Portable Pumpkin French Toast

This is another take on my Baked Blueberry French Toast, but I wanted to see if I could make it into muffins so that it would be more easily portable for tailgates and other parties.  They turned out beautifully!  Wonderful flavor, very appetizing, and easily served and held, this will be a new favorite.  Of course, you can still make it in a large pan if you prefer; the yummy results are the same!
Pumpkin French Toast Muffins with Streusel Topping
makes approximately 16 jumbo muffins or servings
1 large French Bread, Boule (round) cut into cubes
8 eggs
1 1/2 cups milk (whole or 2%)
1 cup half and half
½ cup pure maple syrup
¾ cup pumpkin puree (not pumpkin pie mix)
¼ cup granulated sugar
2 tsp.maple extract
1 Tbsp. Pumpkin Pie Spice
1 cup chopped dates
2 cups chopped pecans
 
Streusel Topping:
1 cup sweet butter
1 cup oats
1 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup chopped pecans (optional)
2 tsp. Pumpkin Pie Spice
Mix all together with a pastry blender until there are large crumbles.  Store refrigerated.
 
Preheat oven to 400F. Spray 2 or 3 – 6 cup jumbo muffin tins (or a 9″x 13″ baking dish) with nonstick cooking spray.
 
Place the bread cubes into a large bowl.
 
In another large bowl or 8 cup measuring cup, lightly whisk the eggs, milk and half and half, pumpkin, maple syrup, sugar, maple extract and pumpkin pie spice.
 
Whisk the mixture until blended, then pour over the bread and toss gently with a spatula.
 
Mix in the dates and pecans, taking care to ensure they are evenly distributed (the dates are sticky; you can toss them with a little sugar before adding if you’d like. Let the mixture sit for 15 minutes, gently tossing a couple of times to ensure the bread absorbs most of the custard mixture.
 
Use a one-cup measure to scoop the mixture into each muffin cup, packing down just slightly.  Sprinkle with about a tablespoon of the streusel topping.
 
Bake for 25 minutes, until a small knife inserted into the center of a muffin (or the casserole) comes out clean. 
 
Remove from the oven and then cool for 20 minutes before carefully removing from the pan (run a small offset spatula around the sides, then gently slide under the bottom of the muffin to lift out).
 
NOTE: the dish can be assembled up to the point of baking, then covered and refrigerated overnight. In the morning, set the dish out at room temperature for 15 minutes while your oven preheats, then bake (uncovered), 30-40 minutes for the muffins and 50 minutes for the big pan. You can serve with maple syrup although since there’s some in the batter and streusel on top you don’t really need to, which makes the muffins perfect tailgate fare…sweet and full of maple goodness without being messy or sticky!  Also serve with lots of love (and eggs, bacon or sausage if you desire). Bon appetit! 🙂
 
