Monthly Archives: October 2017

Pumpkin Muffins with Crumb Topping… Top of the Muffin to Ya!


This morning I made pumpkin muffins with crumb topping. Why? Because it’s pumpkin season plain and simple. I was not in the mood for pumpkin muffins, but I found a can of pumpkin in my pantry (which I tend to always have) and decided to make them. Why I always have a can of pureed pumpkin is a mystery, but I think most bakers do. At least I hope I’m not alone in this! Isn’t the weekend always made better with a basket filled with muffins on the table and the smell of cinnamon in the air?

Maybe it’s all the subliminal messaging I feel I’m getting. Every time I walk into the grocery store (especially Trader Joe’s) right in the front display are the pumpkin Jo-Jo’s and everything pumpkin spice. It doesn’t stop there; pumpkin and pumpkin spice has found its way into coffee and tea, cereal, granola, ice cream, cookies, tortilla chips, salsa, biscotti, cream cheese, bagels, candy, and even challah bread! When did this happen? And what ever happened to the good old pumpkin muffin? Why has it been pushed aside? Shouldn’t it play a leading role in pumpkin season? I think so. That’s why I set out to make what I think is the most perfect, moist, and delicious pumpkin muffin with crumb topping.

I went through a lot of cookbooks and websites searching for the perfect muffin. Then I wrote down everything I love about them. I made about 4 batches before hitting on the perfect marriage. These are not too sweet and they stay nice and soft for a few days.* Raisins add a nice surprise and you know I’m crazy for crumb topping so both have a major role in my final version. I also used the whole can of pumpkin to see what would happen, and it was perfect. I just hate having a smidgen of pumpkin left in my fridge.

I also made a tray with sunflower seeds sprinkled on top which are very worthy of a mention here. If you prefer to skip the crumb, by all means sprinkle them with sunflower or even pumpkin seeds – both add a nice crunch to the top. I’m including the photo above so you can see how tender the cake is and how cute they are with sunflower seeds! Am I right?

I almost forgot to share this fun little tidbit about Ohio life with you. Last weekend was the Circleville, Ohio Pumpkin Show. It’s a whole weekend dedicated to pumpkins. In 14 years I have never been. Thanks to my friend Andrea, I can share her photo of the 2 largest pumpkins this year. A 1,701 pound pumpkin would sure make a lot of muffins! Usually I would end with Enjoy! But this time I’m going to end differently… You’re Welcome!

Ingredients:
1 and 3/4 cups all-purpose flour spooned in and leveled
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
½ teaspoon ground nutmeg
¼ teaspoon ginger
1/2 cup extra light olive oil,** or other vegetable oil
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup lightly packed light brown sugar
1 – 15oz. can Libby’s 100% pure pumpkin***
2 extra-large eggs, at room temperature (large will work here as well)
1/4 cup milk (I used almond milk) at room temperature
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
¾ cup white raisins
confectioners’ sugar (optional)

Crumb topping:
1 cup all-purpose flour
½ cup sugar
1 teaspoon cinnamon
¼ teaspoon baking powder
¼ teaspoon salt
5 tablespoons unsalted butter melted (make these dairy free by using Earth’s Balance soy free sticks)

Directions:
Place rack in the center of the oven. Preheat oven to 350°F. Spray a 12-count muffin pan with nonstick spray or line with cupcake liners. This recipe makes 16 to 18 muffins, so prepare 2 muffin pans accordingly and set aside. total time including prep 30 minutes

Start with the crumb topping: whisk the flour, granulated sugar, cinnamon, baking powder, and salt together until combined. Using a fork, stir in the melted butter until crumbs form breaking up any big pieces. Set aside.

Make the muffins: In a medium bowl, sift the flour, baking soda, baking powder, cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg, and salt together until combined. Set aside. In a larger bowl, whisk the oil, granulated sugar, brown sugar, pumpkin puree, eggs and milk together until combined. If you are using raisins, add them at this time and mix in. Pour the dry ingredients into the wet ingredients, then fold everything together gently just until combined and no flour pockets remain.

