Every year I get excited when I see the little sugar-pie pumpkins at the market (some people call them sugar pumpkins, others call them pie pumpkins, so I call them sugar-pie pumpkins … which is also what I call my cat). They’re just so darn cute, not to mention they’re super good for you as long as you can find a way to eat them. I end up buying a couple too many, roast them, puree them and fill my little freezer to the point where we have to finish any ice cream we buy in one sitting because there’s just no room for it. Not that that’s a problem, I just have to set the expectation.
I’ve tried squash several different ways and I have to say I’m really just not a fan unless it’s in a baked good or mixed with copious, and I do mean copious, amounts of butter and/or sugar. I’m going to keep trying though, and one day I will find a way to eat squash that doesn’t involve flour and sugar but in the meantime I think these muffins are a mostly healthy way to start the day.
I call them Pumpkin PLUS Muffins because there’s so much that you can add to them to make them just the way you like. Don’t have pumpkin, but still have 3 kabocha squash from your fall garden? Use that! Leftover sweet potatoes from 2 nights ago still sitting in the fridge? Mush ’em up and use that instead. I always seem to have granola around, whether homemade or from a box, but it doesn’t get eaten with any regularity around here so I find this a great way to use it up. It also adds a wonderful chewy texture to the muffin as it absorbs some moisture but doesn’t turn to mush as it combines with the batter. If you don’t have granola (or just don’t like it) play around with any mixture of nuts, seeds, dried fruit, or heck, chocolate chips! You can also play around with the spices to your liking. I’ve used the traditional pumpkin pie spices which give these that warm, wintery flavor but if you’ve got something else you love, I’m not going to be hurt by your straying from the recipe. Lastly, while I really like the flavor and moisture that the cream cheese and sour cream bring to these muffins, they’re also delicious without. I put some of the cream cheese mixture in the middle of the muffins which bakes into the batter and makes the finished product richer and I put the rest on top so you know what to expect. And who doesn’t love a bite with a little muffin and a lot of cream cheese?!
I think what I like best about this recipe is the fact that it’s not picky. Some days I want to be told exactly what to do, but most days I want to be given a starting point and have some flexibility to play around. These muffins do just that and we could all use a little room for more creativity in our lives!