happy halloween!

Happy pumpkin and Hershey bar day!

I’m not a big fan of Halloween. Probably due to the fact that I very much hate being scared and spiders and icky things and dressing up and most all of the stuff associated with October 31st. Except for those mini Hershey bars and pumpkins. I love those, which is why I’m renaming the holiday. Anyway, everyone we know is super into it so I decided to attempt participation this year. It went pretty well:

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In case you can’t tell, we were troll dolls. Only I had the belly though. Husband didn’t fully commit to the costume

Ranger and Tonto even got into the action. They hated every second.

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Charles and Wellington refused to wear their bow ties and spent the day sulking in their hay pile. Well, I think they were sulking. It’s kind of hard to tell with ducks. Then they dug some holes and felt better. Pretty typical Chuck and Welly day.
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Still can’t say I’m a fan of Halloween but we had fun. And I had the occasion to make one of my favorite party foods: fiesta bites! These are super easy and I haven’t met a person yet who dislikes them. Win! And everything can be prepared the day before so all you have to do the day-of is turn on the oven for 10 minutes! True to form, I don’t measure anything and usually make about 100 of these so I’ll estimate but cooking is never an exact science anyway. Or maybe it is and that’s why I’ve never mastered cinnamon rolls. Whatever. Also, we were running late (you’ll notice the pics get progressively messier) so I dashed out of the house without taking a picture of the finished product. Next time. Maybe. If I remember…

fiesta bites

10 flour tortillas
2 bell peppers, diced
4 jalepeno peppers, diced
1 block pepper jack cheese, shredded
1 lb shredded cheese (I use either sharp cheddar or the Mexican blend but anything would work)
1 can black beans, if desired
2 chicken breasts, shredded
1 tsp paprika
1 tsp garlic
2 tsp chipotle chili seasoning
Sour cream, salsa and/or guacamole as garnish

1. Cut circles out of the tortillas. I use a biscuit cutter and can usually get about 8 circles from each tortilla. The leftover scraps are delicious when you fry them and then sprinkle with cinnamon and sugar. Or honey. Just saying.
2. Blend paprika, garlic, and chipotle chili powder with shredded chicken. Have I mentioned the easiest way to shred chicken is in your kitchen aid?! Just drop in cooked chicken and seasonings, turn it on and voila! Perfect chicken in 3.4 seconds.
3. Preheat oven to 400° and grease mini muffin pan.
4. Stuff a tortilla circle in each muffin cup. Then layer in pepper jack cheese, beans (which I sometimes leave out depending on the audience), shredded chicken, and diced peppers.
5. Top each cup with shredded cheese.
6. Bake at 400° or until cheese is melty and tortilla is crispy.
7. The tortillas should slide right out and keep their shape. Garnish with sour cream, salsa, or guac. Or all of the above.
8. Repeat steps 1-7 because you’re going to need more, guaranteed.

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Step uno: cut some circles.

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Step dos: Shred and season some chicken.

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Step Tres: Stuff tortillas into muffin cups

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Step Cuatro: Add pepperjack

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Step Cinco: Add beans and chicken.

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Step Seis: Add peppers.  Start to make a mess.

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Step Siete: Add more cheese.  Make bigger mess.  Then bake.  Then eat.

I also made these creepy brain cupcakes for our work party. Gross, but easy and awesome. I needed to make something festive but requiring little skill since my cake-decorating skills are far less than stellar.  There were some zombie body part ones (where I sprinkled crushed-up oreos on top of chocolate frosting, then topped with a gummy body part and red gel icing for a nice, gooey effect) too, but alas, no pictures. Typical. 20121031-163625.jpg

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week twenty-three

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week twenty-three

Babysaurus now weighs one pound and over 11-inches long-about the size of a big mango. And he loves somersaults. Especially as I’m about to fall asleep.
highlight of the week: Husband felt him kick for the first time. Yay! And I had the belly to be a troll doll for Halloween.
things I miss the most about not being pregnant: working out. Never thought I’d say that!
things I love the most about being pregnant: elastic pants. I’m never going back.
cravings: chili and cornbread, chimichanga, Husband’s cheese dip!
things that make me sick: sweets of any variety. Particularly funfetti cupcakes. Tragic.
symptoms: fatness. Does that count?
things I’m looking forward to: baby shower in two weeks! Normally I’m terrified of those things but I was promised there would be no games and no one will touch my belly at this one so I’m okay with it.

