great pumpkin lies (and the muffins we make out of them)

Hello friends!

Once again, fall is upon us. As much as I love fall, I have to admit, I was not ready to let go of summer. I was desperately holding onto my walks around Manhattan, enjoying the endless sunshine / ice cream opportunities. But this past weekend, when I felt the first real October chill, I decided to let go and embrace the season by making something squash-y!

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I use those words because if you haven’t heard-

!!!canned pumpkin isn’t always canned pumpkin!!!!

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I know we live at a time where sensationalized news comes out of every corner, but titles like this are trying to convince you that canned pumpkin is 80% cheez-whiz. (It’s not.)

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The truth is pumpkin flavors we all know and love can be found via a few different squash sources like butternut or honey nut squash.

Is it truly shocking that vegetables from the same family produce very similar flavors? Or that maybe you shouldn’t be reusing your giant Halloween jack-o-lantern for pumpkin pie? No and no.

 

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That’s why when I couldn’t find any canned “pumpkin” at my local grocery store, I bought a couple of butternut squashes and made my own puree for a delicious muffin/cupcake that I want to eat everyday for the rest of fall. (You’ll want to, too. Promise.)

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It may seem a little labor intensive, but on a day when it’s chilly out and all you want to do is curl up with Netflix in a big sweater, making your own puree is a great project. Plus, it’ll make your home smell better than any pumpkin spice candle out there!

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The exact amount of puree you’ll get out of one squash is hard to know because they vary in size. We roasted two medium sized butternut squashes, which left me with some extra puree after this the muffins (to make my fav pumpkin chocolate chip cookies)!

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Here’s what we did for the puree:

  • Cut both squashes in half and scooped out the seeds.
  • Laid them face down in a baking pan (9×13 or 8×8 or whatever you have)
  • Sprinkled in whole spices I had on hand (cloves, fresh ginger, cinnamon sticks, old dried out vanilla bean pods – star anise and cardamom would also be great here!)
  • Poured in enough water to fill the pan up about ¼ an inch
  • Tented the top of the pan with foil
  • Baked in a 400F oven for ~40 minutes/ until I pushed down on the skin of the squash and it gave easily
  • Patiently waited for the squash to cool (jk I didn’t do this step)
  • Scooped the insides out into a food processor/blender
  • Blended until smooth!

 

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Now you have homemade “pumpkin” puree to do with as you please! With our puree we made these incredible pumpkin/squash cream cheese muffins with pecan streusel.

The muffins are actually more like cupcakes with the icing on the inside, but let’s pretend they’re moderately ok for you since I ate them for breakfast several days in a row.

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I only ended up making one set of muffins and used the rest of the batter as a swirl cake, which was super fun.  I think both taste best when you give them a night to chill in the fridge, giving you a moist, rich, and flavorful treat for all occasions!

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So the next time you’re out shopping, maybe skip the cans of Libbys and find out what squashes they have on hand! You too can know the truth behind one of the great secrets of the food world, which is that pumpkin(y) puree is right at your fingertips, even if it goes by another name.

Wishing you the best on your food adventures,

Sav

Pumpkin/Squash Cream Cheese Streusel Muffins 
(adapted from Coastal Living)

Cream Cheese Filling
8 oz cream cheese, softened
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
1/2 c white sugar
1 tbsp brown butter (optional)
Streusel
1/3 c all-purpose flour
1/4 c white sugar
1/4 c brown sugar
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1/4 c chopped pecans
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
4 tablespoons chilled butter
Muffin Batter
1 c white sugar
3 c all-purpose flour
2 tsp ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp ground cloves
1/2 tsp ground nutmeg
1/2 tsp ground ginger
2 tsp baking soda
1 1/2 tsp salt
3 large eggs, lightly beaten
1 (15-ounce) can pumpkin (or 2 cups squash puree)
1 c vegetable oil

1/2 c heavy cream (I used this because it’s what I had on hand, but the original recipe calls for milk!)

1. Preheat oven to 375°. Line 2 (12-cup) muffin pans with paper liners.

2. For cream cheese mix: stir together cream cheese, vanilla extract, 1/2 cup sugar, and brown butter in a medium bowl. Set aside.

3. For streusel: Combine all ingredients except vanilla extract and butter in a small bowl; cut in butter and vanilla extract with a fork or pastry blender until large crumbs form. Set aside.

4. For batter: Combine all dry ingredients in a medium bowl. Whisk together wet ingredients in a large bowl; with a spatula, fold dry mixture into wet mixture just until moist. (Do not overmix.)

5. Spoon half of batter into prepared muffin pans. Dollop about 1 tablespoon cream cheese mixture in center of batter, and top evenly with remaining batter. Sprinkle with streusel mixture.

6. Bake 16 minutes (turning pans halfway through). Remove from pans; cool on a wire rack. Refrigerate for best results.

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