Wednesday, September 23, 2009

pumpkin muffins capture the flavour of the season - recipe: pumpkin raisin muffins

There are so many things that I love about our new home and neighbourhood. 1. We’re on the same block as my brother and sister-in-law!!! 2. Our new home has an upper floor “media room” which we’re using as a big playroom for John. 3. We are steps away from a school. 4. I now have a gas stove!!! 5. There are lots of kids in our new neighbourhood. Did I mention that I now have a gas stove?

It’s so nice to be surrounded by young families and children. I’ve met many friendly Moms (and Dad’s) while out walking with John. I was recently invited to our first “play date” in the area. Of course, I wanted to bring something with me but I wasn’t quite sure what would be appropriate. I decided on pumpkin raisin muffins – I picked up a sugar pumpkin a few days before at the market and was ready to bake on Saturday morning just before the play date. Long story shortt, John slept-in past 7:30 a.m. (a miracle!) and there was NO way I was waking him up with a racket in the kitchen. Thank goodness for canned pumpkin! Turns out the hostess of the play-date also baked muffins – Kelly’s blueberry coffee cake muffins were fantastic! It was great to start out the friendship with a common bond – food!

This pumpkin muffin recipe is courtesy of guess who, my Mom. However, I took her original higher-fat recipe and reduced the oil from one-and-a-half cups down to half a cup with the addition of a few more eggs. I also reduced the amount of sugar so they aren’t as sweet.

pumpkin raisin muffins

yields: about 20 small muffins


  • three cups all purpose flour
  • two teaspoons baking powder
  • two teaspoons baking soda
  • two teaspoons cinnamon
  • one-and-one-third cups sugar
  • one cup raisins
  • one-half cup vegetable oil
  • five eggs
  • two-and-one-half cups pumpkin


  • Preheat oven to 350º F
  • Mix together flour, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon, and sugar in a large bowl and whisk to combine. Add in raisins and stir.
  • In a separate bowl, whisk together eggs, pumpkin and oil until combined.
  • Using a wooden spoon, mix wet ingredients into dry ingredients. Do not over-mix as that will result in dry muffins.
  • Spoon mix into paper muffin liners that have been coated with non stick spray.
  • Bake in 350º F oven for about 30 minutes.

    Note: a handful or two of sweetened shredded coconut and a half-cup of chopped dates make for a tasty twist.

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

'Shortt’ but sweet family visit nets a new dessert - recipe: Zia Maria's Amaretti

We just returned from a ‘short but sweet’ visit to Thunder Bay. My hubby David’s family lives there – his relatives were delighted to meet our little John. We had a great trip – plenty of visiting and LOTS of great eats!

My father-in-law, Rocco, is a fantastic cook. The night we arrived, he treated us to one of David’s favourite dishes – Italian sausage with chili-garlic romano bean & potato mash. All I can say is that it is now one of my favourites, too! The night before we left, Rocco made his famous fettucini with tomato sauce and meatballs. It was amazing! I think it’s rather fortunate that both David’s and my family share such a great love of food.

We also had a visit with his Zia (Aunt) Maria. It was such a wonderful afternoon! John delighted in playing in her beautiful back yard (she has the vegetable garden OF MY DREAMS). As John played, we nibbled on delicious antipasti that she lovingly prepared – think roasted red peppers with basil, handmade cured sausage, fresh bread with preserved olive spread and melon. Dessert? Espresso with her famous just-sweet-enough cookies – cranberry almond biscotti and my favourite, Amaretti.

Thanks goes to Gabriella Sacchetti, Maria’s daughter, for the recipe.

Amaretti (Italian Almond Chews)

makes about 30 cookies

ingredients for cookie

  • one-quarter cup egg whites (about 2 egg whites)
  • one cup sugar
  • one-and-one-half tablespoons pure almond extract
  • two-and-one-half to three cups whole, unpeeled almonds
  • one-quarter cup flour

ingredients for topping

  • About 30 whole, unpeeled almonds (note: reserve for topping, do not grind)
  • one egg white, beaten in bowl


  • Preheat oven to 375 F.
  • Line two cookie sheets with parchment paper and spray with cooking spray (do not skip this step, otherwise the cookies will stick to the paper)
  • Finely grind the whole, unpeeled almonds in a food processor. Measure about two-and-a-half cups into a mixing bowl. Reserve an additional half-cup of ground almonds, in case needed (see below). Add flour to mixing bowl with two-and-a-half cups ground almonds.
  • In a large glass measuring cup, beat the egg whites, sugar and extract well using a whisk.
  • Combine egg white mixture to flour-ground almond mixture. The mixture should be completely mixed but dry (think of wet sand at the beach that can be shaped and will hold its shape). This is the stage where you may need to add more of the reserved half-cup of ground almonds if needed, until the texture reaches the desired consistency.
  • Scoop out one tbsp size portions onto a plate, dip your fingers in the egg white mixture to lubricate your palms and form the portions into rounded balls and place on the parchment paper. Press a whole almond into the top of each cookie, pointy end first. Each ball will be slightly pressed, but will continue to spread slightly when baked.
  • Bake in the middle rack for 15-17 minutes – you want a slight colour on the edges, but the centre should remain chewy.
  • Buon appetito!

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