Pumpkin Cream Cheese Muffins (Week 3)

Rachel Wunsch | Blog

Those early September days are like gold, and they never seem to last long enough. This particular morning started out cool, and with the warmth of the sun turned into a perfect afternoon to relax on a boat. I was spending Labor Day weekend with a solid group of college girlfriends on Lake Elmo, MN to celebrate one of the girls’ birthdays. Our get-together happened to be over one of my two-week sugar hiatuses, and in the current moment I was feeling proud of myself for making good choices all week.

As we know too well, the beginning of September is the time of year when pumpkin-spice-everything spreads its wings to evolve into a full takeover of our society’s food culture. So when a box of pumpkin spice cupcakes was passed around the boat, I wasn’t surprised. And I held strong! GO me. Meat, cheese and crackers would do just fine. (Thanks, German heritage.) It was when one of the girls took her second bite of cupcake to find that the center was a cream cheese filling that I internally lost my shit.

I mean, wouldn’t YOU? It was the first time all week that I was regretting my commitment to ban sugar, so I promised I’d make it up to myself… Well, here I am over a month later and I haven’t stopped thinking about that cupcake. This would sound insane to anyone without a sweet tooth, but the beauty of it is that it’s served as the inspiration for this week’s featured treat. It being a new recipe makes me overjoyed and a bit relieved to report its success, that it yields 27 muffins, and that I have fully made up for missing out last month. All is good and well over here, ya’ll.

PUMPKIN CREAM CHEESE MUFFINS

Ingredients

Filling:
– 8 oz. cream cheese / softened
– 1 c. powdered sugar

Muffins:
– 3 c. all-purpose flour
– 2 tsp. ground cinnamon
– 1 tsp. ground nutmeg
– 1 tsp. ground cloves
– 1 Tbs. + 1 tsp. pumpkin pie spice
– 1 tsp. salt
– 1 tsp. baking soda
– 4 eggs
– 1 tsp. vanilla
– 2 c. granulated sugar
– one 15 oz. can pumpkin puree
– 1 c. vegetable oil, or the like / I used coconut oil

Topping:
– ½ c. granulated sugar
–  c. flour
– 1½ tsp. ground cinnamon
– 4 Tbs. cold, unsalted butter / cut into small chunks

Directions
– Filling: Combine cream cheese and powdered sugar; mix until completely blended and smooth. In the bowl that you’ve mixed it, form into a clump and chill in the freezer until slightly firm, at least an hour. The mixture should be firm so that it’s less sticky, but soft enough to scoop into later.
– Muffins: Combine flour, spices and baking soda; mix well. In a separate bowl, combine the eggs, vanilla, sugar, pumpkin puree and oil. Using an electric mixer on medium speed, mix until well blended. Then add in the dry ingredients and mix with a spoon until just incorporated.
– Topping: Combine sugar, flour and cinnamon; mix well. Add in butter chunks and use a fork to blend it all together. The end result should be coarse and crumbly. Tip: Keep the topping cooled while not using so that it retains its crumbliness.
– Place paper muffin liners in a muffin tin, and add enough batter to each to just cover the bottom of the liners. Dig into your chilled lump of cream cheese filling and scoop a dollop to place over the layer of muffin batter, then add muffin batter on top so the cup is just over ⅔ full, for room to rise during baking. The cream cheese filling should be completely covered.
– Sprinkle crumb topping evenly over all muffins and bake at 350’ for 20 minutes.
– Transfer to a wire rack and allow to cool completely. (Although, I ate one warm and it was amazeballs.)

Please do enjoy more than one. You’ve earned it.

– XO

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Hot Apple Cider with Rum (Week 2)

Rachel Wunsch | Blog

Joel and I bought our first home together in Madison a couple years ago, and this spirited, heart-warming drink was an absolute hit at our housewarming party. While I’m typically not one to drink my calories, I can easily make an exception for this bad boy. Nearly zero effort is required aside from combining ingredients into a large pot, so you basically have no excuse not to make it. (You can thank me later, it’s cool.) 

HOT APPLE CIDER with RUM

Ingredients
– 8 c. organic or all-natural apple juice
– 1 apple / thinly sliced into discs
– 1 orange / thinly sliced into discs
– 2 cinnamon sticks
– 2 c. dark rum

Directions
– Combine the apple juice, apple and orange slices, and cinnamon sticks in a large pot and bring to a boil. Reduce to a simmer for 5 minutes or until aromatic. Keep warm over low heat for up to two hours.
– Removed from heat, add in the rum and serve warm.
– You’ll want to triple the recipe.

