Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Muffins and Gift-Giving

Before I moved to Michigan and became a real, bill-paying adult, I didn’t care at all about the weather.  I mean not at all!  It is what is is.  Since the Snowpocalypse of 2013-2014 and then being pregnant this summer, I have decide the weather actually means quite a lot to me.  Which is why I have religiously been checking weather.com every day to see when it will turn cold.

Which happens to be this week.  And I don’t know about you, but the first sign of cooler weather means busting out the fall recipes.  Which of course means…PUMPKIN!!!!!! Pumpkin everything, here we come!

This brings me to the one of the sweetest gifts I’ve ever gotten: a cookbook.

This is no ordinary cookbook.  A few Christmases ago, my two sisters and I opened similar-looking packages.  Usually, that’s a pretty fair indicator we are all getting variations of the same thing.  This used to trouble me a great deal as a child, but one of the perks of growing up means that matching things get way cooler, such as the Alex and Ani bracelets we got last Christmas (definitely check these beautiful charm bracelets out they’re awesome).

But this time, the packages revealed something which has become very precious to me: a family cookbook.  My mom had spent hours and hours finding our favorite recipes, as well as those from our grandmothers and aunts, to put in a “Weiland Family Cookbook.”  All the things I remember loving as a kid, from cheesy potatoes to Weiland Family Secret Chocolate Chip Cookies (those have yet to make an appearance on here…) were all lovingly typed out and categorized into one book.

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From the depths of this amazing treasure, I am bringing you one of my all-time fall favorites: Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Muffins.

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Hands down, my mom makes the best pumpkin chocolate chip muffins in the ENTIRE world.  They are somehow so soft and gooey yet filling and delicious.  I have made them not once but twice this week alone (yes, I know it’s only Wednesday).  The shocking thing to me is it takes me less than ten minutes to assemble these heavenly muffins and get them in the oven.  Plus 18 minutes on the dot of baking means you can have insanely wonderful pumpkiny goodness in your mouth in under half an hour. So strap on your seatbelts and prepare to be blown away.

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Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Muffins

Recipe makes 12 delicious muffins

Ingredients

1/2 can of pumpkin

1 egg

1/4 cup of melted butter

1 cup of milk

1/2 cup of white sugar

1/2 tsp salt

1/2 tsp of cinnamon (you can add 1 tsp if you love cinnamon)

2 tsp of baking powder

1 1/2 cups AP flour

1 cup (approx.) of chocolate chips (I use semi-sweet)

Instructions

1. Pre-heat your oven to 400 degrees F

2. Combine all the dry ingredients in the bowl of your mixer

3. In a separate bowl, combine the pumpkin, butter, egg, and milk and stir to combine

4. Add wet ingredients to dry and mix until just combined

5. Pour in cup of chocolate chips (I never measure…) and hand mix with a whisk (I find this keeps the muffins from being over-beaten)

6. Using a cookie scoop, drop two scoops of muffin batter into a prepared muffin tray

7. Bake for 18 minutes.  The muffins may feel a bit soft when you take them out, but take them out anyway let them cool in the pan on the stove.

8. Consume immediately!!!

 

The Great Crock Pot Adventure

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What is your least favorite part of the day?

Mine is 7:02 am when my husband leaves for work.  He laughs at me because I’m only half-awake, and I become fairly emotional and try to get him to stay…which has led to a certain habit.  As soon as he goes,  I pile a bunch of pillows on his side of the bed before going back to sleep.  For some reason, as cliche as I’ve always thought this is, it does make me feel like he is still in bed…

This does all lead to the crock pot, I promise.

So, the weather has been getting colder, and as my unemployment continues to stretch on, I’ve found myself really enjoying being at home all day and getting ambitious in projects.  Before we got married, I was determined to become proficient in crock pot cooking, especially as winter approaches.  I was feeling pretty sluggish after Drew left and pouty about not having a job…God has a lot to teach my heart about patience and trust.  So I decided to invest my energy into breaking out my new crock pot.  It seemed like the housewifely thing to do on a chilly September morning.

Not to mention, it seems that the worst best way to be a domestic goddess is to have valuable slow-cooking skills.  Everyone I know and admire (my Mom….my sister Megan…) can whip out their crock pot with ease and make the whole family go crazy.

