This year we celebrated Thanksgiving at my brother’s house in NJ.  My sister-in-law and her mother are fabulous cooks, and they took care of most of the main meal, which left me in charge of hors d’oeuvres along with one other guest.  My goal was to come up with a few items that were unique and seasonal, but could be completely prepared in advance so that I did not have to get in the way in the kitchen once we got there.  My resulting offerings were cheese and crackers, pumpkin butter served with puff pastry, and curried pumpkin seeds.  My definite favorite from this bunch was the pumpkin seeds – they were surprisingly delicious without a whole lot of effort.  The only problem is that almost a week later my apartment still has a faint curry aroma!

We decided to stay over Thanksgiving night so that we could put the baby to sleep and not have to transfer her, which meant we’d be there for breakfast in the morning.  I thought it would be nice to bring some healthy muffins to have after gorging ourselves the previous night.  I found this recipe for pumpkin bran muffins, which got mixed reviews from my family.  I thought the texture was great (as far as healthy bran muffins go), but unfortunately I went a little light on the spices because it sounded like so much, but that turned out to be a mistake.  The muffins smelled great, but were definitely missing some flavor.  I will have to try again another time!

Here are all of the recipes:

Pumpkin Butter
adapted from Weelicious

2 Cups Pureed Pumpkin or 1 15oz Can Pumpkin Puree
1 Tsp Cinnamon
1/4 Tsp Nutmeg
1/4 Cup Honey (I substituted all Agave Nectar to make it baby friendly)
2 Tbsp Agave Nectar
1 Tbsp Lemon Juice

Place all of the ingredients in a saucepan and cook over low heat for 5 minutes stirring occasionally.  Cool and serve.

Makes 2 cups

Curried Pumpkin Seeds
adapted from Epicurious

Nonstick vegetable oil spray
1 large egg white
1 tablespoon fresh lime juice (I used lemon because I bought them for the Pumpkin Butter)
1 teaspoon olive oil
2 tablespoons sugar
1 tablespoon curry powder
1 1/2 teaspoons coarse kosher salt
1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper (I cut this in half – I am very sensitive to spice and they were plenty hot with less pepper!)
12 ounces hulled pumpkin seeds (about 2 1/2 cups)

Preheat oven to 350°F. Line large rimmed baking sheet with parchment; spray with nonstick spray. Whisk egg white, lime (or lemon) juice, and oil in large bowl. Add next 4 ingredients; whisk. Add pumpkin seeds; toss. Transfer to baking sheet, spreading evenly. Bake until toasted and fragrant, stirring often, about 24 minutes. Cool on sheet. Do ahead: Can be made 5 days ahead. Store toasted seeds airtight at room temperature.

Makes 2 1/2 cups

Moist Pumpkin Bran Muffins
adapted from GreenLiteBites

1 ½ cups Whole Wheat Flour
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp baking powder
¼ tsp salt
1 tbsp ground cinnamon
½ tsp ground ginger
½ tsp ground cloves
½ tsp all spice
1 tsp nutmeg
1 15oz can of pumpkin
¼ cup molasses
2 tbsp honey (or agave)
2 eggs (or 1 egg whole egg and 2 whites)
¼ cup unsweetened applesauce
½ cup plain yogurt (any fat level you have!)
¾ cup Wheat Bran
Non-stick cooking spray

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.

Sift the flour, baking soda, baking powder, salt, cinnamon, ginger, cloves, allspice and nutmeg. Set aside.

In a large bowl, add the pumpkin, molasses, honey, egg, egg whites, applesauce and yogurt. Beat until all ingredients are mixed well.

Pour the flour mixture and wheat bran into the pumpkin mixture. Combine until just moistened. Don’t over mix!

Spray muffin tin with non-stick cooking spray. Evenly distribute the batter in the cups. Sprinkle with a bit of oats (or pumpkin seeds) and bake for about 20 minutes for regular, 15 minutes for mini-muffins.

Makes 12 regular or 24 mini-muffins

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