Using a 2 ½ in cookie scoop, scoop the batter into liners. Spoon about 1 tablespoon of crumbs evenly on top of the batter and ever so gently press them down into the batter. Bake for 20 to 25 minutes total or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. I like to bake them for 10 minutes, then turn the pans and bake for another 10. After that I keep a close eye on them setting the timer for 2 minutes at a time. That’s what makes the difference between a moist muffin and one which is a little dryer. For mini muffins, bake for 11-13 minutes also at 350°F

Let cool in muffin pan and sprinkle with confectioners’ sugar if you would like.*I leave them out very lightly covered and suggest warming them in the toaster oven after day 2 (if they are still around). That will crisp up the top a bit and who doesn’t’ love a warm muffin?

**You may notice I use extra light olive oil, sunflower oil, or grape seed oil, in most of my baking when oil is called for. I think they are the perfect baking oils, and the healthiest. Any good vegetable oil would be a great sub.

***Different brands of pureed pumpkin will yield different results. I tried two others and felt Libby’s had the best flavor and end result. If you use a different brand, I can’t promise the same results so bake at your own risk!!!!!!!

Rainbow Salad with Citrus Dressing… It’s like a Party in a Bowl!


One thing I can promise you, if you make this rainbow salad with citrus dressing, it’s like a party in a bowl! I’ve never said this before about a salad, but it will make you feel like you are on vacation in the islands. How did I come up with a rainbow salad? While I do love creating new and interesting salads, I can’t really take full ownership. I first saw it at a restaurant and it’s the only time I can think of when I had salad envy – if that’s even possible!

Okay, here’s the whole story… I was visiting my friend Susie in Pittsburgh, and we went out to lunch. She took me to a Caribbean restaurant in the Strip District called Kaya. We hadn’t seen each other in a while and I was so happy to see her and catch up, the menu definitely took second place. I quickly ordered a salad with green apples, goat cheese, and candied walnuts with salmon on top – delish – right? I was quite happy with my choice… until our salads arrived!

Susie ordered the most glorious and colorful rainbow salad I had ever seen. I somehow felt my salad was inferior and I was a little jealous. While mine was very good, it certainly wasn’t a rainbow! For a few moments, I couldn’t concentrate on the conversation. I wondered how I could have let this happen. Did I miss reading all of those ingredients on the menu?

The salad was arranged like a color wheel and as an artist, I felt I let myself down. Facing me was the papaya, I LOVE papaya! There were tomatoes, plantains, pepita seeds (pumpkin), red pepper, avocado, you name it – a feast for the eyes! I love a salad that is not lettuce heavy, and contains a lot of different fruits and vegetables. This salad certainly did that. Susie offered we share both of our salads, but I decided to stick with mine and enjoy the rest of our visit.

That was a couple of months ago and in true Sherri form, I haven’t stopped thinking about it. My mission now was to recreate it. How do I begin? With any recipe I create, there are various ways I go about getting started. In this case, I made a list of ingredients from Kaya’s menu online. Next, in a Google search I checked to see if there were any images. I remembered how it was arranged, but needed a refresher. I found a couple of great photos and started from there. With this information, I made the first version and it was delicious! I knew I didn’t have all of the ingredients it called for, and probably not the right quantities, but it didn’t matter. Below is a photo of the first attempt. I prepared it in a large bowl and it was a great presentation.

This week I found myself in the mood to make the salad again. I went online again and this time, I found a recipe from the restaurant itself – jackpot! http://bigburrito.com/eatbig/15/06/fuller_kaya_rainbow_salad.pdf

About some of the ingredients… My first attempt wasn’t too far off from the original even quantity wise. One of the ingredients I subbed is the Malanga. It’s not an easy vegetable to find unless you are in the Strip District where the variety of fruits and vegetables are in abundance! The first time, I used jicama and it was delicious adding a nice juicy punch. This time I did a little more research and found out Malanga is a root vegetable from South America. It is likened to a potato so I tried a white sweet potato as to keep the color of the original salad. While very different from each other, both jicama and the sweet potato are delicious in the salad. If you can’t find either, you can also use a regular sweet potato.

