Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Recipe: Chocolate pumpkin muffins (and an adorable apron!)

Frankly, this doesn't even qualify as a recipe.  It's more of a trick, and it's a common one at that.  But I thought I would share it with you in case you hadn't heard of this or wanted to try some of our tips.

JoAnn had these spider cupcake holders for 60% off.  Guess who couldn't resist?

My son fancies himself a chef, and spends half his day pretending to cook things like handfuls of grass ("Salad!") that inevitably ends up inside my vacuum cleaner in a huge clog.  He wants to help with every meal, and then he will continue to cut and mix food on his plate before he eats it, making it into shapes like "pizza!"  I honestly feel like he could end up on a reality cooking shows years from now and be that person who says, "I've known I wanted to be a chef since I was three!"  Lately he has been pulling out things like the Cuisinart and the Kitchenaid, plugging them in, and trying to turn them on, so I have to rethink my placement of all dangerous appliances.  (I dedicate all my current silver hairs to him.)  I figure the easiest way to keep him out of trouble is to let him help me make some things, so we started with these chocolate pumpkin muffins.  Or cupcakes.  They're sort of a mix of both, with a dense but moist texture.  Cuppins, perhaps?

Chocolate Pumpkin Muffins
Tastiest arachnids ever.

Chocolate Pumpkin Muffin Ingredients
The ingredients.  (We sometimes scavenge
for Boxtops when we are close to
turning them in, which explains the
massacred cake mix box.)
These are so simple to make.  You need a box of cake mix, which tends to go on massive sale this time of year, and a 15-oz. can of pumpkin.  That's it.  Mix the two things together well and bake according to package directions.  You can make this is a bread loaf or muffins.  If you are anti-boxed mixes, just use your favorite cake recipe and substitute all wet ingredients for the pumpkin.  I usually like homemade, but especially with my little chef, sometimes quick and simple is the way I want to go.  You can use any kind of cake mix for this.  I have found that white or yellow tend to make gag-you-sweet cupcakes, and spice cake makes it feel very holiday.  I like the chocolate because it stands up to the pumpkin really well. Plus, chocolate is magic.

This is a very thick batter, so they will basically cook up in whatever shape you drop them in, not nice and round like cupcakes.  If that bothers you, you can use a clean finger or a spoon to round them out a bit before cooking.  We finished ours off with a chocolate hazelnut spread.  We mixed canned frosting with some Nutella to add a bit of hazelnut flavor.  You can put as much or as little Nutella as you like; we went about half and half.  We then toasted chopped hazelnuts and sprinkled them on top.  Actually, you don't see the hazelnuts in the ingredients photo because they were a last-minute decision.  I am usually anti-nuts in desserts, but it helps to add something to the texture of these.

My little chef wanted to frost and top these himself.  If you know me at all, you know how difficult it was for me to give up control and hand him the frosting and spatula.  He did a great job, though!

Because my little guy is such a fan of cooking, I went ahead and made him an apron and chef's hat for Christmas like I made his sisters last year.  I used the free(!) PDF tutorial by Joanna over at Stardust Shoes and available from the Michael Miller Fabrics blog.  I can't recommend the tutorial enough; it doesn't use a ton of fabric or accessories, is very easy to make even for beginners, and comes out super cute.  I make these as gifts quite often, and they are great for boys and girls.  When we were at the fabric store, I asked him which fabric was his favorite, and he picked out these monsters.  I love it when the kids are young enough they don't ask questions.  ;)  I needed some bright blue for a quilt backing, so I got extra as the contrast fabric.  I even got it 75% off because the fabric was damaged by a misprinted section, but you can't even tell in the final design and it actually almost made it look like a batik in that spot.

Kid's Apron and Chef's Hat
I love his monster apron, and can't wait to see if he loves it too at Christmas!

I hope you will try either the muffins, the apron, or both, and let me know how it goes!

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