Pumpkin Apple Muffins

Pumpkin Apple Muffin {Breaking Bland Eats}

It’s that time of year again, the leaves are changing colour and pumpkin is making an appearance everywhere.  I can’t help but jump on the pumpkin bandwagon every Fall.  But I’m not talking about pumpkin flavoured products, I’m taking about 100% pure pumpkin.  It’s one of my favourite Fall flavours and it is so versatile, especially if you keep cans of pumpkin purée in your cupboard. I love adding it into my morning oatmeal, or mixed into macaroni and cheese to add vegetables and a wonderful orange hue.   But, you can’t beat the flavour that pumpkin brings to baked goods.

These muffins combine the irresistible  flavours of pumpkin and cinnamon along with another of my Fall favourites, apples.  I had a bag of Honeycrisp apples on hand so that’s what I used today when the baking urge struck me, but feel free to substitute your own favourite apple variety in this recipe.    Grated apple helps to provide a touch of sweetness and moisture which keeps these muffins light and fluffy.  When I’m cooking or baking with apples I prefer to keep the peel on the apple because one, I hate waste, and two, it provides additional fibre and texture.  Plus, it saves time, who doesn’t love that?

Fall Colours

This photo was taken on a stroll around our neighbourhood this afternoon.  I can’t get over how pretty this time of year is or how wonderful my kitchen smells after baking a batch of these muffins!

Pumpkin Apple Muffins

Recipe by Kirsten, makes 12 muffins.

Dry ingredients:

  • 2 cups of whole wheat flour
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt

Wet ingredients:

  • 1 cup 100% pure pumpkin purée (either canned or homemade)
  • 2 large eggs, lightly beaten
  • 1 medium sized apple, grated (~1/2 cup grated)
  • 1/2 cup oil
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

optional add ins: 1/2 cup chopped walnuts/pecans or pumpkin seeds.

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 350F and line a 12-cup muffin pan with muffin liners.
  2. Combine dry ingredients in a large mixing bowl, set aside.
  3. Combine wet ingredients into a medium mixing bowl and stir until well combined.  If using optional add ins you can mix them into the wet ingredients now.
  4. Make a well in the centre of the dry ingredients  and then add the wet ingredients.  Stir until just combined, it’s ok to have some streaks of flour.
  5. Spoon batter evenly into muffin cups.
  6. Bake for 22-25 minutes or until the tops are golden brown and the centre of the muffin springs back when lightly touched.
  7. Cool in the pan for 5 minutes then transfer to a wire cooling rack.

Apple Fennel Salad with Candied Pecans

Apple Fennel Salad with Candied Pecans.jpg

Happy New Year everyone! We had a busy Christmas this year with lots of family and friend get togethers, which meant I spent a lot of time in the kitchen, but don’t get me wrong I enjoyed ever minute of it.   This salad was my contribution to an after Christmas potluck dinner.  It was the perfect side dish to offset all the rich food we’d been eating over the holidays.  Even my sister-in-law, who doesn’t like fruit in her salad, ate all of the leftovers!

Fennel Bulb

Do you ever cook with fennel? Personally, I think it’s an under-appreciated vegetable, probably because many people don’t know what to do with it.  Fennel has a mild anise, or licorice flavour, and is extremely versatile.  The white bulb can be eaten raw, like in the salad recipe below, or it can be cooked along with the tougher green stalks into pasta sauces, stir-fries, or any recipe which calls for onions or celery. You can use the wispy green fronds as a fresh herb on baked salmon or tossed into salads for a faint licorice flavour.

 To prepare the fennel, remove the green stalks from the white bulb.  Slice the bulb into quarters and remove the hard inner core.  If your recipe calls for sliced fennel you can use a mandolin or simply slice diagonally with a sharp knife.  For a nice side dish try cutting the fennel into 1 inch pieces, toss with olive oil and salt and pepper, and roast at 400F for 30-40 minutes until soft and golden brown.Julienned Carrots and Apple

To add texture to this salad I decided to julienne the vegetables, which is a fancy term for creating match stick shapes. For carrots, slice diagonally into long ovals, place each oval flat side down, and cut into long strips. Use the same technique for the apples.

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Candied pecans are an extra special addition to this salad and are easy to make at home. A lot of recipes I’ve found require using an oven, but my go-to recipe uses only the stove and takes less than 15 minutes to make.  I’ve included the basic recipe below, but try experimenting with different flavours such as cinnamon, cumin, or add some heat with cayenne and black pepper.   The recipe makes more than enough pecans for this salad, so keep the extras in an air-tight container for use at a later time.

Apple Fennel Salad with Candied Pecans

Recipe by Kirsten, serves 4-6

Candied Pecans: 
1 cup pecan halves
1/4 cup brown sugar
1 tablespoon butter or oil
1 teaspoon water
optional add ins: pinch of salt, pepper, cayenne, cinnamon, cumin etc.

Dressing:
2 tablespoons of apple cider vinegar or fresh lemon juice
1-2 tablespoons maple syrup, to taste
2 tablespoons of olive oil
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
salt and pepper to taste

Salad:
1/2 medium fennel bulb, sliced
1 large apple, julienned or grated
1 medium carrot, julienned or grated
½ red onion, sliced
Half of a 10oz bag of spinach
1/4 cup of crumbled feta
1/4 cup candied pecans

Directions

For the candied pecans: In a small pot or frying pan, melt butter over medium heat.  Add brown sugar, nuts, water and add-ins if using.   Stir constantly for 5 minutes until sugar is melted and nuts are evenly coated, be careful not to burn the sugar or nuts. Transfer nuts to a parchment-lined cookie sheet and allow to cool.

For the salad: In a large bowl, combine all of the dressing ingredients. Start with 1 tablespoon of maple syrup and taste, add more as needed.  Add sliced fennel, apple, carrot and red onion to the dressing and stir to coat.  Let it sit for at least 10 minutes to allow the vegetables to soak up the dressing.  This can be prepared a few hours in advance and kept in the fridge until ready to use. The acidity from the dressing will keep the apples from browning.

When you are ready to serve the salad, add the spinach, feta and candied pecans to the fennel/dressing mixture and toss lightly until combined.   Season with salt and pepper.  Serve immediately.