So now it’s my turn to carry on that family tradition.

Apparently, the crock pot can take on anything.  I mean people absolutely idolize this little contraption.  Countless people told me before we got married, “Just throw a bunch of things in the crock pot, and let it go!” I am still learning how to plan meals in advance, and thus I ended up throwing four very frozen chicken breasts in the crock pot with somewhat of a sneer in this little guy’s direction…

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The idea was to make pulled chicken….I made a fabulous mixture of soy, garlic, brown sugar, vinegar, and oil…

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And into the crock pot it goes…for six hours….You use the juices to make a pan sauce later by thickening it with a little cornstarch (not too much, I promise!).

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Results? Pulled chicken sandwiches that Drew really loved! Success!

As he came marching through the door, tired and hungry from a full day of work, he stopped and smelled the air.  I watched, expectantly waiting for his question…

“It smells so good in here.  What are you making?”

My response? “Come and see: I am a domestic goddess!”

So for dinner we go to have pulled chicken sandwiches (sorry for the mid-meal pic- I still forget to take pretty pre-eating shots!).  In my mind, the crock pot is still a formidable opponent, so any suggestions on slow cooking would be much appreciated!

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Ps. I took the recipe from “The Cutest Blog on the Block”.  My only suggestion would be to use non-frozen breasts and cut way down on the cooking time.

Homemade Nutella

So, my fiance Drew loves Nutella.  I mean he loves it.  When we would study together in college, his favorite late-night snack was Nutella and peanut butter on white bread.  That boy…

Anyhow, who doesn’t love Nutella? It’s creamy and yummy and chocolately…melt-in-your-mouth goodness.  Times ten.  It comes in mini packs, it comes in giant packs.  It even comes in little packs with graham crackers.

Somewhere in me, there is a faint sense of competition with Nutella.  I mean, Drew loves it so much, and it is delicious.  But, last week I woke up one morning and said, “What would Drew think if I could make my own Nutella?  From scratch?”  I thought of various responses…Tiffany’s jewelry, Graeter’s ice cream, adoration as a domestic goddess…These potentials were pure motivation.

But at the bottom of it all, if I can make Nutella for Drew, it will almost definitely make him happy. Game on.

So, after thorough researching, it seems pretty easy.  Good hazelnuts are the key, toasted to perfection.

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Hazelnuts, after being toasted and processed, release a lovely oil.  Toast them at 390 F for about ten minutes, but watch them carefully.  They burn easily. They will turn a deep brown color and begin to smell toasted.  Take them out when this happens.  Rub them down with a towel and the skins will flake off.  It’s ok if they have a little skin on them.

 

Pour them in a food processor and grind away.  As you grind them, it makes a peanut butter-looking substance.  But here’s the trick-keep grinding.  Grind for a long time. You don’t want any grit.

Then you add cocoa powder, powdered sugar, chopped up dark chocolate (or milk chocolate if you prefer), vanilla, heavy whipping cream, and canola oil (or coconut oil).  Keep processing all of it.

At first it make look grainy like this:

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If this happens, add a little more oil.  Keep going.  It will eventually look like this:

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At this point, I had to stop and try a little….

It’s amazing…the hazelnut flavor is so much stronger and delicious.  I don’t think I can go back to store-bought Nutella.  It’s creamy and light and chocolately, just like it should be. And so easy to make!

Drew comes up this weekend, and my little Nutella jar is all ready to go! Stay tuned! I’m going to make shortbread cookies to go with it!

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Recipe

1 1/2 cups of hazelnuts

1 cup of powdered sugar (I like my Nutella a little sweeter, but if you want more hazelnut flavor, lessen the powdered sugar)

1/4 cup cocoa powder

1 teaspoon vanilla

3 tablespoons of Canola oil (more if needed- some used coconut oil instead)

7 ounces dark chocolate, chopped (I used Hershey’s but you can use whatever you like!)

Toast the hazelnuts for ten minutes at 390F.  Rub them down with a towel to remove the skin.  Process until smooth.  Add powdered sugar, cocoa powder, dark chocolate, oil, and vanilla.  Continue to process until smooth.  More oil may be necessary. Store in a jar and refrigerate.  It will harden as it refrigerates.