Orange pumpkin muffins

Well, it’s been a bit of time! Tim and I both got slammed with colds throughout much of November, and since we weren’t moving forward with house stuff until after the holidays, I didn’t have a whole lot to say anyway. December has kept me hopping, though, because I am Big Into Christmas. This year, I am handmaking a slew of gifts and I’ll certainly share those after they’ve been distributed (I’m pretty pleased with how they’re turning out so far, but I have a bunch of work on them still) and in the meantime, I would love to share some food stuff with the world. I have yet to dive into my Christmas cookie baking (trying to hold off until we’re a little closer, so I don’t have a bunch of stale cookies to leave out for Santa), but I look forward to sharing some of my family’s favorite recipes, in addition to a few that I’ve come to rely on (including the butteriest lace cookies ever, which made me fall in love with almond extract).

I also will probably do a decoration round-up because I am very much in love with our Christmas decorations (almost all of them have some significance to me and I can tell you how they came into my possession). For the record, spending at least a day each weekend sewing for the past several weeks means that Tim did ALL of the decorating so far! I love the choices he’s made with our things and am so grateful that he took over and made the house warm, welcoming and festive while I was otherwise occupied!

Today I want to share with you one of my favorite baked goods, which I didn’t think of as a Christmas treat until recently. I discovered this recipe for Pumpkin Orange Loaf several years ago, and it’s one of my go-to staples when I feel like I should be bringing something breakfast-y for Thanksgiving when we go visit our families. The recipe has always produced more batter than I can fit in one of my loaf pans (alarmingly discovered after the first attempt to bake one!), so I usually grease up a muffin tin and make delicious little muffins as a bonus. This year for our family trip to the cabins in Mohican State Park, I decided to forgo the loaf altogether and just muffin up the entire recipe. Unsurprisingly, it was delicious! As a bonus, I could bake them well in advance of our trip and stick them in a bag in the freezer until we left.

I could eat an embarrassing number of these muffins for breakfast, but I usually limit it to one or two...

I could eat an embarrassing number of these muffins for breakfast, but I usually limit it to one or two…

Then for my birthday, Tim got me a monster food processor and I was excited to make the muffins all over again! Our old food processor was tiny (Tim estimated maybe 4 cups) and I forever had to process things in batches, or add voluminous greens a little at a time (the arugula pesto could be a bit of a challenge sometimes!). The pumpkin orange loaf calls for an entire orange (yup, peel and all!) to be processed and added to the batter. Well, no matter how small I pre-chopped the orange wedges and only did 1/3 or so at a time, prepping the orange in the tiny processor was a total mess. (Also, the blade was probably a bit dull, so it didn’t chop very smoothly.) Orange juice would always come sloshing out the seam where the lid attached and often sprayed on the wall and my stand mixer. However, with my lovely new birthday present, processing the orange for the Thanksgiving batch of muffins was super-easy and did not result in any wasted juice. These muffins were as moist and flavorful as ever!

Our office holiday party plans recently changed and all of a sudden I am responsible for bringing something to a pot-luck next Tuesday. When I mentioned to my best friend that the onion-cheese biscuits I usually make usually don’t go very quickly (there is SO much food every year!), she suggested I try bringing the pumpkin orange muffins this time. Man, I like her thinking. I can put together a batch this weekend, bring some to the party and freeze the rest. That way I’ll have some lovely breakfast ready to go when my family comes to our house for Christmas this year, without having to stress about baking them up while I’m working on delicious cookes! This is a win-win situation.

You should try these muffins, my friends. (Or bake it in a loaf form! Also delicious!) They are tasty heated up just a touch, with a little bit of butter or softened cream cheese, but also delicious without anything extra! They are delicious and moist, and it’s really fun to let people know they’re eating orange peel! You can make them without raisins and/or nuts if you are dealing with food allergies or people who just don’t care for either of those things. I’ve even used dried cranberries before in place of the raisins. They’re a little bit adaptable and a lot delicious. Enjoy!

