Squash Cupcakes? That sounds weird.

Let me just start by saying that just a couple of years ago I would not in a million years have even thought about this happening let alone thinking that it might taste good... good enough to get the squash and actually do it.  Never.
Things change.
Here we are two years later and me trying to get more in touch with food reality - as opposed to the fiction that we've managed to turn it into - means that for me I'm now not only considering putting squash in a dessert but actually really truly going and doing it.  Here's the kicker for me... it didn't just come with my food box this week - meaning that once it was included I had to find something to do with it and all - no, no... I ordered it... specifically to make pureed squash... specifically to try making these cupcakes.  I get a little confused if I think about it for too long.  Sometimes I get too proud of my awesome 'sustainable', 'seasonal' efforts... I want to pat myself on the back for being so damn amazing.  I just need to walk away from myself.
One of the reasons that this whole squash thing is a surprise to me is that I've never been a fan of the pumpkin pie.  I have these vague memories of trying my great Aunt Ina's pumpkin pie when I was a kid.  Here's a cool story:
Great Aunt Ina - who isn't just a vague memory but someone whom I remember very well - was the youngest of a family of four.  She had a brother very close to her in age (my great Grandad) and two sisters about eighteen (yup - for reals) years older.  The two older sisters basically brought up the younger two siblings.  Those two sisters ran the family farm and did crazy crap like make their own recipes and publish them and stuff.  I know, right.  So Aunt Ina inheirited her baking skills honestly.  She made this seriously sick candy popcorn every year for christmas.  Seriously.  She brought it in these huge bags - I could have easily skipped the whole meal just to gorge on that stuff.  That's just the beginning.  She was also pretty weird sometimes - like she always just stashed our gifts away in a trunk and didn't even take them out of the packaging... actually, maybe that's not so weird.  Anyway, I remember trying some of the pumpkin pie that she baked and thinking that it didn't totally suck but then I never ate it again.   I don't regret not eating pumpkin pie or anything because there is probably a whole lot of other crap that I can do with pumpkin that blows the pie thing outta the water - I just have to discover it.

Recently I saw a recipe for pumpkin cupcakes and it called for using shredded squash - so I don't even have to cook the stuff - I'm going to try that too... or I could use parsnips or something... oh yeah.  I got thinking about the idea of squash and spices and cream cheese icing and it just sounded appealing.  However, I've been kinda craving beets lately though so I'm seriously starting to doubt my ability to gauge what is truly 'a treat'.

Squash Cupcakes with Cream Cheese Icing
adapted from Canadian Living and Ina Garten
makes about 12 lg cupcakes

2 cups all purpose flour
1 tsp salt
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp nutmeg
1/2 tsp ginger
dash or two of allspice
1 cup sugar
1/2 cup buttermilk
1/4 cup vegetable oil (or whatever oil you want so long as it's fairly tasteless)
2 lg eggs
1 cup squash puree

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F.
Line a muffin tin with 12 liners.
Combine the flour, salt, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger, allspice and sugar together in a bowl and set aside.
Combine the buttermilk, vegetable oil, eggs and squash puree in another bowl and whisk together until they're completely mixed.
Add the buttermilk mixture to the flour mixture.  Stir until combined and everything is wet.  Laddle into the lined muffin tins until each is at least 3/4's full.
Bake for about 25 minutes or until a cake tester comes out of the middle cupcakes without anything sticking to it.
Cool completely

Cream Cheese icing:

1 pkg (4 oz) cream cheese, softened and at room temperature
1 tbsp unsalted butter
1 tsp vanilla
2 cups icing sugar

Combine the cream cheese and the butter together just until blended and smooth.  Add in the vanilla and blend.
Add the icing sugar by a 1/2 cup at a time.  Mix well after each addition.  Add more only until it reaches the thickness that you like.
Dollop onto the top of each completely cooled cupcake.

