a little just now so that you do it. It’s an annoying but necessary step! I’m a huge fan of The Pioneer Woman (hey Ree!!!!! you’re probably not reading this…but ya never know…) and she really hits home how important it is to shred the cheese yourself. Sounds silly? It makes a difference. She says she doesn’t buy store-bought pre-shredded cheese and that “…It’s against my religion.” Love her. I live by that now! So shred your own cheese. We clear?! Great. Moving on.

Boil a pot of hot water (salted) to cook the macaroni. Watch it…and keep tasting. Those little guys will cook fast and you’re gonna want to drain them once they’re al-dente. Once they’re there – set the macaroni aside.

STEP 2:

Once your ingredients are all set up, start with the milk and butter. In a large skillet, warm the milk on medium to medium-high heat while whisking so that you don’t burn a layer of milk at the base. Add the thyme sprigs to the milk and let it make a little melody of the milk. Just give it some “thyme” … I’m sorry (not sorry) but did you really expect me to not have fun with that one?!

Meanwhile, in a SEPARATE skillet, gently melt the butter on medium heat, then add in the paprika, garlic, and flour but do it very graaaaadually while whisking. Add the mixtures from both skillets together into one (thyme + milk in with the buttery paprika garlic flour mixture. Nice and slow. No one likes ugly redish brown clumps in their harmonious thyme scented milk. No one.

Remove the thyme sprigs. Thyme’s up! Haaahahahaaa!

Add in the cheese slowly while whisking…

Keep whisking! You’re doin’ great! If you get stressed out just have a glass of wine 😉

STEP 3:

Pour the macaroni into a casserole dish and follow that up with your cheesy harmonious skillet sensation. Or in other words, add the cheesy blend to the mac. Sprinkle the top with the remaining 1/2 cup of shredded cheese. Into the oven it goes for about 20-30 minutes, depending on how crispy you may want the top to get.

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STEP 4:

While the mac & cheese is cooking in the oven, wipe down the skillet and get ready to cook the BACON! Make sure to cook the bacon so that it’s really crisp. Once it’s ready, remove and let it cool and dry over paper towels. Chop up the bacon into small pieces and then add that to the top of the mac & cheese once it’s out of the oven.

YAY! Enjoy with some oven-roasted veggies! I’ll post some of my veggie side favorites soon. For now, go enjoy your Saturday night. As for me? I’m going to bed. I have a big day tomorrow. I’m running the Annapolis 10 Mile race with my friend Carrianne! Woooohooo!

Big hugs!