 
Pumpkin French Toast Muffins
 
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Bread-Pudding-like Pumpkin French Toast Muffins are a delicious grab-and-go breakfast.
Author:
Recipe type: Breakfast
Serves: 12
Ingredients
  • 1 large French Bread, Boule (round) cut into cubes
  • 8 eggs
  • 1½ cups milk (whole or 2%)
  • 1 cup half and half
  • ½ cup pure maple syrup
  • ¾ cup pumpkin puree (not pumpkin pie mix)
  • ¼ cup granulated sugar
  • 2 tsp.maple extract
  • 1 Tbsp. Pumpkin Pie Spice
  • 1 cup chopped dates
  • 2 cups chopped pecans
  • Streusel Topping:
  • 1 cup sweet butter
  • 1 cup oats
  • 1 cup brown sugar
  • ½ cup chopped pecans (optional)
  • 2 tsp. Pumpkin Pie Spice
Instructions
  1. Preheat oven to 400F.
  2. Spray 2 – 6 cup jumbo muffin tins (or a 9"x 13" baking dish) with nonstick cooking spray.
  3. Make the Streusel Topping: Mix the butter, oats, brown sugar, chopped pecans and spice together with a pastry blender until there are large crumbles. Store refrigerated.
  4. Place the bread cubes into a large bowl.
  5. In another large bowl or 8 cup measuring cup, lightly whisk the eggs, milk and half and half, pumpkin, maple syrup, sugar, maple extract and pumpkin pie spice.
  6. Whisk the mixture until blended, then pour over the bread and toss gently with a spatula.
  7. Mix in the dates and pecans, taking care to ensure they are evenly distributed (the dates are sticky; you can toss them with a little sugar before adding if you’d like.
  8. Use a one cup measure to scoop the bread mixture into the prepared muffin tins.
  9. Top with about a tablespoon of the streusel.
  10. Bake for 25 minutes, until a small knife inserted into the center of the muffins comes out clean. Remove from the oven and then cool for 20 minutes before carefully removing from the pan (run a small offset spatula around the sides, then gently slide under the bottom of the muffin to lift out).
  11. NOTE: the dish can be assembled up to the point of baking, then covered and refrigerated overnight. In the morning, set the dish out at room temperature for 15 minutes while your oven preheats, then bake (uncovered), 30-40 minutes for the muffins and 50 minutes for a 9" x 13" pan. You can serve with maple syrup although since there’s some in the batter you don’t really need to, which makes the muffins perfect on-the-go breakfast or tailgate fare…sweet and full of maple goodness without being messy or sticky! Also serve with lots of love (and eggs, bacon or sausage if you desire). Bon appetit! 🙂

Quick, Easy and Delicious ~ Cookie Butter Fudge!

If you haven’t tried Cookie Butter (Biscoff, Speculoos Butter, etc…), you’re missing out on an amazing treat!  A spread like peanut butter but made from cookies, this is everywhere in Europe but has recently started to gain popularity here.  It’s as versatile as peanut butter and the lovely subtle gingerbread-cinnamon flavor is warm and comforting.

It’s delicious as a spread on bagels and toast, apples, pretzels and such.  I’ve made ice cream with it that was an amazing treat.  And recently on the Tasty Kitchen site, I found this recipe for Cookie Butter Fudge…and there was no question I had to give it a try!

Super simple, with only 4 ingredients (although next time I think I may sprinkle crushed Speculoos Cookies over the top of the fudge before chilling, for added flavor and pizazz), it’s a snap to make and only needs to be refrigerated for a couple of hours, so it makes a wonderful in-a-hurry potluck/party/tailgate dessert or hostess gift.

Cookie Butter Fudge
from Tasty Kitchen, post from Claire

4 Tbsp. sweet butter
1 cup cookie butter spread (Biscoff, Trader Joe’s, etc…)
1 14 oz. can sweetened condensed milk
5 cups powdered sugar
1 cup finely crushed Speculoos cookies (optional)

Line an 8″x 8″ square pan with heavy duty foil and spray lightly with non-stick cooking spray.
In a large bowl, melt the butter in the microwave (approximately 30 seconds).

Add the cookie butter and sweetened condensed milk and microwave for 20 seconds at a time, stirring at each interval, until the mixture is melted and smooth.

Stir in the powdered sugar a cup at a time, mixing thoroughly after each addition.  The fudge will be smooth and thick.

Pour it into the prepared pan an pat down evenly with your finger tips.   If desired, sprinkle the top with the finely crushed Speculoos cookies and press into the fudge.

I pressed a piece of waxed paper directly on top of the fudge (to prevent a dry “skin” from forming on the top), then covered the pan and refrigerated overnight (you just need to chill for at least two hours).

Lift the fudge out of the pan using the foil and cut into squares.  Enjoy!

It’s Dinner in a Pumpkin, Charlie Brown!