Roasted pumpkin seeds

Happy Halloween, if that is your thing. As my friends and family knows, though, it’s deeply not mine. I did used to get into dressing up as a kid, dreaming up wild costumes that my parents would then be responsible for scaling back. (They were enthusiastic about helping, but way more realistic than I was. I secretly wish I still had the pair of ruby slippers Dad made me one year to go with a store-bought Dorothy costume, because they were AWESOME and a nice reminder of how great my dad is.) Then I basically lost all interest in Halloween in high school. I gamely dressed up for a few more years, before stopping altogether. (The exception to this in recent years was the fantastic Halloween wedding our friends had a few years back, for which Tim and I dressed up as “wedding guests from the 50s.” I mean, it’s a total cop-out, but we looked awesome and were more-or-less in the spirit of wearing costumes. I got a pretty sweet forest green cocktail dress out of it, too.) I do not begrudge anyone their Halloween fun. If getting decked out in a creative costume is your jam, that’s great, and I am content to observe from the sidelines!

Despite my indifference to the holiday, it is firmly a Fall Event, and I love fall. As may have become clear, fall foods are my favorite, so in my weak show of Halloween-related enthusiasm, I roasted some pumpkin seeds last night to snack on while trick-or-treaters are knocking on our door. My cousins sweetly kept the innards of the pumpkins they carved at our annual Family Cabin Weekend (carving pumpkins is also not my favorite, but I like roasting seeds, so I usually beg them off someone else),  so Sunday after we got home, I separated the seeds from the fibrous bits. I’ve found the easiest way for me to do this is to put a handful of seeds/innards in a bowl of cold water and pluck the seeds from the top of the water. I use my nails to remove any extra bits of pumpkin and put the seeds on a baking sheet to dry. I think I ended up with seeds from two pumpkins, so prepping them wasn’t particularly fast, but I just watched down the DVR from the kitchen TV for awhile and got into a rhythm of stripping bits off the seeds. After all the seeds have been cleaned, I take a paper towel and pat some of the water off the baking sheet. The seeds will stick to the paper towel, just knock them back down onto the baking sheet and take another pass. I kept going until my paper towel was pretty damp and then spread the seeds out as thinly as possible for drying.

Crunchy, yummy pumpkin seeds inside. I mean, they’re in our house, actually, but you can read about and see pictures of them inside!

Around here

We had a busy weekend, full of…a lot of randomness. Nothing of note, and yet a few things to share.

Our king winter hawthorn tree seems to be doing well. The leaves are beginning to change color (at least, I’m banking on that being an Autumn-thing and not a we-accidentally-killed-the-tree-during-planting-thing) and the berries seem to have gotten even redder. I am hoping that the holly bushes get berry-ful pretty quickly, too. Tim and I have started to notice holly bushes, tall grasses, and berry trees like crazy in our neighborhood while walking.

As an early birthday present, I took a cooking “class” (it was really more of a demonstration) at the North Market as part of their School of Cooking, from Chef Magdiale Wolmark of Till Dynamic Fare (formerly of Dragonfly and On the Fly, two of our favorite restaurants). It was great, as well as delicious, and I left armed with recipes for a few Dragonfly favorites, butternut squash spread and vegan mac and cheese sauce. I had to try recreating the spread right away, and it involved garlic oil. Rather than reach for the bottle garlic oil we have in our well-organized cabinet, I opted to try and make my own garlic confit. That lovely jelly jar full of cooked garlic and delicious oil is now hanging out in the fridge, and I look forward to smooshing a clove of garlic on a piece of bread and savoring every bite.

Tim continues his habit of purchasing random household supplies that secretly delight me. He’s fighting the tail end of a cold and had to pick up tissues in the store last week. I hadn’t realized for a few days that the box in the downstairs bathroom is lovely and stripey. And I am crazy for stripes. When I finally spotted it, I mentioned it to him that evening and he grinned that I was so amused. That, my friends, is love.