So whether you’re hosting a party of 10+ guests or keeping it chill with your sig other, give it a shot. It’s sure to lift your spirits.

See you next week!

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Dad’s Apple Pie (Week 1)

Rachel Wunsch | Blog

Welcome back! If you missed my last post, I introduced a list of highly festive (and delicious) recipes that I’ll be rolling out over the fall weeks to come. I couldn’t think of a better way to honor the magic and goodness of fall than by baking routinely with apples, pumpkin and a whole lotta cinnamon.

Now that you’re caught up… Apple pie is first on the list!

My dad baked a pie nearly every weekend when I was a kid, or at least that’s how it felt. So I grew up on this pie recipe and it will forever be a favorite of mine. His pies varied from the ever-classic apple to that of any type of berry he had on hand or which was growing in the garden. My dad is the kind of person who’s fun to bake with – he let me have the fun jobs while he took the more laborious and important ones… He peeled apples, I sliced; he measured ingredients, I mixed them together; he rolled the dough and formed it over the pie, I carved shapes on top with a knife and sprinkled the cinnamon-sugar. With apple pie being a staple in my dessert life, it just felt right to kick off my seasonal food adventure with it.

(Note: My dad’s crust recipe has always used alternatives to butter, but I used butter here to achieve a more flexible and binding dough for my fancy crust weaving.)

DAD’S APPLE PIE

Ingredients
Crust:
(this is enough for top and bottom crusts)
– 2½ c. all-purpose flour
-½ t. salt
– 1 c. butter / chilled
-½ c. water / chilled

Apple Filling:
– 8 c. tart apples (I used Jonagold) / peeled, cored, thinly sliced
– 1 c. sugar
– 2 T. all-purpose flour
– 2 t. ground cinnamon
– 1 t. nutmeg
– dash salt
– 3 T. butter / room temp

Also:
– one egg / beaten for egg wash
– cinnamon-sugar mixture

Directions
– Dough: Combine flour and salt until evenly combined. Gradually add cold butter in chunks until the dough is coarse. (I used a spoon to do this and then my hands for better control. Experienced baking folk would use a pastry blender.)
– Add the chilled water a bit at a time until the dough has the consistency that you’d like. I added it a tablespoon at a time until it held its shape, which ended up being the full half cup. You may add more if you’d like.
– Divide dough into two equal chunks; refrigerate until ready to use.
– Apple filling: Mix together the sugar, flour, spices and salt. Combine with apples until evenly coated. Set aside.
– Lightly dust a clean, DRY work area with flour. Roll out the first chunk of dough to be about 1/8″ thick, and large enough to cover the bottom of a 9″ pie pan. Place the rolled-out dough into a greased pie pan and form to its shape, trimming off excess dough from around the edges of the pan.
– Fill pie with apple filling.
– Roll out the second chunk of dough in the same manner as the first, for the top crust.
– If you’re feeling ambitious and would like to create a crust weaving or the like (as I have above), now’s the time to do it. After you roll out your second chunk of dough, slice into strips and go crazy! But for a standard pie crust, lay the rolled-out dough over the top of the pie, pressing the dough down around to the edges to seal up the pie. Trim off  extra dough that hangs over the edge. (By they way, you can totally eat these extra pieces. Do not deny yourself the beauty of tasting while you go!)
– Slice ventilation slits into the top crust to allow steam to release while baking. This is important!
– Brush the entire top pie crust with the egg wash and sprinkle with cinnamon-sugar.
– Cover pie loosely with tin foil to avoid a burnt crust. (Remove foil after 30 minutes and continue baking.)
– Bake for 45 minutes to 1 hour at 400’F.
– Let cool.

I admit – I only added that last step because I felt like I had to. Not many pies have been let to completely cool in the Wunsch household. Although a properly cooled pie certainly slices better to yield a more attractive piece, it never bothered us that it was falling apart on our plates in an irresistible, steamy, apple-cinnamon-y way.

See you next week!

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Falling For You (and you, and you…)

Rachel Wunsch | Blog

What you’re about to read will shock you so I won’t delay… I’m trading out donut calories this fall for ALL fall-related treats. I know – a nearly insane attempt to give up my No. 1 favorite food, but I have it aaaall figured out. Seriously guys, my own brilliance amazes me…

Let me begin by sharing that I occasionally give up sugar for weeks at a time in order to give my body a chance to reset – a practice that has helped my decision-making when it comes to choosing sweets in my normal, everyday, non-giving-up-sweets-for-weeks life. Much good has come from this, primarily just being conscious about enjoying sweets with intention, although it requires a bit of planning. (ie. Enjoy cookies at work now, or have ice cream at home later.)