This is such a fun recipe to make during the Fall, fitting especially for National Pumpkin Day, of course, but it’s also a festive way to serve a crowd of kids and adults alike.  Serving it in different ways can dress it up for company, it tastes wonderful, and it’s nutritious to boot!
Dinner in a Pumpkin
 
1 ~ 4-5 lb. pumpkin or 2 -3 small pumpkins (use pie pumpkins); this makes 6-8 servings
2 Tbsp. butter, melted
Kosher salt and pepper
1 lb. ground beef
1 onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 cup rice
2 tsp. fresh thyme
1 tsp. fresh rosemary
5 fresh sage leaves
1 can diced tomatoes (I use fire roasted with jalapenos for just a little kick)
2 cups low sodium beef broth
1 cup gruyere cheese (or whatever cheese you prefer; cheddar is good too)
Preheat oven to 350F.
Cut the tops off the pumpkins and scoop out the seeds and strings.

Set inside a 9”x 13” pan that’s been sprayed with cooking spray and set aside.

Brush the insides and tops with the melted butter and sprinkle with salt and pepper.

Chop the herbs together and set aside.
Heat a large pan and add the ground beef, onion, garlic, and rice.  Cook, stirring often, until the meat is browned.  Add the tomatoes and herbs and stir until combined, then add the beef broth.   Bring the mixture to a boil.
Remove from the heat and fill each pumpkin about halfway with the meat and rice mixture.  Top with a ¼ cup of the cheese, then add more meat and rice until the pumpkins are almost full.
Replace the tops and bake approximately 50-55 minutes, until the pumpkin is soft on the inside (but not collapsing on itself).
Top each with more cheese, replace the top and return to the oven for 5 minutes more, until the cheese is melted.
Remove from the oven and let the pumpkins sit for about 5 minutes.  You can cut the small pumpkins into halves or thirds to serve, or (especially if you’re using a big pumpkin), just scoop the meat and rice mixture out and scoop out some of the pumpkin flesh along with it, and serve in bowls.  You can sprinkle with more thyme to garnish, and even some freshly grated Parmesan Cheese too.
You can also cook a cup of dried macaroni and stir that into the finished meat mixture before putting into the pumpkin, instead of using rice.  You can use ground turkey if you like as well, and you can add more vegetables, like diced bell peppers.
This is a delicious and healthy meal that is fun to make and eat, especially for kids.  They can help you scoop out and fill the pumpkins (with supervision).  It’s a great meal for Halloween; you can prepare it earlier in the day and heat it while your little goblins are getting ready. After all, what better way to eat dinner before Trick-or-Treating than out of a pumpkin?  Enjoy!
Dinner in a Pumpkin
 
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This is a delicious and healthy meal that is fun to make and eat, especially for kids. They can help you scoop out and fill the pumpkins (with supervision). It’s a great meal for Halloween; you can prepare it earlier in the day and heat it while your little goblins are getting ready. After all, what better way to eat dinner before Trick-or-Treating than out of a pumpkin? Enjoy!
Author:
Recipe type: Dinner
Serves: 8
Ingredients
  • 1 ~ 4-5 lb. pumpkin or 2 -3 small pumpkins (use pie pumpkins)
  • 2 Tbsp. butter, melted
  • Kosher salt and pepper
  • 1 lb. ground beef
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 cup rice
  • 2 tsp. fresh thyme
  • 1 tsp. fresh rosemary
  • 5 fresh sage leaves
  • 1 can diced tomatoes (I use fire roasted with jalapenos for just a little kick)
  • 2 cups low sodium beef broth
  • 1 cup gruyere cheese (or whatever cheese you prefer; cheddar is good too)
Instructions
  1. Preheat oven to 350F.
  2. Cut the tops off the pumpkins and scoop out the seeds and strings.
  3. Brush the insides and tops with the melted butter and sprinkle with salt and pepper.
  4. Set inside a 9”x13” pan that’s been sprayed with cooking spray and set aside.
  5. Chop the herbs together and set aside.
  6. Heat a large pan and add the ground beef, onion, garlic, and rice.
  7. Cook, stirring often, until the meat is browned.
  8. Add the tomatoes and herbs and stir until combined, then add the beef broth, and bring the mixture to a boil.
  9. Remove from the heat and fill each pumpkin about halfway with the meat and rice mixture.
  10. Top with a ¼ cup of the cheese, then add more meat and rice until the pumpkins are almost full. Replace the tops and bake approximately 50-55 minutes, until the pumpkin is soft on the inside (but not collapsing on itself).
  11. Top each with more cheese, replace the top and return to the oven for 5 minutes more, until the cheese is melted.
  12. Remove from the oven and let the pumpkins sit for about 5 minutes.
  13. You can cut the small pumpkins into halves or thirds to serve, or (especially if you’re using a big pumpkin), just scoop the meat and rice mixture out and scoop out some of the pumpkin flesh along with it, and serve in bowls.
  14. Sprinkle with more thyme to garnish, and even some freshly grated Parmesan Cheese too.
  15. Option: Instead of using rice, cook a cup of dried macaroni and stir that into the finished meat mixture before putting into the pumpkin. You can also use ground turkey and add more vegetables, like diced bell peppers.

