Pumpkin-Pepita Muffins

Before moving to Colorado, I don’t remember eating pepitas, but I certainly got to them as fast as I could upon arrival. The tiny, full of health “pumpkin seeds” we eat for snacks, add to salads, tacos, omelets, or granola, and what I put on my muffins (above), aren’t like the pumpkin seeds you remove with all of the gloppy mess inside the typical Halloween jack-o-lantern. I mean, you could open up those big fat seeds (which have their own happy uses–see below at MORE THAN YOU WANTED TO READ) and try to get at the little inner seed, but that’s not where pepitas come from. Read on:

Courtney Kokus from Lancaster Farm Fresh explained it this way: “Most of the pumpkin seeds you get from the store come from hull-less pumpkins that have seeds/pepitas without shells.” So pepitas don’t have to be unearthed from an exterior shell; they grow shell-free in the pumpkin—specifically oilseed or Styrian pumpkins—already thin-skinned and green. 

In other words, pepitas are pumpkin seeds, but they only come from certain types of pumpkins and don’t require shelling. You could shell the hard white seeds from your carving pumpkins if you really wanted, but, after trying that ordeal once, simply roasting and eating buckets of edible seeds instead now seems especially pleasant. Anyway, pepitas are a good source of healthy fats and make for a tasty snack.

Food52/Ali Slagle

Right here in Colorado Springs, we have a small, family-owned company called JUANITA’S PEPITAS and adore their products. Find them at farmer’s markets, occasionally at a booth in COSTCO, or online. Pepitas are also available in many flavors at stores around the country or via amazon.

recipe/post

By mid-October, I’ve typically made some pumpkin bread and a few batches of pumpkin-ginger or pumpkin-chocolate muffins. This year, without the typical meetings needing treats or folks in for fall meals, I’ve concentrated on testing my Pumpkin-Ginger Crunch Cheesecake and have only now gotten out the muffin tins for an October Sunday morning brunch. It’s nearly Halloween; I’m glad I didn’t wait any longer.

They were lovely along side a pulled pork frittata (more on that another post) and the last of the sweet summer melon that somehow was still waiting at the grocery for me. Since I pulled in my potted herbs last week, I even had fresh mint to grace our cantaloupe.

55 Best Halloween Movies Ever/COUNTRY LIVING

Halloween Music Playlist – Instrumental Spooky Halloween Songs

My muffins sit at a companionable distance between sweet and savory as they’re full of unsweetened pumpkin and also feature dried cranberries, nuts, tons of warm spices including black pepper, along with the famous pepitas, of course. These treats would be happy next to a bowl of spicy chili Halloween night, on the plate with your afternoon tea, or packed into a bag to take on a road trip. Naturally best fresh, they keep well for a couple of days on the counter, for a week in the fridge, or even very well wrapped in the freezer for 2 months should you want to get a head start on Thanksgiving. Don’t be deterred if there are no ground cloves in your cabinet (sub a bit of ground cayenne or extra ginger) or you just ate all your dried fruit (skip it or use more nuts), and so on. They’ll still be fine. You can make short work out of this recipe with an electric mixer — don’t over mix! — but are just as easily done in an 8-cup mixing bowl with a wooden spoon and a good arm, which is exactly how I made them for more years than you’d guess. From start to finish you’ll need 35 minutes. Preheat the oven, gather all your ingredients, and try this:

pumpkin-pepita muffins

makes 12 muffins

Equipment

  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 cup canned unsweetened pumpkin
  • 1/3 cup salted butter, softened
  • 1 1/3 cups granulated sugar
  • 1/3 cup milk
  • ½ cup dried cranberries (can sub raisins, dried cherries or chopped dried dates)
  • ½ cup chopped pecans
  • 1 ½ cups plus 3 tablespoons all-purpose unbleached flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • ¼ teaspoon baking powder
  • ¾ teaspoon kosher salt
  • ½ teaspoon EACH: cinnamon and ground ginger
  • ¼ teaspoon ground cloves
  • ¼ teaspoon freshly ground nutmeg
  • ¼ teaspoon freshly and finely ground black pepper
  • ¼ cup pepitas, salted or plain
  • Soft butter or cream cheese for serving, optional

