I've had two dates in the last two days--how's that for a busy mama? The first one involved adding chopped dates to a leftover-turkey salad, and the second one was all about trying to use up some pureed pumpkin I had lying around. I had made a pumpkin chocolate cheesecake for our late Thanksgiving celebration (recipe to come soon, so stay tuned!) and didn't need a whole can of pumpkin, so I had about 3/4 c. leftover, waiting to be reinvented into something else special. My 10th-edition paperback pain-in-the-you-know-what-to-keep-open Better Homes and Gardens cookbook has a recipe for pumpkin muffins that I've made a few times before, but I wanted to take it up a couple of notches. Costco should never have started stocking dried dates because now I'm always thinking of new ways to use them! I chopped some up, added them to the batter, and then boom! That stick of Vietnamese cinnamon I won from Diane and Todd at White on Rice Couple (yes, they mailed it all the way to Japan from California for me!) was begging to be added as well, so I used my trusty mortar and pestle and ground up a little chunk of it. Talk about YUMMY! I've never had cinnamon like that! It's powerful stuff. And you can even chew on a little bit of it and it tastes like a red-hot (all natural, of course). (By the way, I wasn't "officially" a winner of the cinnamon contest, but D and T liked my comment on the post and sent me some anyway! Fun! I've hardly ever won anything in my life, so that made my day. Mine was comment #38 if you want to know what I said. I know you're dying to.) Man, that stick smells luscious. Just taking it out of the packaging and before I had even turned any of it into powder, it turned my whole (baby) kitchen into fragrance heaven.
Pumpkin Date Walnut Muffins (adapted from Better Homes and Gardens)
1 3/4 c. all-purpose flour
1/3 c. sugar (I used 1/4 c. Okinawan "black" sugar)
2 t. baking powder
1/4 t. salt
1 beaten egg
3/4 c. milk (I had some leftover evaporated milk, so I used 1/4 c. evap. milk and 1/2 c. skim)
1/4 c. cooking oil
chopped dates (I used about 1/2 c.)
1/4 c. chopped nuts (I used 1/2 c. walnuts because I'm pretty nutty)
1 t. ground cinnamon (I highly suggest Vietnamese if you have it)
1/2 t. ground nutmeg
1/8 t. ground cloves
1/2 c. pumpkin puree
Preheat your oven to 400 F/205 C and grease your muffin tins (this makes 12 muffins, but I have two 6-cup tins and have to cook one tin at a time because my oven is minuscule). Don't use paper baking cups for this recipe.
In a mixing bowl, combine the flour, baking powder, sugar, the spices and salt, and then make a well in the center. Combine egg, milk, oil, and pumpkin in a separate bowl (and if you forget to do this separately, it's not a big issue as I found out!) and then add to the flour mixture. Add the nuts and stir just till moistened (don't over stir). The batter will still be a bit lumpy. (I added the dates in with the nuts at the same time--it makes it easier when you're chopping the dates to coat them with a bit of flour so they don't stick to each other and your knife so much.)
Bake for about 20 minutes, and then split them open and slather with margarine...mmmmm...
Good with hot apple cider, too (recipe to come soon)!