pumpkinpalooza

As far as seasonal food trends go the pumpkin-spice craze has got to be the biggest one around. Each Fall the world seems to be overrun with all things pumpkin: pumpkin spice pasta, pumpkin spice lattes, pumpkin spice marshmallows, pumpkin spice beer and vodka, pumpkin spice potato chips, pumpkin spice body lotion, pumpkin spice bagels to go with pumpkin spice cream cheese and of course pumpkin spice room freshener (a must for every seasonally appropriate home). Whew— thats quite a list, but it doesn’t stop there. We’re so off our rockers over this spicy combination that even the beloved M&M isn’t safe from it. Thats right folks, Pumpkin Spice M&M’s available exclusively at Target and completely sold out when I recently looked for them. It would appear that we’re treading dangerously close to a world-wide state of pumpkin spice hysteria.

Not wanting to be left out, I too decided to make friends with pumpkin. It is after all high in fiber, a cup of puree contains a day’s worth of vitamin A and more potassium than a banana, it’s rich in beta-carotene which is good for your eyesight and lowers the risk of developing cancer or heart disease and the seeds contain chemicals called “phytosterols” which help reduce LDL. So really whats not to love about it, right? If you recall I already use it for my devil dogs Pumpkin-oatmeal dog biscuits and in the past I’ve substituted it for butternut squash in soup, but the weather was cool and I felt like baking…

Last Fall I gave you my coveted Cranberry-Orange Muffin recipe and while I still maintain it’s muffin perfection, I decided to play around with the recipe just the same. A few spices, some pumpkin puree, a little yogurt and one crumble topping later a new Greco family seasonal favorite was born.

Pumpkin-Cranberry Crumble Muffins
These muffins are the perfect way to enjoy the flavors of the season.

pumpkin-cranberry muffin4

Crumble:
3/4 cup rolled oats
1/2 cup flour
1/3 cup brown sugar
3/4 tsp. ground ginger
1/8 tsp. salt
3 tbsp. butter, melted

Batter:
2 cups flour
1 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. baking soda
1/4 tsp. salt
1 cup sugar
1 tsp. cinnamon
1/2 tsp. ground ginger
a pinch of nutmeg
12 oz. bag fresh cranberries
1 egg, beaten
1/4 cup canola oil
1/2 tsp. vanilla extract
1/4 tsp. Angostura bitters
3/4 cup canned unsweetened pumpkin
1/4 cup plain Russian kefir yogurt (or Greek)

  1. Preheat oven to 350°F. Line a muffin pan with cupcake liners and spray with cooking spray. Set aside.
  2. In a small bowl combine the oats, flour, brown sugar, ginger, salt and melted butter. Use a fork (or your fingers) to blend the mixture until it’s crumbly, breaking up any large clumps. Set aside.
  3. Combine all the dry ingredients in a large bowl, gently stir in the cranberries.
  4. In a medium bowl combine all the wet ingredients. Add the wet ingredients to the dry and stir until well blended (the batter will be thick). Spoon evenly into the lined muffin cups, top with a generous amount of crumble and bake for 30 minutes or until a tooth pick inserted in the center comes out clean.
  5. Remove from the oven and allow muffins to cool for 5 minutes in the pan, then place on a wire rack for remainder of cooling

*recipe makes 12-16 muffins

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devil dog treats: take two

Life as a dog owner is much more involved then I expected. There’s puppy shots and house breaking; leashes, collars, toys, beds and crates; social time at the dog park and training classes to correct some not so hot behavior and don’t even get me started on dog food and it’s many many options. I almost think it would have been easier having another child, at least I know what to expect when you bring the little bugger home! Anyway back to the dog…

Trixie is a medium-sized (high energy) terrier-mix rescue dog who was beginning to develop some skin and ear issues. The vet didn’t want to jump to any conclusions or get crazy with tests but she suspected it could be (dum dum dummm) an allergy; perhaps seasonal or food. I don’t know about you but as soon as our pediatrician or vet says the word allergy alarm bells start going off in my head. That allergy road is no fun, I’ve been down it with both my kids and I didn’t want to go down it again with the dog. Being a bull by the horns type rather than a wait and see kinda girl, I decided to take it upon myself to switch her to a wheat free diet and see if it made any difference. Of course that would also mean rethinking those homemade devil dog treats I had so lovingly been baking her.

It turns out that making wheat free dog biscuits isn’t all that hard to do. They take a bit more time in the oven than your average chocolate chip cookie, but they’re considerably healthier and cheaper than buying them at the pet store. I discovered that oatmeal is a good alternate grain for dogs that are having issues with wheat and that pumpkin is great for canine digestion. Who knew! It’s been about two months since I changed Trixie’s diet and so far so good. I’m thinking wheat free just may be her ticket to ride. Oh the things you learn when you become a dog owner. I’m a little frightened to think what’s next…

Gluten-Free Pumpkin-Oatmeal Dog Biscuits
You can make these in any shape you want. I happen to like the dog biscuit shape because it fits well in Trixie’s treat ball.

new biscuits

4 1/4 cups rolled oats, ground
2 eggs
2/3 cup canned pumpkin
1/8 tsp. salt
2 tbsp. canola oil
3 tbsp. chicken broth, plus additional for brushing
3 tsp. dried parsley

  1. Preheat oven to 350°F. Line two cookie sheets with parchment paper and set aside.
  2. Place rolled oats in a food processor and pulse until it becomes a coarse flour. In a large bowl, whisk together the remaining ingredients until smooth. Add the oat flour to the pumpkin mixture and combine with spatula to form a dry, stiff dough.
  3. Turn the dough out onto a cutting board and pat into a circle. Place a sheet or wax paper over the dough and use a rolling pin to flatten it out the remainder of the way, to roughly an 1/4-1/2 of an inch thick.
  4. Cut the dough into shapes using a cookie cutter of your choice and using a spatula to pry them up, place the biscuits on a baking sheet.
  5. Brush each biscuit with chicken broth and bake for 20 minutes*. Carefully turn biscuits over, brush with more broth and bake an additional 20 minutes or until slightly browned around the edges.
  6. After both sheets of biscuits are baked turn the oven off and place the cookie sheets back inside. Allow the biscuits to dry out in the oven for another hour. After an hour allow the biscuits to cool the remainder of the way on a rack before serving to your canine friends.

*The bake time will vary depending on the size of your treats. I bake biscuit sized treats 20 minutes per side, but tiny training treats only 10 minutes per side.