I’m allergic to mango so I subbed nectarines which were a perfect exchange. Feel free to use 1 cup mango if you like it. I also omitted the jalapeno and red onion. I don’t care for either in a salad –personal preference. I did amp up the green onion, and added a pinch of cayenne in the dressing to compensate for their omission. The original salad also had toasted garlic. I made garlic chips for the first salad, but felt it overpowered the rest of the ingredients so omitted for this version.

Before you get started, don’t be afraid of the list. I know it seems like a lot of ingredients. One quick stop to Trader Joe’s should get you just about everything you need including a bag of already julienned carrots and the plantain chips! From start to finish, it only took about 40 minutes including grilling a protein. It’s really worth the time and truly is a vacation in a bowl. Who doesn’t need that every now and then?

It has so many different flavors and textures that make it really amazing. Of course you can alter it to how you like (as I did) and change things around a bit. One thing for sure, it’s a real showstopper. It’s great for lunch or dinner, would be perfect for a dinner party and at this time of year, a great salad to eat in the Sukkah! Enjoy!

For underneath the rainbow of vegetables:

1 head romaine lettuce for each salad, washed very well, dried well and chopped
about 2 cups in each bowl
Add to the lettuce:
1 handful parsley or cilantro, leaves only
1 handful basil cut in a ribbon (roll the leaves into a cigar and slice)
1 cup green onions (scallions) finely sliced
1 handful mint (optional)
make sure to wash these ingredients very well. If you want, you can reserve a little of each to sprinkle on top.

For the top of the salad:
1 cup julienne carrots (shredded would be fine too)
2 nectarines cut into chunks (or 1 cup mango)
1 cup cherry or heirloom tomatoes cut in half
1 cup fresh papaya peeled and diced
1 cup English cucumber diced (you can peel it if you don’t like the peel)
1 cup red pepper diced
2 cups white sweet potato
1 cup cooked chickpeas (canned are great too, rinse and drain)
1 cup plantain chips (left whole or crushed and sprinkled)
2 avocados sliced
¼ cup sesame seeds (I used black & white because I had it on hand)
1/2 cup pepita seeds (pumpkin seeds)
fried onions (optional)
2 limes cut in half to be served with each salad

Optional:
Grilled Chicken, Salmon, or Steak (I grilled the chicken and salmon while I prepped the vegetables)

Citrus Vinaigrette:
Zest and juice of 2 oranges (pineapple juice can be subbed here)
Zest and juice of 1 lemon
juice of 1 lime
2 roasted garlic cloves (1 raw finely grated would work well)
1 to 2 tablespoons of maple syrup
¾ cup good extra virgin olive oil
Salt and pepper to taste (I used 1 teaspoon of each)
pinch of cayenne pepper (optional)

Add zest and juices with garlic into a blender or food processor. After the citrus is blended, while pureeing, drizzle in the oil to emulsify. Add salt and pepper to taste. I also added a pinch of cayenne pepper for a little kick.

To Begin:
There are a couple of ways you can cook the sweet potato. You can steam it, sauté or roast it like I did. Heat oven (I used a toaster oven) to 350 degrees. Peel and dice sweet potato, toss in a little olive oil and put it on a sheet pan. Bake for about 25 minutes, or until you can pierce it with a fork.

If adding a protein:
Get your grill or grill pan hot. Season the meat or fish with salt and pepper and grill until done.

While that is cooking, prep all of your other ingredients.

Toss the lettuce base with some of the vinaigrette, just to season. Place in the middle of 4 plates or large bowls. Arrange the other ingredients on top – around the bowl. Sprinkle the sesame seeds and plantains on top. Serve with ½ lime for each salad. I hid it under the  pile of plantains! The restaurant link I have included actually gives a diagram on how to arrange the salad. I did my own thing. It was complicated enough with all of the ingredients. However you place the ingredients, it will be beautiful! I’m so excited for you to try it!