So in preparation for fall and all the irresistible treats that come with it (which I will absolutely not force myself to choose between), I made a plan. First, I assigned myself a good, solid two weeks sans-sugar earlier this month. During this time of misery and anticipation, I did some research and carefully selected the recipes to make this season. I’m super excited to share it with you!

Wunschie’s Munchies: Fall Foodie Edition

  1. Dad’s Apple Pie
  2. Hot Apple Cider with Rum
  3. Pumpkin Cream Cheese Muffins
  4. Cinnamon Applesauce
  5. Pumpkin Chai Latte
  6. Apple Crisp
  7. Chewy Molasses Gingersnaps
  8. Baked Apples
  9. Pumpkin Scones + Cream Cheese Frosting
  10. Glazed Apple-Cinnamon Oatmeal Bread
  11. Pumpkin-Cran Breakfast Cookie

For those of you who have also fallen in love with every fall-related treat known to man and are in a state of panic over trying to find a way to enjoy them all before the season has passed, I hope this list brings you peace and inspires you to create your own.

See you soon!

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D is for Donut. And Diet.

Rachel Wunsch | Blog

I’m not really into diets. Like, at all in fact. But for how hard it’s become to ignore chatter on whatever newly trending diet is out there, I’m happy to report that until this point in my life I have never restricted a particular food from my plate. I ate healthy growing up and stayed active, so I never felt the need. As a secondary backup to my argument, I never appreciated the potential to feel guilty for indulging. Like, so… Cupcakes, pie, brownies. Some days, you JUST need to eat a cupcake. And a person should never feel guilty for eating a cupcake, because they are the second greatest food on earth.

The only “food fad” that ever really caught my interest was the Paleo diet. Its principles made sense to me, and I was intrigued by how a person might physically feel different (better, even?) by consuming only foods that our ancestors had access to. But then I was like wait, so… No bread or CHEESE? What is this madness?! It sounded majorly challenging, and I was unsure what my short or longterm goals were supposed to be… Does a person “go Paleo” and stay that way for a month? Ten months? Is it a lifestyle change? I did some research despite the fact that it sounded impossible, and seriously considered it. I even made a secret board on Pinterest to kickstart my potential commitment level. Baby steps, you know? 😉

When it came to the actual food part, I started small. I gave up pasta. For someone who ate pasta once a week (me), this felt like a big step. I went about three weeks without it and majorly surprised myself by making it that long. Then, on a busy weeknight I allowed myself to have it for dinner, and I remember that night in detail… — As I slipped the noodles into boiling water I considered the past three weeks and how surprisingly manageable it had been without my good friend Pasta around. I had been playing the replacement game – coming up with substitute foods; not hard to do. Then, after dinner when my plate was empty and soaking in the sink, I experienced for the first time the effects of what a being on a diet must feel like…

How can I describe it… It was like I had eaten a wet pillow and it had settled firmly in the bottom my stomach. Physically I felt slow, tired. I even remember feeling amazed at what I was experiencing. I had never given up ANYthing before so I never would have known how foods were effecting my body.

Skip ahead two years later and I only rarely eat pasta. But when I do, I enjoy it.

Then, enter: Whole30! After my pasta revelation, I found myself totally onboard with trying new things if it meant I would feel better physically in my everyday. Whole30 is another food fad in which one’s diet consists of foods in their purest form. Think meat, fish, veggies, fruit, nuts. Meanwhile, you can say your sweet farewells to alcohol, sugar, grains, and dairy. …I knoooow, I too was like WHAT THE F!! Obviously this is no easy task, and far different than giving up just pasta.

And all I can say, is it’s SO worth it. I have yet to complete the thirty days, but even after going strong for 5 or 6 days, holy smokes you guys, I could tell that this is really something. Overall it’s helped me more seriously consider what I put into my body, and it’s a good, good thing. As someone who struggles with general bloating, I think I finally found a solution. To confirm, I absolutely WILL do a full thirty days, but I’m happy waiting until summer is over. I’m typically on a version of Whole30 during the week, while I enjoy my weekends guilt-free. (Enter: Box of donuts from Greenbush Bakery.)

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