Instructions

  • PREP: Preheat oven to 400 degrees F and set rack at center. Grease muffin pans including a little around the top of each cup or use paper liners.
  • MIX WET INGREDIENTS: In a large mixing bowl, beat together the eggs, pumpkin, butter, sugar, and milk. Stir in cranberries and pecans.
  • MIX DRY INGREDIENTS/STIR ALL TOGETHER: On top of the wet ingredients, measure the flour, baking soda, baking powder, salt, cinnamon, ginger, cloves, nutmeg, and black pepper. Lightly mix just the dry ingredients together. Stir together the wet and dry ingredients until barely blended well. (Lazy baker method. Use an extra bowl for dry ingredients if you like.)
  • FILL MUFFIN PANS/BAKE: Using a sprayed or greased scoop (or spoon), fill each muffin cup no more than 2/3 full and top with about 10 pepitas per muffin. Bake for about 15 minutes or until just firm and golden brown at edges. Toothpick inserted at center should come out clean or almost clean. Remove from oven, let cool in pan briefly on cooling rack, remove and serve warm with butter or cream cheese, if using.

Notes

Inspired by FANNY FARMER Pumpkin Bread. Copyright Alyce Morgan, 2020. All rights reserved.

TIPS: If you don’t usually keep milk in the fridge, consider keeping dry milk (it’ll freeze, too) or small cans of low-fat evaporated milk for when you really need it. I have also inadvertently frozen fresh milk and then thawed it with no real problems. If you’re lactose-intolerant, any nut milk will do in this recipe, as will vegan butter or plain old vegetable shortening.

STOCKING UP/CLEANING OUT? This is the time of year to:

  • clean out the pantry/check “best by” dates/use or pitch or donate.
  • defrost/clean fridge and freezer.
  • replace baking items like baking soda (put old box in fridge), baking powder, brown sugar, etc.
  • take advantage of holiday shopping sales to buy extra staples like flour, sugar, chocolate chips, nuts, or butter.
  • plan/buy for a few pantry meals as winter gears up.
  • research post election crises/shortages and decide what’s right or needed for your household.
  • consider local or other food pantry donations in lieu of gifts this year.

FEEDING AMERICA: VIRTUAL FOOD DRIVE. Read up!

I’m fond of baking muffins right in the tins for a good crust. If you like paper liners, go for it.

MORE INFO THAN YOU WANTED:

The Pumpkin cookbook, 2nd Edition: 139 Recipes Celebrating the Versatility of Pumpkin and Other Winter Squash by DeeDee Stovel. I have the first edition of this book, which is also still available, but the new one looks great if you’re wanting more pumpkin whatever!

Roasted Pumpkin Seeds/SIMPLYRECIPES.COM (recipe)

Top 11 Science-Based Health Benefits of Pumpkin Seeds (Nutrition)–Pumpkin seeds, pepitas/HEALTHLINE

Pumpkin’s Surprising Origin/BBC TRAVEL

Halloween Fun Food/FOOD.COM

One Million Pounds of Food Daily Feed Houston’s Hungry/PBS

Share Your Story of Keeping America Fed — NYTimes wants to hear from those in the food industry

Thinking ahead–Thanksgiving

How to Safely Celebrate/TODAY

Alyce’s Slow Cooker Pumpkin-Black Bean Chili (below)

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LIFE GOES ON:

We had a beautiful bright blue Stellar’s Jay visit the other day. About a foot long and with a crested black head, they’re stunning birds we rarely see in our yard.

As you’ve probably seen on the news if you live in the U.S., Colorado has been struggling with massive fires particularly over the last week and my kids have been affected with ash, flying embers, and difficulty breathing despite being way east of the mountains, just north or just south of Denver. Finally, the snow began last night and we are on our knees in thankfulness for the reprieve for us and the fire fighters. We’ll see how long the snow keeps up and if it can put a damper on what has been hundreds of acres on fire for the last several days after the East Troublesome fire exploded overnight. We are in great hope that this storm will do it. In the written history of the state, we never had a 100K wildfire before 2002. Now they’re common and fire danger just about goes on all year rather than May-August. If you don’t believe in global warming, come to Colorado. Some scary s __ __ __.

Stay warm; stay well. Breathe easily and bake muffins. You know you want your house to smell good! Aromatherapy is a fine spirit lifter,

Alyce

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