Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Putting Christmas on Standby: Pumpkin Muffins

I don't know what I was thinking. 

No, actually, I do know what I was thinking.  I was thinking that it was the second rainy day in a row, and I needed to get out of the house with N., and that she needed to have something in her stocking this year (for the sake of appearances for I.), even if it was something small.  I was thinking that it was a weekday in the middle of the afternoon, and that perhaps the stores wouldn't be so crowded.  I was thinking that I had a few gift cards that I needed to spend, and what better way to use them up than on Christmas presents.

I thought wrong.  Forgive me, friends: I went to the mall.

And honestly, after about an hour there, I felt dizzy.  The bright colors, the noise, the crowd, the toys that went "dingalingaling" and the toys that talked ... I couldn't handle it.  I walked with N. back out into the rain and I could hear myself think again; I could breathe again.  I started to wonder what kind of freak I am that I can't go shopping in T.oy.sRu.S any more.

I haven't been to yoga in a few weeks because S. has been traveling.  But one of the last times I went, my yoga teacher talked about restoring vata, the dosha (one of three humours that comprise the body according to ancient Ayurvedic medicine) comprised of wind and space.  When things are swirling around us, and in us, she said, vata can get very off balance. We might experience nervousness, anxiety, irritability, sleeplessness and loss of range of motion: our bodies feel stiff, tight and contracted. And so go our minds, following our bodies.  We practiced re-establishing equilibrium by breathing, imagining the place where the inner and outer air are connected.  We also did partner yoga, which made us all laugh as we played with the asanas, trying to balance each other in a blooming lotus asana, and inevitably toppling over.

Laughing, playing, breathing ... all of these things are supposed to restore equilibrium between the inner and outer air.  And during this time of year, it's essential: our own equilibrium will go a long way towards helping those around us to stay calm.

Standing there in the rain, breathing, I thought to myself: yes, I need to bake cookies and write cards and get some gifts.  But I also need to do the holidays on my own terms, not on someone else's.

These are not Christmas cookies.  They are good for breakfast, when you need something to hold in one hand while you're holding ten things in the other hand, on your way out the door.  They are equally good with a cup of tea, as you're sitting at the window, looking out at the rain.  Which is where I am tonight, in a much saner place.

Buttermilk Pumpkin Muffins

Cooking spray
1 cup all-purpose flour
1 cup whole-grain pastry flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
1/8 teaspoon ground nutmeg
3/4 cup packed dark brown sugar
3 tablespoons unsulphered molasses
1/4 cup canola oil
2 large eggs
1 cup canned pumpkin
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
3/4 cup lowfat buttermilk
1/4 cup raw, unsalted pumpkin seeds


Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Coat a 12-cup muffin pan with cooking spray.

In a medium bowl, whisk together the all-purpose and whole-wheat flours, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, ginger, cloves, and nutmeg.

In a large bowl, whisk the sugar, molasses, oil and 1 egg until combined. Add the other egg and whisk well. Whisk in the pumpkin and vanilla. Whisk in the flour mixture in 2 batches, alternating with the buttermilk. Whisk just until combined.

Pour the batter into the prepared muffin pan and sprinkle with the pumpkin seeds. Tap the pan on the counter a few times to remove any air bubbles. Bake for 20 minutes or until a wooden pick inserted in center of 1 of the muffins comes out clean.

Let cool on a wire rack for 15 minutes. Run a knife around the muffins to loosen them and unmold. Cool completely on the rack.
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  1. I almost never go to the mall anymore. I do my toy shopping at a local place that has nice things and doesn't gender code the aisles in pink and blue.

    Those muffins look good, and I love baking with buttermilk. Perhaps I'll give them a try this week.

  2. I hear you sister! I went to the mall and walked for 2 hours trying to find xmas presents and I felt absolutely exhausted, irritated and anxious. I left with nothing as it got too much. Why don't I just buy stuff online? Although I enjoyed my "me" time without the inclusion fo my son. I shiver when I think if I had also brought him along. I wished my options for shopping extended to a friendly village street filled with small shops and trinkets instead. Off to use some of my pumpkin!

  3. And this is why I love shopping online. The only "in-person" shopping that I like to do at this time of year is at craft shows. Although I do have to brave the stores for some stocking stuffers. I think I'm going to go really early, when they first open.

  4. I LOVE to shop, but sometimes it's all just too much. There are times that I'm there all caught up in the hustle and I even feel sick to my stomach (never too sick to enjoy a pumpkin muffin however). :)

  5. I also am not a fan of the mall or that giant toy store. My husband and I joke that I am one of the few people who can look through their entire big toy book and not be interested in more than 2 or 3 things. The muffins look fantastic. Yum.

  6. Oh yes. This is exactly what happens to me. I honestly wish we could turn down the whole gift-giving aspect of Christmas......and how about turn up our muffin consumption instead?

  7. I hate the mall. You and I both know how bad NJ malls are! Always crowded and loud.

    Those muffins look amazing. I love pumpkin year round. I will have to try this recipe if I ever get my home improvement projects done.

  8. Ew, the mall! I went a few weeks ago, before the busy crazy shopping time started...and it was still not a good feeling! I could definitely benefit from going there and finishing up my christmas shopping, but I think I'll just do it online!
    Everything could be made better with a muffin though :)

    I can definitely work on the laughing, playing, breathing thing!

  9. I try to avoid the mall at all cost all year round. I am a teacher and when I go to the mall I usually see my students acting wild.

    I am so glad you enjoyed the cookies. I do apologize if they arrived late. The storm here but a crimp in my shipping :)

  10. It can be pretty crazy at this time of year, can't it? I'm glad that your muffins and your yoga got you back to a sane place.

  11. Next time you start feeling the urge to go to the mall, call a friend and have them talk you down!!


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