In semi-baby-related news, I discovered the worst smell in the entire world. Tonto decided to eat poop today and then thoughtfully wait until she was inside for the night to throw it up in the middle of the living room. Worst thing ever. Sorry, I should have warned you that this story was unpleasant. But the happy ending is that I’m fairly certain I’m prepared for whatever this baby can concoct. And I have a plethora of tools with which to clean up after him. Nothing can be worse than what happened today.

Hooray, week 23!

well that’s cool and creepy all at the same time

So I just discovered this part of the blogging site where they show you how many people a day look at this silly collection of thoughts. Whoa. Technology can be cool sometimes when it’s not trying to kill you or invade your privacy. This feature does feel slightly creepy because it tells me what page people went to and how they got there. Huh. Who knew? Although I’m not sure how much faith I put in their system considering there are supposedly three people from Bangladesh. I’m fairly certain that my blog did not make it all the way to Bangladesh.
But I guess this means I should stop telling embarrassing stories about myself. Because apparently a lot of people now know them. A lot. And just today. As in, more than none which is shocking to me. (Thanks, by the way….)
And even the Googler knows.
After searching for “chalkboard paint disasters”, Google sent them here. Thanks, Google. How did you know I needed a little self-confidence boost? That was sarcasm there, in case Google is reading. Or someone in Bangladesh.

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week twenty-two

I promise that this blog will not become all about babies but considering it’s kind of the biggest thing we have going on, expect some updates….
I did make chocolate chip cookies today but that’s not really that exciting and not ground-breaking enough for a post. Also, I didn’t take pictures and added an egg without cracking it first and spent 20 minutes picking eggshell out of cookie dough. Fun times.

at breakfast today:
Husband: Baby totally got his ninja skills from me.
Me: Yes. If I were to pick someone with the most awesome ninja skills, it would be you.
…..
Husband: Hahahahahaha.
Me: I was trying to be nice. I have no idea what skills you have-I’ve never seen them.
Husband demonstrates
Me: You’re right. They’re awesome. And only mostly resemble a 13-year-old cheerleader.
Husband: I hope when you meet an actual ninja, you don’t confuse his skills with a cheerleader’s.
Me: I think I’ll take my chances.

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week twenty-two
Babysaurus now weighs almost one pound and is 11-inches long. And he never stops moving. Ever.
highlight of the week: IT’S A BOY! We totally won the baby lottery.
things I miss the most about not being pregnant: margaritas and j.crew
things I love the most about being pregnant: the awesome giant body pillow
cravings: chili and cornbread!
things that make me sick: sweets (especially chocolate chip cookies) and anything vinegar-y (like the smell of pickles. Yuck)
symptoms: heartburn. The chili might have something to do with this but considering I get heartburn from rice chex, I’m going to blame Baby. I eat Tums like candy.
things I’m looking forward to: decorating baby’s room!

i should just stay in the kitchen

I realized today (again) that I am not very good at keeping promises. I say things like “I’ll tell you about it later” or “more on that story to come” but I never really get around to the later. Well, this is the later and I’m finally keeping my promise. Finally.  It started here when I had chalkboard paint on my pants and sat on the couch and now have chalkboard paint on the couch.

Also, this story involves me failing miserably at a do-it-yourself project and I know how much you all like those. Husband sure gets a kick out of them. I mostly get angry and say things that shouldn’t be in my vocabulary. He laughs, I pout and vow never to try to save us money again. It’s worked out well for us so far. I still keep attempting things that turn into giant failures and Husband still keeps laughing. He says I should just stay in the kitchen. I throw socks at him. And then have to go pick them up. I never learn.

But anyway, the story goes something like this:

I saw this adorable girl’s blog and wanted to be like her because a) she’s an adorable pregnant person and b) she’s super crafty. I had a convenient memory lapse as to my actual body type and skills but whatever. I would later be very depressed about this but at the moment was super excited about my new project for baby. She allegedly used chalkboard paint and an old painting to make her chalkboard. I’m convinced she used magic.