Oatmeal, Molasses Snacking Bread

I had this moment of complete panic.  It was followed very closely by another moment of utter resignation. Then I remembered that this is not me.
I'm not the person who freaks out at having the perfect gift... for everyone.  At making sure that every decorating details has been seen to.  At having a perfect meal on Christmas day.  I'm not that person.  There is nothing wrong with that person.  I like those people.  I even envy them a little... it's just that it's not me.  What prompted my short term meltdown was a food blog I was reading.  The blogger was listing her holiday to do's for gifts and cooking and baking and general jobs that needed to be done... it looked exhausting.  I was exhausted just reading it and then I had to reach for a paper bag to breath into because I think that I started to hyperventilate... and that's when all that crap went through my head and then I remembered... I'm not that person.
Good God - how completely and utterly freeing to remember that.  If I had to deal with my own expectations around gift buying/baking/cooking/decorating/card sending/etc as well as work (up to the 23rd no less)/survive concert season (the next two weekends are completely blacked out on my calendar)/be a single mom/refrain from becoming an alcoholic then I'm sure I would have to be committed by the 25th.
As it goes, we are getting a tree and we will decorate it.  There will be lights on it.  I might stick something up on my door.  I have sent one Christmas card (to the UK) and that will probably be it.
I will do some baking - I might participate in (but not host - ack) a cookie exchange where I have to make two batches of something.  For gift giving, I will be making:

Chex Mex
Lemon Curd
Cranberry scones in a jar
Oat Crackers

I will not be buying a lot of gifts.  At All.
I think that should just about cover it.  Any other cooking and/or baking I do will 100% be for my pleasure.  To be honest, the Chex Mex and Lemon Curd are for my pleasure too because I'll be keeping some of it to enjoy myself.
So I guess that my little breakdown accomplished something.  I've now completely and rationally thought through my own expectations and limitations around the christmas season.  If I exceed expectations then it's a bonus and if I don't then I don't really care.  I've listed publicly what I'm going to make and decorate and now I feel a lot better.  Thanks.

As a side note.  My Bestie KT has lent me her camera while D is in Burkina Faso with mine.  All these pics are because of her (you can send your thanks so me and I'll forward it along) so I decided to make her some bread as payment for the rental.  Since molasses and oatmeal are two of her favourite things in the whole world (after Mr G, her beautiful Kitties and ME of course) then I figured that this bread would be perfect for her.  XOXO  It turned out really weird looking but I think that's because of the loaf pan that I used - it was too small.

Oatmeal Molasses Snacking Bread adapted from Technicolour Kitchen
makes one large loaf

2 1/4 tsp (1 pkg) active dry yeast
3 tbsp molasses (I use unsulphured)
2 cups warm water
2 1/2 cups whole wheat flour
2 cups bread flour or all purpose (I used all purpose)
1 cups rolled oats
1/4 cup unsalted butter, melted and set aside
1 1/2 tsp salt

Combine the yeast, molasses and warm water together.  Mix and set aside for about 5 minutes - enough time for the yeast to bloom on top of the mixture.
Combine the flours (both), salt and the oats.  Add the yeast mixture to the flour mixture.  Add the melted butter to everything and mix until all is well combined.  Cover with a clean cloth and set side for about 30 minutes.
Turn the flour out to a lightly floured surface and knead for about 7 minutes or so (add flour if needed but no more than about a 1/4 cup).
Place the kneaded dough in a lightly buttered bowl (stainless steal is what I use), cover with a clean cloth (the same one maybe) and let it rise in a draft-free place for about 1 hour.
Once the dough has risen, remove from the bowl and knead just until you can form it into a loaf/rectangle shape.  Place in a large, buttered loaf pan.  Cover again with a clean cloth and let rise until doubled - about 1 hr.
Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.
Bake the bread for about 40 minutes or until the bottom sounds hollow when you knock on it (that's so weird but it works).
Cool and slice or share or give as a gift or make yourself some toast right then and there.

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St Michael's Choir School is celebrating it's 75th anniversary year of service to St Michael's Cathedral. Part of the school celebration is a trip to Italy where our boys from Grades 5 - 12 will be performing and celebrating Mass. This blog will be chronicling our adventures. Wanda Thorne is the Vocal Coach at St Michael's Choir School. Gerard Lewis is the Grade 7/8 Homeroom teacher at the Choir School.

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Wanda Thorne
St Michael's Choir School is celebrating it's 75th anniversary year of service to St Michael's Cathedral. Part of the school celebration is a trip to Italy where our boys from Grades 5 - 12 will be performing and celebrating Mass. This blog will be chronicling our adventures. Wanda Thorne is the Vocal Coach at St Michael's Choir School. Gerard Lewis is the Grade 7/8 Homeroom teacher at the Choir School.
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