The days are still warm but the nights hold a chill, just a hint that fall is around the corner.
In the heat of summer, breakfast is often just fruit and yogurt or a cool smoothie. But fall calls for more substantial fare. Kids are heading off to school and time is at a premium too, so having meals both quick and hearty is a boon to busy homemakers. Back when I was seeing 8 kids out the door each morning I got in the habit of preparing breakfast the night before. It’s become a habit that still makes good sense, even though I now have only one child at home.
Oatmeal covered with a mixture of water and milk and then left to cook in a slow cooker works well. So do pancakes, cooked on a slow day and then frozen. Reheated in a cast iron skillet on the wood stove, this gives us a meal that tastes like I’ve been up since dawn.
By far, our favorite fall breakfast is muffins. Pumpkin is wonderful. My favorite pumpkin muffin recipe is heady with spices and rich with raisins and nuts. It tastes like dessert, but it’s a healthy alternative to some frozen stack of artificial ingredients from the local market. I use one of two strategies to give us warm muffins without spending an hour in the kitchen.
Sometimes I mix the dry ingredients in a bowl and the wet ingredients in a mason jar and leave it in the refrigerator. In the morning I preheat the oven and just toss the two together, leaving little mess and waking everyone to the scent of cinnamon and nutmeg.
Other times I make a double batch of muffins and freeze them. I pull them out the night before and, in the morning, warm them by setting them on a damp towel in a covered hot cast iron skillet. The damp towel creates just enough steam to warm the muffins. And here’s a secret. I almost always use leftover squash instead of pumpkin. If you are short some squash then fill in with applesauce. In fact, you can cut the oil and replace part of it with applesauce just for the reduced calories and enhanced moisture.
Following is my favorite muffin recipe. I can make it without looking now, but my daughter has no trouble locating it in my hand-written family cookbook as the page is well seasoned with batter and experience. I inherited this recipe from my mother-in-law. I have no idea where she found it. Try it yourself this fall, and enjoy a warm, hearty breakfast treat!
- 1 stick of soft butter (do not use margarine)
- ¾ cup brown sugar
- 1/3 cup molasses
- 1 cup mashed, cooked pumpkin (or winter squash)
- 1 beaten egg
- 1 ¾ cup flour
- ½ teaspoon salt
- 1 teaspoon baking soda
- 1 ½ teaspoon cinnamon
- 1 teaspoon nutmeg
- Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.
- Grease the muffin pan.
- Combine the soft butter, brown sugar and molasses in a mixing bowl and beat until smooth and creamy.
- Add the pumpkin and the egg and continue to beat well. You will still flecks of white but that’s fine.
- In a second bowl whisk the dry ingredients and add that to the mixing bowl.
- Mix in some raisins or chopped nuts if you have them. They aren’t necessary but they do add something special.
- Mix it until the flour is just incorporated. Too much mixing will leave your muffins too heavy.
- Spoon into muffin pans and bake for 15-18 minutes. Be careful. These muffins burn rather quickly. In fact, the original recipe called for them to be baked at 400 degrees but I burned every batch at that temperature. Sprinkling the tops of the muffins with some sugar before baking makes a lovely crust.