For my attempt number one, I figured I could just paint a piece of balsa wood and make a frame out of crown moulding. Sounded simple. Martha Stewart showed me how to use old latex paint to make my own chalkboard paint and I found some magnetic stuff so that would be even better, right? A magnetic chalkboard. This was going to be awesome. All for $20! Turns out, I’m a horrible painter and Husband is even worse with a saw so that project ended up in pieces and I ended up in tears.

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Then I was gone for two months so fast-forward. For try number two, I simplified my ideas and just bought a big picture frame ($30), some foamboard for the base ($8), and some actual chalkboard paint ($8). Unaware of the disaster this would turn into, I happily painted my chalkboard. And I was pretty excited about the result! Yay! Until I tried to erase it. You know what doesn’t come off of a chalkboard-paint fake chalkboard? Chalk. You know what does? Chalkboard paint.

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Still determined, I remembered I had some leftover chalkboard contact paper ($8) so I covered the foamboard with that. Hooray! Only a couple of problems:
1. Chalk doesn’t show up very well on chalkboard contact paper. Sidewalk chalk ($5) doesn’t either. Nor do pastels ($10). I felt really dumb to not even be able to use chalk. That’s just about the first thing you learn in school and I couldn’t handle it. But you know what does show up? These $30 markers. Of course they do.
2. I accidentally broke the foamboard and had to duck tape it back together. I didn’t think it would show. It did.

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So if you’re keeping score, my $20 chalkboard project had now totaled $119 and I still didn’t have one. I could have just bought one for $25 on Amazon.

Finally today I gave up all hope, taped some black paper behind the glass on the frame and called it quits. It’s not a chalkboard and it cost me $100 and 2 months but at least I get to use my expensive markers.

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Don’t mind the glare – I was too frustrated to fix the lighting for a better picture.

Speaking of which, I realized that I am quite fat and not cute as a pregnant person and my handwriting and art skills are lacking so poor Babysaurus only gets 20 weeks of sub-pro chalkboard updates and a grumpy mama. Oh, and I still can’t get the paint out of the couch so I’m going to have to get that professionally cleaned.  Moral of the story – there is a reason I buy things and don’t make them. And hire people to do chores that most people do themselves.

And then I managed to set women’s rights back 40 years when I wore my apron and no shoes all day and set on the couch knitting between batches of muffins.

Husband was right. I should just stay in the kitchen.

You win, life, you win.

 

the surprise was foiled but the party was still on

This is a very very belated post that I promised you about four months ago….I kept thinking that I would find the good pictures but I never did so sorry about the poor quality…I’m thinking I must have picked up someone else’s phone and taken pictures with it. If that’s you, I’m sorry…

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Husband loves beer. He doesn’t love beer in that he sits half-naked with a case of bud light in a lawn chair on the front porch. He loves beer in that he goes to beer festivals and gets fancy sampler things and sits and sips and thinks and rates them. So when planning his birthday party this year (which was in June…yes, I’m a little behind), having a theme was a no-brainer. Hosting our own beer tasting would be the perfect way to get all of his favorite things under one roof: good friends, good beer, good food, and cake. I thought it would be even better to make this a surprise party so I conspired to send him golfing that day and then would come home to a party. Except that his one birthday request was to not leave the house. Drat. So in a moment of frustration, I spilled the beans. The surprise part was foiled but the party was still on and I think it worked out better this way since Husband got to help plan the menu.

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I asked each guest to bring their favorite craft brew. I thought this would net us just the right amount of variety and quantity. Turns out, everyone was very excited about this and each person brought several varieties. I don’t think I’ve ever seen so much beer in one place in my entire life. Husband said that it was just the right amount. Shockingly, the entire party stayed classy, pinata time included. I was incredibly impressed. Tonto was the only one who ruined anything when she ate the logs for the bonfire (therefore the s’mores didn’t happen) and an entire bag of M&Ms. That dog has a stomach of steel. It didn’t even phase her.

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I set up a beer tasting station and make ratings cards and voting slips so that we could determine the favorite brew (winner got to take home the extras). I didn’t do so well on the taking of pictures once the party got started but thankfully I had the foresight to do a little pre-emptive photography. The empty bins in the picture are plastic shoe boxes from the dollar store that I covered in burlap. I filled the bottom of each one with ice and voila: instant cooler. One bottle of each kind went in the bins and the rest went in the fridge and was replaced as needed.