Pumpkin Cupcakes Worth Repeating

You can never have too much pumpkin, especially in the Fall, and my Pumpkin Streusel Cupcakes with Maple Cream Cheese Frosting are perfect for at-home munching, tailgate parties, or a lovely dessert.



The cupcake recipe is adapted slightly from the Pumpkin Patch Cupcakes in Martha Stewart’s Cupcakes:

  • Preheat your oven to 350F and line muffin tins with cupcake papers. 
  • Sift together: 4 cups cake flour, 1 tsp. baking soda, 1 Tbsp. plus 1 tsp. baking powder, 1 teaspoon salt, 1 generous Tbsp.pumpkin pie spice, 1 Tbsp. ground ginger, and 1 tsp. salt.
  • With your mixer on medium-high, cream together 1 cup sweet butter (at room temperature) and 2 1/2 cups packed light brown sugar until pale and fluffy.  Add 4 eggs ~ one egg at a time ~ beating until incorporated.  Scrape down the sides of your mixing bowl as necessary. Reduce the speed to low and add the dry ingredients in three batches, alternating with two additions of 1/2 cup buttermilk (for a total of 1 cup).  Mix just until combined.  Add 1 1/2 cups canned pumpkin puree (not pie filling) and beat just until combined.
  • Use a 1/4 cup measure or scoop to fill your cupcake cups about 3/4 full.  Top with a spoonful of Streusel Topping: with a pastry cutter (or two butter knives) combine 1/2 cup cold butter, 1/2 cup quick cooking oats or chopped walnuts or pecans (your choice), 1/2 cup packed dark brown sugar and 2 tsp. pumpkin pie spice.  You will have leftover topping, which is delicious on a loaf of pumpkin bread or on top of a fresh coffee cake.
  • Bake the cupcakes until they are golden brown and spring back lightly when you touch them in the center, approximately 18 minutes.  Cool n the pan 10 minutes, then remove to a wire rack to cool completely before frosting.

  • For the Maple Cream Cheese Frosting: combine 2 (8 oz.) packages cream cheese, softened, with 1/2 cup room temperature sweet butter.  Mix at medium-high speed until smooth and creamy.  Add a tsp. of Maple Extract and mix just until combined. Add in 4 cups (1 lb.) powdered sugar and mix until smooth.  Add in a few tablespoons of heavy whipping cream and mix at high speed until the frosting lightens and becomes fluffy.  (It won’t be as light as whipped cream, of course, but you will notice a definite difference in the texture.)  *NOTE: I usually make the frosting the night before so it has a chance to set up; this way it will hold it’s shape if you use a pastry bag and tip to frost. 
  • When the cupcakes have cooled completely, frost them with a pastry bag and tip or an offset spatula.  Decorate as you wish (I used Maple Jelly Beans on this batch). Store them in the refrigerator and take them out about a half hour before you plan to serve them.

It’s okay to eat Pumpkin Streusel Cupcakes with Maple Cream Cheese Frosting during any season…but I do especially crave them in the fall.  And I know you and your fellow pumpkin fans will love them too.  
Bon appetit!

