New York, Sandy, and Bouncing Back

November 2, 2012 § Leave a comment

My vacation week was cut short by Hurricane Sandy, and my birthday was spent cooped up in bed, watching the wind and rain rage outside, with a warning from Major Bloomberg to stay inside. But I’m counting myself lucky that I’m safe and dry, and didn’t lose anything in the storm except for a couple of fun times. Watching the news is a sobering reminder that while I was complaining that all of the restaurants were closed for lunch, some people were out there actually losing everything. So I’ve been thinking about the happy moments of this week and they’re actually more plentiful than I thought.

Running down Prospect Street, through the autumn leaves and seeing the neighbors come out to talk to each other in the middle of the street.

These crunchy squares of burnt caramel toffee from Poco Dolce in San Francisco that my dad sent me in the mail.

Having The Sprouted Kitchen cookbook in my hands for the very first time, I can’t wait to spend hours with it.

A lovely day-before-birthday dinner at Prune, which we visited for the second time, and chatting with our table neighbors — a French family confused when their son got asked for I.D. for a glass of wine.

A warm welcome — and couch — from old friends and new in New York City, a plate of marshmallow topped sweet potatoes, and a couple more shots of whiskey than I ever expected at a dinner party.

Corduroys and brown combat boots, perfect for November.

A morning yoga session that makes me wonder why yoga ever made it out of my daily routine.

Watching a young boy, who could not have been more than eight-years-old, sip chocolate milk while reading The New York Times, across from me at Small World Coffee.

Sending in my ballot, just in time.

Waking up on my birthday to a lemon tart, a handmade hat from Granny, and a blue Tiffany’s box from my little brother.

Taylor Swift’s new album Red, which surprisingly and embarrassingly, is so spot on I can’t stop listening.

A little secret that makes me smile when I walk around campus, and keeps me warm, like my new rusty red cashmere sweater.

Pumpkin Spice Muffins

October 24, 2011 § Leave a comment

I used to hate pumpkin with a passion, the same way I now hate raisins, cooked carrots and orange-chocolate (sorry, I was scrounging for a third hatred). Then one year, I went home for Thanksgiving and spent the first night sitting on the kitchen floor with a blender and my little brother, trying to puree roasted pumpkin for my very first pumpkin pie. I’m still not sure what possessed me to do it, given the icky color of pumpkin pie filling, its oftentimes-nauseating texture and the simple fact that I didn’t like pumpkin. But together, we dutifully made this pumpkin pie and — much to my surprise — I actually liked it, so much that I snuck tiny slivers from the fridge for the rest of the weekend.

From that, the next natural step seemed to be to start craving pumpkin spice lattes come fall. To get excited when seasonal pumpkin pie Clif bars finally hit the stores. To roast pumpkin with nutmeg and browned butter. And to start baking other pumpkin items. Cookies, packed with dried cranberries, white chocolate chips and mini marshmallows, to be devoured on the bus post-race. Fragrant, spicy muffins topped with oat strudel. Which is exactly what these are —

I spent this past weekend in New York City with my mother. We went to the theatre. We dined at Prune, where we started with fresh radishes spread with sweet butter and roasted eggplant with tangy yogurt and ended with an exquisite bitter chocolate pot de crème and mascarpone ice cream topped with caramel croutons which soaked up the excess, melting cream.

We sat at tables that were too small for all the plates, and slurped spicy noodles at a communal table to the loud din of East Village bar-life and dishes being thrown in for washing in open-floor kitchens. We stumbled upon lunchtime food-truck markets and weekend farmers markets. We sampled various pumpkin treats, and I found most of them to be too dry and lacking a certain pop of flavor. The last evening, we gathered together the ingredients in the hotel room and I made these pumpkin spice muffins, which were everything I had hoped for flavor-wise from the baked goods at the market, and twice as cute.

Pumpkin Spice Muffins
Adapted from Smitten Kitchen, via the American club, in Kohler, Wisconsin via Gourmet Magazine
Among the changes I made to this recipe (like adding a topping! and using brown butter!) was making the batter entirely in the small saucepan. Given the minuscule size of the hotel kitchen and the lack of mixing bowls, this made a lot of sense. That said, even if your kitchen is massive, it’s still one less dirty bowl.

1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 15-ounce can solid-packed pumpkin
1/3 cup butter
2 large eggs
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
1 1/4 cups sugar
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt

For the topping:
1/2 cup rolled oats
2 tablespoons flour
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
2 tablespoons vanilla turbinado sugar
1/4 cup white chocolate chips
3 tablespoons butter

Preheat the oven to 350°F.

In a small saucepan brown the butter until it smells nutty and you see flakes of amber at the bottom of the pan. Take the pan off the heat and stir in the sugar, eggs, salt, pumpkin, spices, baking powder and baking soda. I added the eggs last, in order to give the butter a chance to cool down a bit first. Fold the flour into the wet mixture, being careful not to over mix. Spoon the batter into non-stick or greased muffin tins, filling each mold about 2/3 high.

To make the topping, combine the oats, flour and sugar in a small mixing bowl. Crumble the butter in with your hands until you reach an even consistency and the oats start to stick together. Add the white chocolate chips and stir to distribute evenly. Sprinkle the topping on each muffin.

Bake muffins for 25 to 30 minutes or until a knife stuck in the center of one comes out clean.

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