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I’ll be more than happy to share any of the products I made for the party but am not technologically savvy enough to put them on the internet. Leave a comment below and I’ll happily e-mail you the files. It’s not about being stingy, it’s about living the stone-age.

For decorations, I found some beer-themed imagery on the internet and pinned them up around the house. Things like “the history of beer” and flavor charts and party rules for help in rating. There were custom mustache coasters, too! I also made some banners out of cardstock and hung them around the house.

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The food was my favorite part: build-your-own mini burger bar, baked potato salad, a variety of other things that go on a grill and a ton of other stuff I can’t remember right now since the party was 4 months ago. In order to adequately taste beer, you need fancy cheeses and pretzels. I really don’t know why but I’ve never been to a beer tasting without them, so we had those too. I found a recipe for making your own pretzels so we had them hot and straight out of the oven and served in french fry cones with newsprint liners. (Which I bought at World Market but they no longer carry. You can get the same things here and here) Here is the recipe for the pretzels which were fantastic.

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hot buttered pretzels
from the budget-savy diva
4 C all-purpose flour
2 tsp table salt
2 tsp melted butter
1 tsp oil
1 C powdered sugar
one packet of active dry yeast + water as directed on package

2 C warm water
2 Tbsp baking soda

1. Prepare yeast according to package directions.
2. Add oil to the yeast and stir
3. Mix flour, powdered sugar, salt and butter in a separate bowl and add yeast mixture.
4. Knead dough for about 10 minutes. Or if you’re me, just put it in your Kitchen Aid with the dough hook attachment, turn it on, and go drink some coffee while it does the work for you.
5. Place dough in an oiled bowl and cover with plastic wrap. Let it rest in a warm place where it won’t be disturbed for about an hour or until doubled in size. When doing yeast dough, I warm up my oven while I’m preparing the dough, then turn it off and place the dough inside and close the door. Then it stays warm and no dogs, ducks, or husbands try to eat it.
6. When dough has risen, proceed to the following steps:
7. Preheat oven to 400
8. Dissolve baking soda in warm water. Divide dough into sections and roll into ropes. I was making pretzel sticks so I was able to get a lot from one batch of dough. Mine were about 6″ long and 1/2″ thick.
9. Dip dough into baking soda wash and then place on parchment-lined baking sheet. Parchment paper is actually important for this – your cookie sheet will never be the same otherwise and your pretzels won’t be as crispy and delicious.
10. Bake at 400 for about 10 minutes or until golden brown. Top with melted butter and kosher salt.
11. Yum!

Gifts were the next best part. I ordered this make-your-own-beer-kit for Husband along with a beer journal and some bar ware. That kit was like the gift that keeps on giving: Husband loves it and has been making beer non-stop and has become even more of a connoisseur. I highly recommend this gift for any Husband. But beware, he’ll start asking for space in your pantry to keep his things. And then he’ll want you to develop recipes to pair with his new beer and will ask you to write blog posts about his new hobby.

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Happy Birthday, Husband!

a recipe and some news

Short, sweet and to the point today!

This is another one of those I-promised-a-recipe-but-never-followed-through posts.

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For the last 5 months, I haven’t really been a big dessert fan. (I could eat an entire loaf of bread but that’s another story.) But the exception is Mom’s oatmeal cookies. Those things are delicious. Not exactly gluten-free but I don’t care so much about that right now.

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So without further ado, here is the recipe for the best oatmeal cookies on the planet. Chewy, cinnamon-y, and delicious!

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oatmeal cookies
3/4 C shortening
1 C pure cane brown sugar
1/2 C pure cane white sugar
1 egg
1/4 C water
1 tsp vanilla
1 1/4 C flour
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp baking soda
3 C oats
cinnamon to taste (for me this is at least 1 Tbsp – have I mentioned that I love cinnamon?!)

