The fruits of fall are something we do well here in WNY-- apples, pears, pumpkin are ripe now and full of flavor. I dare anyone to eat a fresh picked NY Macintosh and not love it; that sweet-tart, crisp white flesh also makes any apple recipe more interesting, to me: tangier is better, and Macs give great crunch.
I've been cooking up some of my seasonal favorites the last few days, with my recent haul from the Farmer's Market (of course) where there is still, incredibly, fresh corn, tomatoes in green and red, peppers galore, and many lovely squashes to be had, among the apple-filled aisles. Even a few plums!
But last night saw some frost, I think, there's snow mixed with rain out there now, and we won't be getting any more local 'matoes for a while. Each month we have to say goodbye to another taste. Sigh.
While you can:
Do yourself and any children that hang out at your house a favor and pick up a few little decorative gourds. Leave them out all month on a platter or other tray and let them dry out inside-- not all of them make it, but those that withstand molding give alot of percussive fun! Several that sit on my table throughout the season are from the last two years. (below, how they added to my minimalist Solstice celebration last year)
I wipe them with a dry cloth to shine them up first, but don't wash; they have a natural protective coating, like all fruits and veg, that inhibits mold. It helps them turn from pretty decorations into intriguing instruments that anyone can play.
So the other night, the golden pears in my silver bowl called to me, and I answered by making some of them into muffins, using a recipe we've enjoyed for some years. It was only the second or third recipe from Vegetarian Times magazine I'd ever honestly liked; their food has gotten better in the last 8 or 9 years. These muffins are a prime example-- they're healthy as good muffins can be, and too satisfying for anyone to think about that while eating them. And I can tell you, they make as good a midnight snack as they do a breakfast treat.
My giant muffin tin loves this recipe; the batter holds up in the bigger cups without a problem, but regular sized work too. I've made them with soymilk or dairy milk, and yesterday used Almond Breeze Vanilla, with a good squirt of lime juice to clabber it.
Almond milk doesn't always provide as high a rise in quick breads (in my experience) as soymilk, but clabbering seems to have done the trick-- they were perfect. Even though I had run out of whole wheat flour and had to-- or did, anyway-- sub an even mix of wheat bran and Aldi's cut-rate rice crisp cereal for the WW. Never let them see you sweat!
Pear and Walnut Muffins
Vegetarian Times, March 2006, adapted slightly by Mari
Makes 12 regular or 5/6 large muffins
"These tender muffins wowed every one of our testers. They have a great nutty taste and are studded with chopped fresh pears. You can also make them with apples."
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 cup whole wheat flour
2/3 cup firmly packed brown sugar (or you can use a generous 1/2 C of white)
1 Tbsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt (reduce to 1/4 tsp if using prepared plant milks of any sort)
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon, or a mix of cinnamon and ginger
1 1/4 cups finely chopped ripe but firm pears (about 2 to 3 medium pears)
1/3 cup coarsely chopped walnuts, toasted*
3/4 cup reduced fat milk (I use soy or almond, clabbered)
2 Tbsp vegetable oil (I use Olive oil)
1 large egg, lightly beaten
1/2 tsp vanilla extract or a few drops almond extract
1. Preheat oven to 400F. Coat 12 standard muffin pan cups with cooking spray.
2. Combine both flours, sugar, baking powder, salt and cinnamon in medium bowl, and whisk to blend. Add pears and walnuts, and toss gently to coat.
3. Combine milk, oil, and egg and extract in small bowl; stir to blend. Make well in flour mixture, and add milk mixture, stirring just until moist (dough will be sticky).
4. Divide batter evenly among prepared cups. Bake 20 minutes or until muffins spring back when touched lightly in center. Remove from pan**, and cool on wire rack.
*To toast walnuts:
Spread walnuts evenly in small baking dish or pie pan, and bake at 350F until fragrant and lightly browned, stirring twice, 6-8 minutes.
These muffins seem to prefer sitting in their pan for five-10 minutes first. It sets them and helps keep their shape nicely, no matter what VT thinks. Oh, they ARE good with apples, too-- and you can spice them anyway you like. I often add a little five spice or ground coriander to the cinnamon or in place of it.
Enjoy our last bit of October, and eat something good tonight!