Anyway, I am nursing some cowbell-related blisters I developed while cheering for the Columbus marathon yesterday, and I am about to dive into baking for an upcoming family trip. Just wanted to drop in and share some things of amusement! Hope your weekend was great!

Cheering for a marathon

As you may have gleaned from previous mentions (or if you know us in real life, obviously) Tim has participated in some big running events in the past. While there are not any half or full marathons in the immediate future for him, fall brings one of my favorite times: marathon season. The Columbus marathon is this Sunday, take advantage of what is forecasted to be a lovely day, and get your cheer on!

Over the past several years, I have learned some things about cheering for races and marathons. First and foremost, I have learned that I love the heck out of it! I was basically the furthest thing from a cheerleader in high school, though I did once mix acrylic paint with hand lotion to paint my face for a giant soccer game our girls’ team was in (which the Internet is now telling me is a no-no, hmmm). Additionally, while running cross-country in high school, I distinctly remember wanting to punch people in the face who were standing on the sidelines, all “you can do it!” when I felt like I was dying a particularly slow death out on the course. (Right, I have issues, noted.) However, I was also the girl who would be trotting along at the back of the pack (I was not good at cross-country, by any means), and any time I came up on someone who was walking, I’d encourage them to start running again. My coach hated this, but I felt like we were all slogging through this insanity together, regardless of teams. I am supremely uncompetitive. I believe in everyone doing their best (not that you can’t be competitive and still want people to excell), and this comes out in me in spades when there are hundreds of runners trotting past me.

Not to brag, but I’ve been told that I’m awesome at cheering for marathons. Let me share some tips and tricks with you!

Keep en eye out for people in bonkers costumes, as well as the people you actually know! (Credit: Julie)

1) Plan out your approach ahead of time.

Lots of stuff inside, but warning, it’s a loooong post!

Outside – Current

I don’t know if you noticed that I used the word “tomorrow” several times in Thursday’s post about the state of our yard before we planted a bunch of stuff. That was intentional, so I would guilt myself into not putting off the follow-up post. But then I started to edit pictures and got all excited to show you what the yard looks like now anyway, so a self-nudge was barely necessary! And then? Chrome and WordPress decided to have a massive fight, which resulted in the browser crashing every other time I tried to insert a picture for the post. I struggled about halfway through it, but my bestest was coming for the weekend to visit, so I put it off anyway. Better late than never?

Away we go!

Tim’s mom is a pretty talented landscaper and has a bunch of really lovely gardens at both the family home and the lake house, so Tim wanted to get her opinion on what would work well in different parts of our yard. We all headed to Oakland Nursery, where we worked with one of their employees to narrow down our options more and pick some awesome plants for us. Sandy graciously bought all of our plants at Oakland as a joint birthday present for Tim and me. Thanks again, Sandy!

Our car was super-full of plants on the way home from the nursery! This was without getting any compost or mulch. And we got a few more plants (like the mums) at the second nursery we visited that day.

More inside! Plus, year-round interest!

Outside – Before

Last weekend, partly in an attempt to battle the cold temperatures inside our house (as I mentioned, our furnace is busted, but we’ll be getting a new one installed next week), partly because our yard is bare and it needed it, but mostly because Tim’s mom bought us a joint birthday present of some rocking plants, we took on some major yardwork. I had been meaning to post some pictures of the yard so we would have a starting point (we have Thoughts on what to do on the outside of the house) to show y’all, but I kept putting off doing it. Saturday, with a carful of shrubs and trees from the nursery (seriously, pictures in the next post), I darted around snapping a few before shots. I’ll follow up tomorrow with the results of a long weekend’s worth of plant-picking and plant-planting.

Okay, this photo is actually one Tim snagged right as work commenced on our sidewalk (thus the pile of bricks in the foreground). Cheerful, tiny front yard, with not a lot to it.

More pictures inside!