1. Preheat oven to 350
2. Cream shortening and sugars together. Add egg, water, and vanilla and mix until thoroughly combined.
3. Mix in flour, salt, baking soda and cinnamon. Stir in oats and keep stirring until everything is all incorporated. You don’t want a ton of oats in one bite and none in another!
4. Drop by rounded tablespoons onto cookie sheet.
5. Bake at 350 for approx 10 minutes or until starting to brown. Like most cookies, the secret is to take them out of the oven before they look done and let them cool on the pan for a couple of minutes before moving them to a wire rack. In my limited experience, this keeps them chewy and delicious.
6. Enjoy!

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And……
drumroll please…..
we found out this week that Babysaurus is a BOY (and very big and totally healthy).

What a relief. Now I don’t have to worry about raising my child as a cross-dresser (because let’s face it, boy clothes are so much cuter) or that the nursery is too boyish. I feel like we won the baby lottery. Success for the Hunter house!

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Ranger and Tonto helped make the big announcement. It only took 20 minutes for them to sit still and Ranger is still upset that we wouldn’t let his beloved pig toy be in the picture. Tonto was pretty happy though. Tonto is happy about everything.

happily ever after

Love story, part three.

I’ve shared our engagement and marriage story so now it’s time for the wedding! Most people have a wedding and a marriage on the same day but we don’t really work like that. No adventure there. We have to keep everyone on their toes. So we got married June 4, 2010 but had a wedding two years ago today. (Happy second second anniversary to us!) Separating the wedding from the marriage was the best decision we ever made. I think it made both parts less stressful. Going to the courthouse after work seemed like the less-stress way to say “I do”.

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We didn’t really have tons of prep time to get nervous. We just decided what was best for us and we did it. Simple. Weddings are an important thing though, I think, so we decided to have a party in that fall so that our family and friends could be there too. And it wasn’t stressful either! I just got to plan a party-I didn’t have to worry about starting a new life and all of that. I just got to party.

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Which is why it was perfectly fine for me not to put on make up or take off my gym shorts until 5 minutes before the ceremony. And I wore chucks. Because they were comfy. And I’m big on comfy. Especially since I had surgery (thank you, Celiac) 4 days before the wedding. Which was why the wedding was in October. Surgery gave us enough time off of work to plan the thing. Win-win. Except for the part where I was all bloated and bandaged. But that’s why there is a poofy dress.

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Since we were already married, a big celebration with a DJ and seating charts wasn’t really our thing. We had a quiet brunch at a quaint historic house with rustic gardens and barn in California with food we made ourselves, lots of coffee, and general enjoyment all around. Old photos of our families were all around, marriage quotes were at every place, and Husband and I served the cake to our guests.

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The one exception to ridiculousness were the centerpieces after I decided I wanted to put live birds in little glass lanterns. (Don’t worry PETA, I checked the lanterns with a local vet to make sure they would be safe.) My grandfather did a beautiful job with the ceremony and the bridesmaids didn’t even complain when I made them find grey dresses (which is apparently the only color that was out of season at the time). Anyway, it was a perfect day. Sure, the music didn’t work and the photographer called in sick and my dress got stuck in a rose bush (there’s a picture of Husband untangling me) and Husband and I didn’t get any food, but I got to spend the day getting married again to my very favorite person and there were birds on the tables. Excellent.

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Today is two years since then and I wanted to make it a special one for us. I had meant to have a nice, beautiful dinner and a cake and card but what actually happened was Ranger had gotten sick in his kennel during the day (which took a couple of hours to clean up – I’ll save you the gory details) and I forgot to go to the store for cake supplies and sparking cider. So instead, we had a great dinner in our sweatpants and funfetti cupcakes for dessert. Which really are the best kind and pretty much suits us better. Truth be told, I don’t actually like cake unless it’s from a box. Shoot me, but it’s true. I make all kinds of fancy things but eat none of it. Unless it’s funfetti.

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Me: AHHH! We’re out of oil!
Husband: I just bought some.
Me: When?
Husband: Two months ago.
Me: aha.
Husband: Well is there enough?
Me: You won’t believe it but there is exactly enough.
Husband: Oh, I believe it. You know what this means?
Me: Jesus wants us to have funfetti?
Husband: Exactly.

And that, is why we get more happily married every day.

Happy second second anniversary to us.

