Travel Food: Pumpkin Muffins

No matter where we are going, I always bake up a big batch of pumpkin muffins before we travel. My boys love them, and they are relatively healthy and easy to pack. Well, they may get a little squished, but they still taste good! Sometimes I make mini muffins, and sometimes the regular size. The recipe makes a lot, too – about 3 dozen regular or 6 dozen minis! If there are leftovers, I freeze them.

My mom used to make these muffins with her first-graders ages and ages ago. Since I started making them, I’ve been updating the recipe. I now use wheat flour instead of all-purpose. And I’ve swapped out coconut oil for vegetable oil. I don’t care for the taste of coconut, but I never notice it interfering in the recipe!

Not only do I make these for travel and just any old time to have in the house, I also bake about three batches at the holidays to give as gifts to all my kids’ teachers and people who work at their school. I bake them in paper loaf pans, wrap them up, and tie off with a pretty ribbon. It makes a great gift!

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Ingredients

cups wheat flour (or 3 1/2 c all-purpose flour)
1 3/4  cups sugar
tsp baking soda
tsp Kosher salt
tsp cinnamon
tsp nutmeg (about 1/3 fresh clove freshly grated)
3/4  cup coconut oil (or 1c vegetable oil)
1/2  cup water
eggs
15-oz can pumpkin
tsp vanilla

Directions

1.  Preheat oven to 350°F. Grease and flour pans.
2.  In a medium bowl, sift together the dry ingredients (flour through nutmeg). In a large bowl, mix wet ingredients (oil through vanilla). Slowly blend the dry ingredients into the wet ingredients.
3.  Bake in the preheated oven.
  • Loaf pan: 50-60 minutes
  • Mini loaves: 30 minutes
  • Muffins: 20-25 minutes
  • Mini muffins: 17-23 minutes

Notes

–  I like to melt the coconut oil, but then you need to be careful adding it in to the wet ingredients, so you don’t scramble your eggs!
–  You can make it in a standing mixer. I used to do it all by hand, but it’s a lot of batter and gets pretty tiring!
–  You can freeze the muffins for 3 months.
–  If making a half batch, use these measurements:
1 1/3 c wheat flour (1 1/2 c all-purpose flour), 1 c sugar, 1 tsp baking soda, 1/2 tsp salt, 1/2 tsp cinnamon, 1/2 tsp nutmeg, 1/3 c oil, 1/4 c water, 2 eggs, 1 c pumpkin, 1/2 tsp vanilla

Play dough Recipe

After posting my shape play dough mats, I thought you might like a recipe for some homemade play dough! The boys’ preschool teachers gave me this recipe, and it worked out really well. For those of you with really little ones, you don’t have to worry so much if they happen to eat some of it!

Ingredients:

  • 4 cups of flour
  • 1 cup of salt
  • 4 cups of water
  • 4 tablespoons of oil
  • 1/2 cup of cream of tartar
  • Food coloring

Instructions:

  1. Mix all ingredients in a saucepan, including color.
  2. When it is well mixed cook over low heat.
  3. Mix continuously until it is the consistency of play dough. You won’t be able to stir it any longer.
  4. It will still need to be mixed a little, so put it on a cookie sheet and let cool for a while. Then mix with your hands until it is all mixed

There are lots of ways to change up the recipe:

  • Try adding spices. For example, in the fall or at Christmas: 4-8 tablespoons of cinnamon and a bit of allspice, cloves, and/or nutmeg.
  • Add some extract for scent. For example: 4 teaspoon almond extract, 4 teaspoon ginger.
  • Or add scent with some essential oils. You can add the essential oils to the oil in the recipe before adding it to the other ingredients. Different scents can also have a therapeutic effect. For example: frankincense for focus, peppermint for energy, lemon for clarity, citrus for creativity, lavender for comfort.

Tips:

  • Be forewarned! If you add color, your hands will also take on some color. Try some rubber gloves!
  • You can buy Cream of Tartar at Amazon or a warehouse store. It keeps for quite some time.
  • This recipe makes quite a lot! You could divide it up, using different colors and scents.
  • Store in an airtight container or zip top bag. But don’t close it up until the dough is completely cool!
  • Try to get your little ones to help. They can measure, pour, and mix ingredients. And they can knead the dough after it cools.

Next time we make some play dough, I’ll take some pictures of the steps!

Christmas Punch

My very favorite memory from living in Germany is going to the Christmas markets in December. In every town, the market square is transformed into a holiday wonderland. Charming stalls go up from which vendors sell their handmade crafts, food, and drink. It feels like stepping into the magic of Christmas!

I only got to spend two Christmases in Germany. But both times, I made sure to visit as many Christmas markets as I could.

Every town in Germany – as with Austria and Switzerland – has a Weihnachtsmarkt. And every town has its own special Christmas mug. So as you stroll through the wonderland, you can keep warm as you sip your hot drink. For the adults, there is Glühwein, a mulled wine with spices like cinnamon and cloves that is served piping hot. For me it was an acquired taste. But as I made my way from one market to another – Freiburg, Mainz, Worms, Nürnberg, Rothenburg ob der Tauber, Rüdesheim, and Innsbruck, just to name a few – I came to love that warm red wine that tasted like it was flavored with Christmas itself.

As I was only in Germany as an adult, I never bothered to try the children’s version of Glühwein. For them, there is an alcohol-free Kinderpunsch. Since I was visiting Froggy’s 1st & 2nd grade class today to share some of Germany’s Christmas traditions, I decided to bring them some Kinderpunsch. I found a few recipes online and tried them out until I got it right. Of course, I had no idea how it should really taste! So AP3 helped out 🙂  She had never made it herself, but she certainly knew if I’d gotten it right or not.

Here is the recipe that I came up with:

  • 1 liter of fruit tea (I used Celestial Seasonings decaffeinated rooibos pomegranate tea)
  • 1 liter of orange juice
  • 1 liter of grape juice
  • about 1/2 packet (about 5g) of vanilla sugar (I found Dr Oetker’s at my grocery store in the international section. I’ve also bought some from Savory Spice Shop.)
  • 1 tablespoon of honey
  • 2 or 3 cinnamon sticks
  • 3-5 whole cloves
  • 1 small lemon, sliced

Brew the tea in a pot. Then add the remaining ingredients and heat on low. I put my cinnamon sticks and cloves in a muslin bag, so they would be easy to remove. The longer you let the punch simmer, the more time it has to blend the ingredients. Serve warm and enjoy!

The children had mixed reactions, of course! Some loved it. For others, it was not quite their cup of tea!

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