Say “Oui!” to Crock Pot Normandy Pork!

This past weekend a dear friend and I visited Le Potager, a a lovely French store that carries beautiful home decor items, including antiques.  They were in the midst of their annual French Apple Harvest event, which included a sampling of delicacies made with apples galore.  The French Bean Salad with a Cider Vinegar Dressing was delicious, as was the Apple Sorbet, which I plan to make soon!  But the best dish was a beautiful stew with pork, apples, shallots and cider…so wonderful that I couldn’t wait for them to post it on their website and looked up the recipe online that very night.  I made it for dinner this evening, and it was every bit as tasty as it was before, so I just had to share this with you!

I will say that there are a few steps and it does take time to prepare ~ although once you get it into the Crock Pot you’re free for the next 6 hours.  It isn’t difficult, though, and as usual, when I highly recommend a recipe that is more time consuming it’s because I think it’s well worth it.  And this one definitely is.  The complete recipe can be found here: Crock Pot Normandy Pork with Apples, Shallots & Cider.

Normandy, in Northwest France, is known for its farms and orchards, specifically apples and pears.  Many of the traditional dishes in this region are made with apples, and augmented with Calvados, apple brandy made in Lower Normandy (Basse-Normandie).  

Below are my pictures and notes for you.

The major difference in my preparation was because I used my slow cooker that has the capability to brown and sear meats and vegetables and then shift to slow cooking (to ostensibly use less pans…although this recipe required lots of dishes anyway).  So instead of pouring the sauce into the Crock Pot and adding the apples to heat while browning the shallots and meat in another pan, I did the browning in the pot set at a 425F saute, then turned it to slow cook on high setting, added the apples, and poured in the sauce. It tasted exactly the same, so if you have the slow cooker with this capability, feel free to use it.  In fact, it may have added even a little more depth to the sauce because all the juices from the meat and shallots were in the same pot.

Here are the ingredients:

To thicken the chicken stock, heat the stock and add a mixture of 1 Tbsp. corn starch and 1 Tbsp. water whisked together until smooth.  Stir over low heat until you have the desired thickness.  Then add it to the other sauce ingredients.

Next, peel the shallots (it’s a lot of shallots…which are like onions…so if you have a great way to peel without crying, please let me know…I was a mess when I finished this step!)  Cut the pork into large cubes, trimming off any big pieces of fat.

Brown the shallots in your pan or slow cooker set to saute.  You want them to get coated with a lovely caramel color.  Then add the Balsamic Vinegar and stir, and remove from the pan.  Add the meat and brown it in stages; you want a great sear and caramel color here too, as it adds a ton of flavor, especially to slow cooked meats.  Do this in batches if you need to.  Don’t crowd the pan or the foods will steam rather than sear and you won’t get the color or flavor you’re going for.  (This is why I love my slow cooker with the ability to sear, saute and slow cook in the same pot…if you use your Crock Pot often this may be a good investment for you.)

Cut up your apples (the recipe says to cut them in half but I cut them into quarters as they were pretty big). Add the pork, shallots and apples to the pot and pour in the sauce mixture.  Note: I took the Thyme leaves off the stems and mixed them into the sauce so I wouldn’t have to fish out the branches later.  I also sprinkled some additional Thyme leaves on top before serving each individual dish.

I think the colors here are beautiful.  When a dish looks this pretty before it’s done you know it’s going to be good!

And Voila!  Now you can cover and let it cook for about 6 hours (the recipe says 6-10 hours but mine was done at just under 6…if you want or need to cook it for closer to 10 you might want to turn it to low heat after the first couple of hours).

When it’s just about done, you’re ready for the last ingredient that will really boost the flavor: a couple of Tbsp. of Calvados (or a little more if you like…)    If you don’t want to use it you don’t have to, or if you’d prefer to just spoon a little over the top of each serving, you can do that as well (that’s what they did at Le Potager and it gave it a more elegant feel, as well as being delicious).