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The pictures above at our wedding were taken by fantastic family members and friends (Husband’s cousin should seriously open his own business) but we decided to have some professionally done a few months ago. So we put the fancy clothes back on and had the amazing Deirdre Lewis at Pictures of Prose do some for us. By this time, we had just found out we were expecting and I had gained about 15 lbs. I’m destined to never wear my wedding dress when I’m skinny. Maybe someday. When we decide to get married again just for the fun of it. Anyway, she made us look pretty nice, if I do say so…

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if you give a husband a muffin

UPDATE: After making these three times this week (Husband and the office loved them that much!), I’ve made a few minor tweaks to the recipe. Not life-changing but little subtleties that Husband says make them better. The adjusted recipe is below but I’ve annotated alternate options where applicable. Feel free to add your own flair – that’s what baking is all about!

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Fall is my very favorite season. Not to be confused with Christmas which is my very favorite holiday. I usually just lump them both together in one three-month period of magic and happiness. Which makes January a huge let-down.

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I love the smells of cinnamon and apples and the crisp air and the chance to wear boots and scarves and bake delicious things involving pumpkin. But now that I think about it, I burn cinnamon candles year-round so there’s no change there; Florida doesn’t have crisp air, just slightly less hell-like temperatures; it’s still 80 degrees so boots and scares would be ridiculous; and I don’t really like the taste of pumpkin.

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But I love pumpkin patches and the smell of pumpkin baked goods, so that’s pretty much the same thing. And back to my original point, I love fall.

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So in honor of my favorite season and Husband’s promise to clean the kitchen if I bake him some muffins, I am happy to share a new Husband favorite recipe: Pumpkin Spice Muffins with Vanilla Cream Cheese Glaze.

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He says they’re the best pumpkin muffins he’s ever had but he’s also critiquing a hormonal pregnant woman who cries when the dryer doesn’t dry her sheets all of the way, so he might be exaggerating. However, based on smell alone, they seem pretty amazing. I kind of want to make them every day so the house smells more like awesome and less like Ranger and Tonto.

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Enjoy!

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pumpkin muffins
baker’s note: the cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves, and ginger can be substituted with 5 tsp pumpkin pie spice
2 1/2 C all-purpose flour
1 C pure cane white sugar
1 C pure cane brown sugar
1/2 C oats
3 tsp ground cinnamon
1 tsp ground nutmeg
1 scant tsp ground ginger
1/2 tsp ground cloves
2 tsp baking soda
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp salt
1 can (15 oz) pumpkin purée
3 eggs
2/3 C butter, melted. Can substitute with oil or applesauce but Husband says butter is better. Well, duh.
1/4 C milk (more if batter is too thick)
2 tsp vanilla

3 Tbsp cold butter
1/4 C flour
2 Tbsp pure cane brown sugar
1 Tbsp cinnamon

vanilla cream cheese glaze
3 oz cream cheese, softened
1/2 C powdered sugar
1 Tbsp corn starch
2 tsp vanilla
Milk to consistency

1. Preheat oven to 350°
2. Blend dry ingredients together: flour, sugars, oats, spices, baking soda, baking powder, and salt.
3. Stir in pumpkin. Dough will be dry and crumbly.
4. Add in eggs one at a time, followed by oil, milk, and vanilla. Mix until fully incorporated.
5. Pour into prepared muffin tin. Mine took about 1/4 C of batter and I ended up with 21 muffins. At least I think so. I thought I put 21 in the oven but there were only 18 on the counter cooling. Husband smelled suspiciously of pumpkin.
6. Mix 2 Tbsp of flour and brown sugar and 1Tbsp cinnamon together. Cut in cold butter and sprinkle mixture on top of muffins. Lay it on thick, trust me. It seems weird, but it works.
7. Bake at 350° for 30 mins or until toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. My oven bakes pretty quickly so yours might take longer.
8. Remove from tin and prepare glaze while they cool a bit.
9. Whisk together ingredients for glaze. Add milk 1 Tbsp at a time until you get the desired consistency. I used about 4 Tbsp. You want something that will drizzle but not go everywhere.
10. Drizzle glaze over muffins and try to keep Husband from eating all of them at once. He’s like that If You Give A Moose A Muffin book: he wants a muffin, then some milk, then a hug, then another muffin and the cycle never ends…..not that I’d complain, though.

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I’m not lying about putting a ton of the crumb topping on – the more the merrier!

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