Trick or Treat!

Just kidding – no tricks here, but I do have a treat for you, further down in this post.

I am so excited for Halloween this year – it’s our first one living in a real neighborhood, and I’m hoping to get some actual trick-or-treaters stopping by.

We’ve got a pumpkin on the table …

(bonus: Bruno lurking in the background)

… and owls on duty in the kitchen …

… and the entryway properly harvest-decorated …

… hopefully in an inviting enough way to encourage some cutely costumed youngsters to stop by and pick up our appropriately-sugary-and-horrible candy offerings

In the meantime, while I’m waiting, a treat: Pumpkin Muffins!  I realize it’s too late for you to enjoy these for your halloween breakfast, but they’re tasty all autumn long.

Mom has an excellent pumpkin muffin recipe that is delicious, but it’s time consuming and not the top-most-healthful, since it calls for softened butter and beating ingredients together.  John and I like to have a quick bread every other day for breakfast (alternating with oatmeal) so while very tasty, Mom’s recipe is not my ideal everyday one, and I’ve been on the lookout for something more to my every-day standards.

The best, for me, is healthful, quick to put together, forgiving of hasty and inaccurate measuring, easily halve-able (since I usually make only 6 muffins for a two person breakfast), easily adjustable, and one that uses the bare minimum of dishes that will have to be washer later – and this fits the bill.  It’s also dairy free for those of you who need or want that feature as I know applies to at least one person who might read this.

I began with a recipe from Smitten Kitchen, but have modified it to the point that I feel comfortable enough calling it “my” recipe…  So, here you go.

Please keep in mind that this is very flexible, and if you want to add a little more or less of anything, feel free – I haven’t been able to destroy a batch it yet.

Pumpkin Spice Muffins (with Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Variation)

Time: 5-10 minutes preparation, 20-25 minutes bake time.

Dry Ingredients: 

  • 1 1/2 cups whole wheat pastry flour** (see Note 1)
  • 1/3-1/2 cup sugar** (see Note 2)
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt

Spices:** (see Note 3)

  • 1-2 teaspoons pumpkin-pie spice


  • a very, very tiny amount of ground cloves – maybe 30 grains
  • 2-3 times that much allspice
  • same amount of ground ginger as allspice** (see Note 4)
  • a couple of shakes of nutmeg
  • 1.5-2 teaspoons of cinnamon** (see Note 5)


  • 1/4-1/2 cups chopped, toasted pecans** (see Note 6 for toasting instructions)

Wet Ingredients:

  • About 1/4 cup oil; I use olive oil because it’s the only one I keep around, but any other vegetable oil would work fine.
  • About 1/4 cup maple syrup
  • About 1 cup canned solid-pack pumpkin.  (There will be extra in a normal-sized (15 oz?) can, which is one of the recipe’s downfalls, but hey – you can just make another batch of muffins a few days later.)
  • Two Large Eggs


1) Preheat oven to 375.  Grease (or coat with baking spray) a 12-cup muffin tin, or a 6-cup tin for a half-recipe – or line the tin with muffin liners.

2) Measure out the dry ingredients into a bowl.  This can be done with a single measuring cup and a single measuring spoon – hooray for few dishes.

For a variation, courtesy of Ryan, you can make these into Pumpkin Chocolate Chip muffins instead: leave out the spices, and add 1/2 cup chocolate chips instead.  (Or you could get totally crazy and put it ALL in…. but then I refuse to answer for the consequences.)

Once your ingredients are in the bowl, briefly whisk them together or give them a good stirring with a fork.

3) Measure out wet ingredients into a second bowl.  I use the same measuring cup that I did for the dry ingredients, filling it once with half syrup and half oil, and then twice with pumpkin.

Briefly whisk all wet ingredients together, or beat with a fork, so that the mixture is smooth and the egg is incorporated.

4) Pour wet ingredients into dry ingredients and fold together with a spoon, spatula, or any handy implement, until just combined.  The batter should not be smooth – if there are small lumps or bits of unincorporated flour, fine.

5) Divide batter evenly between muffin cups, and bake 20-25 minutes.  The baking time will depend on your particular oven, so I’d check them around 20 minutes and give them more time if necessary (if an inserted toothpick or knife comes out with raw batter on it).

** Notes:

1) I absolutely love pastry whole wheat flour, which is a little crunchy compared to regular white all-purpose flour, but not bitter or gritty.  If you want to use regular flour (or cake flour, or white whole wheat flour, or probably even regular old whole what flour, it would be fine.

2) This depends on how sweet you like your muffins.  Your call.  I use the lower end of the range, personally.  I take the same 1/2 cup measure that I used for the flour – or 1/4 cup measure, if I’m making a half recipe – and fill it a little more than half full.

3) The original recipe called for pumpkin-pie spice, but not owning that or knowing what it was, I used a mix of other spices I owned instead.  So I haven’t actually tried the pumpkin-pie option, but I assume it’s tasty…

4) I usually forget the ginger, since it lives in my Cooking Spices drawer instead of my Baking Spices one, and it tastes good without – again, your call.

5) I really like cinnamon and so have a lot in there, but you can lower this if you are not a huge fan.

6) If you don’t like nuts or are allergic to them, leave these out, obviously – no problem.  If you like a lot of nuts, put more in!  If you want a different kind, fine.  (I bet walnuts would be good, or hazelnuts or almonds with the chocolate variation.)

Nut Toasting Instructions:

Turn your oven to 425, and put nuts onto a baking sheet or into a skillet, or other oven-safe container, and slide into the oven, with the rack in the middle somewhere.  (There’s no need to let it pre-heat first, although if it’s already hot you may want to check the nuts a few minutes sooner.)  Check after 10 minutes by removing the pan from the oven and biting or cutting a nut in half to see how browned it is inside; continue to check every few minutes after that, stirring them and shifting them around once in a while, until the nuts have achieved just under your preferred done-ness.  (Once you take them out of the oven they’ll keep cooking a little from their retained internal heat.)

I can’t give you a specific amount of time, because it will depend on the nut, the nut’s starting temperature, your personal preferences, etc, but here’s perhaps a guideline.  I store nuts in the freezer (so the beginning temperature is quite cold) and I ike my nuts quite well toasted, to the point some may call them charred and inedible, although to me they are just nicely browned and full of flavor.  I leave pine-nuts in for about 10-15 minutes, pecans and walnuts for 15-20, and almonds and hazelnuts for 20-30.

Toasted nuts will stay tasty for several days, but begin to lose their delicious toasty flavor after a week or so.


4 thoughts on “Trick or Treat!

  1. Did you get any trick-or-treaters? I’ve put out a jack-o-lantern & bought candy for kids for the last 4 Halloween’s at my apartment and never ONCE had even one kid come by. I then have candy in the house, which is not good. So this year I didn’t do any of it, and still no kids. Either it’s an apartment living situation or trick-or-treating is a dying tradition.
    I loved it when I was a kid, so that would be too bad.

    • No, we didn’t! Not a single knock or doorbell ring! I was so sad and disappointed. We never have gotten any trick-or-treaters in the past, but I always thought it was because we lived in apartments in not-very-residential areas, and any kids nearby may have been driven elsewhere to go around … but if we didn’t even get any here, I’m not so sure.

      I did see some candy wrappers while walking Max this morning, though, so maybe it’s now because our condo is sort of in the corner of the neighborhood, and maybe the trick-or-treating is more concentrated in the center… but it would have been awfully nice to get at least one or two visitors.

      (And I’m going to make John take the candy to work and leave it in the break room – definitely a better idea than leaving it sitting in the house, being tempting!)

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