Putting the Spice in Pumpkin Spice Muffins

Ahh, summer - the season of beach visits, swimming pools, and summer produce. I just love summer produce... watermelon, lots of fresh berries, pumpkin... wait, what?! To me, any sort of pumpkin food just screams out AUTUMN! Also Harry Potter, but that's another issue entirely. But when I unearthed two cans of pumpkin in the pantry, for some reason I just felt like using them. It's not that I'm eager for it to be autumn or anything; don't get me wrong, I love looong summers that seem to go on forever. But the idea of eating something flavored with spiced pumpkin just appealed to me, so I booted up ye olde laptop and hit the web for a good, simple pumpkin bread recipe.

Then I decided I wanted to try a vegan pumpkin bread, and I figured it would be a pretty easy foray into vegan baking. So I chose the Pumpkin Spice Bread recipe over at Susan's Fatfree Vegan Kitchen blog. Even though her gorgeous photos showed little loafs of pumpkin bread in adorable Christmas-themed loaf pans and wrapped with various holiday-themed paraphernalia, that didn't deter me. I followed Susan's recipe pretty closely, although I omitted the pecans/walnuts since I have a sister who's allergic to all nuts. I also chose to use the 1/4 cup of canola oil and 1/4 cup of applesauce combo instead of doing a 1/2 cup of applesauce, because I didn't mind adding a little extra fat into the recipe. Also, since I didn't have any Ener-G Egg Replacer, I used a tablespoon of cornstarch and three tablespoons of water in place of that. I then decided to make a dozen muffins instead of a full loaf of bread, mostly to cut down on baking time and to save a little electricity. The batter looked lovely - colorful and rich - in the muffin pans.

Although Susan's recipe said the muffins would probably take around 15 minutes to bake, mine took somewhere around 23ish minutes. Of course, I didn't really mind since that meant I had more opportunities to taste the batter after sticking a knife in the muffins to see if they were done! I've got to say, that batter packs a kick. The combination of cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves, and ginger makes for a really spicy pumpkin spice muffin! As the muffins baked and I did my clean-up, I tasted the batter (because you OBVIOUSLY are pretty much required to do that so you don't waste the scrapings in your mixing bowl!) and the flavor of the spices really surprised me. But as the muffins baked, the pumpkin flavor seemed to come through, and by the time they were finished the pumpkin and the spice flavors just complemented one another quite nicely. When they came out of the oven, they were a gorgeous color and I loved how they'd risen in nice little dome shapes.

Overall I was quite pleased with this recipe. Susan warns that if you omit the oil entirely and use all applesauce, the bread will be heavier and more "gummy" in the middle. Even though I did use the oil, my muffins have a bit of a tiny gummy center, which you can see in the first picture. I think they actually could have used a minute or two more in the oven. But they're delicious and spicy and made for a really great breakfast on this hot summer morning, and I was pleased that my egg substitution worked out just fine. When my sister saw the muffins lying on the stove, she said "Ooh, these look delicious!" and then, a second later after biting into one, followed up with "Ooh, these ARE delicious!"

Two thumbs up for this vegan pumpkin bread recipe!



It started with a pizza.

Well, strictly speaking, it started with two or three pizzas. The individual pizzas aren't important on their own, but the fact that they were all sitting there on my aunt's kitchen table, presenting me with a decision, is the important part of the story. Pepperoni or olive? I'd never been a big pepperoni fan to begin with, so it wasn't like I was denying myself something I loved when I chose the olive. But my decision wasn't based on taste that day; I remember consciously thinking, "I want to be a vegetarian." I took the piece of olive-topped pizza and ate it and later that night I wrote a heartfelt post in my online diary of the moment about how I'd like to be a vegetarian and how I'd started researching vegetarianism and how much better it was for the environment and health and OMG YAY! I swear; that's exactly what I said. Maybe. It's not like that was a long time ago or anything.

When I think retrospectively, I realize that in my heart of hearts, I'd always felt guilty eating meat. My mom was never a huge fan of meat, but her dinners typically included something that came from an animal. I remember being seven or eight years old and eating roasted chicken one night and just feeling bad for that poor chicken. Every time I ate a meat product, I felt a twinge of guilt. But I didn't know any vegetarians as a kid, and it wasn't until high school that I actually met a teacher - coincidentally the mom of a high school friend - who had voluntarily stopped eating meat after seeing firsthand the conditions in a slaughterhouse. Her description of the dripping blood and the grotesque hanging carcasses was both stomach-turning and also enough to make me realize that my instincts, perhaps, had been right.

But the pizza moment, which probably occurred during my sophomore or junior year of high school, didn't end up being the moment in which I turned vegetarian. Orlando Bloom did me in. See, I was hugely obsessed with Lord of the Rings in high school, and my friend Elfy* went through a ridiculously intense Orlando Bloom phase in which she (only her, I swear! *shifty eyes*) learned every fact available about Orlando, and one of those facts was that Orlando is, in fact, a vegetarian. So when I tested out my friends by casually mentioning that I was thinking of going vegetarian, Elfy and Trailmix questioned my motives and accused me of just wanting to be like Orlando. Hmph! Needless to say, I was properly outraged as my motives were pure and just and based on compassion and if Orlando just happened to also be a vegetarian, well then, it just showed that he had some modicum of sense and compassion and well-developed morality. Unfortunately, their criticism did me in and, my noble thoughts of vegetarianism deflated for the moment, I gave up... for a while.

Really, though, I cut back on my meat intake for the next few years, consciously choosing to eat only the vegetables and sides when my aunt would make a big roast for a family dinner and quietly beginning my vegetarian slide. And then came Lent of my senior year of high school, and I totally cheated and gave up meat even though the point of Lent is to give up something you actually want and care about and at that point I was pretty disgusted by meat and giving it up was no hardship at all. But those three months without meat convinced me that I could go veggie with no problem, and after Lent ended I just never went back to eating meat.

So that was that. Now I'm beginning my senior year at my beloved small liberal arts college that's super liberal and environmentally conscious and quite vegetarian friendly, so the past three years haven't been a problem food-wise. Plus another aunt and her husband have gone vegan, and then my sister and mom jumped on the vegetarian bandwagon, and now my dad does most of the cooking and even though he's still a meat-eater he's happy to make veggie meals for us and they're delicious and healthy and they're inspiring me to think about food in a creative way. See, two of my best friends and I are going to be living in a townhouse during our senior year, so I'm finally going to have a kitchen and not have to rely on the dining hall, and I'm excited to be able to cook my own meals in my own kitchen. I want to chronicle my attempts to experiment with foods I've never worked with on my own, and hopefully I can grow both as a cook and as a vegetarian. I intend to be quite vegan-friendly, since I'm thinking of going vegan eventually. So here I am, and here I veggie-a-gogo!

P.S. I swear that I'll try to be less wordy in future posts, but I'm an English major and quite verbose and it's haaard! Maybe I'll insert lots of pretty food porn to break up the text... mmm, food porn. ;)

*Names changed to protect the innocent... and the not-so-innocent!