This dish is so flavorful, and very satisfying without being heavy.  Serve it with rice, or even more French, with mashed potatoes.  Don’t be put off by the fact that it takes a little more time to prepare, it’s absolutely worth it.  It makes a lovely meal for a small or large group (this will serve about 8).  It’s a dish that can be made the day before and then reheated in the Crock Pot, so it’s versatile too.  Give this a try and enjoy ~ Bon Appetit!

Crock Pot Normandy Pork
 
Prep time
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A delightful and delicious slow cooker meal with apples, shallots and pork in a beautiful sauce that includes apple brandy.
Author:
Recipe type: Dinner
Cuisine: French
Serves: 8-10
Ingredients
  • 3 lbs pork shoulder, trimmed of fat & cubed
  • 4 -6 apples, cored & halved
  • 1½ lbs shallots, peeled
  • 1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
  • 2 Tbsp. butter * I use Land O' Lakes Butte with Sea Salt and Olive Oil; it has great flavor and a higher smoke point.
  • 1 Tbsp. olive oil
  • ½ pint sweet apple cider
  • 2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
  • 6 ounces creme fraiche or 6 ounces sour cream
  • 2 Tbsp. Dijon Mustard
  • ¼ pint chicken stock, thickened
  • fresh thyme or 2 teaspoons dried thyme
  • salt
  • black pepper
  • 1 -2 tablespoon calvados or 1 -2 tablespoon brandy
Instructions
  1. Trim the pork of any thick fat and cut into large cubes of about 4" square or even bigger - it shrinks with cooking & works better with larger pieces of meat.
  2. Peel the shallots and set to one side.
  3. Halve & core the apples and set to one side with the shallots.
  4. Turn the crockpot onto High. Mix the cider, apple cider vinegar, creme fraiche, mustard, salt & pepper, thyme & thickened chicken stock together in a bowl and pour into the crockpot.(If using fresh thyme - add it last.) Add the cored and halved apples and replace the lid while you brown the pork & shallots.
  5. Heat up half the butter and half of the olive oil in a large skillet or wok-type pan, one with fairly high sides. Or, if you have a slow cooker that has settings to sear, make it all in the cooker.
  6. As soon as the butter is very hot but not burning, brown the shallots in batches - you want the shallots to have a deep caramelized color and to be just softened on the outside. When all the shallots are done, put them all back into the pan - turn up the heat & add the balsamic vinegar and stir briskly making sure all the shallots are well coated.
  7. Add the shallots & Balsamic vinegar mixture to the crockpot.
  8. Heat up the remaining butter and oil, adding more if necessary & start to brown the pork pieces, again do not overcrowd the pan - they need to be well colored & seared to seal in the juices. As the pork pieces finish browning, add them to the crockpot.
  9. When all the ingredients have been added to the crockpot, give all it a good stir with a wooden spoon. If using fresh thyme, pick about 4 large sprigs and place on top of the Normandy Pork - the leaves fall off during cooking & leave the bare branches for throwing away!
  10. Cook on high for between 6 - 10 hours.
  11. Just before serving, pour in Calvados and mix through. Serve each person with 2 -3 pieces of pork, a cooked apple half and 1 or 2 shallots; add a dollop of creme fraiche on the side & garnish with Thyme & a fresh Apple sliver if desired.
  12. Pour the remaining sauce and serve alongside; for extra flavor, add just a few drops of the Calvados on top of each serving (adults only for this, please)!
  13. This is beautiful served on top of a dollop of mashed potatoes.
  14. To cook in an conventional oven: follow recipe as above, but cook in a La Creuset type oven proof dish; pre-heat oven to 350F and cook slowly for about 6 hours, checking after 4 hours. It will cook quite happily for up to 8 hours if this helps in your time management, you may have to turn the oven down to 250F after 4 hours for a long slow 8 hour cooking time.
Notes
There are many recipes for Crock Pot Normandy Pork found on the web. This is my adaptation of the one on Food.com.