healthy pumpkin muffins

I've never been a "holiday spirit" kind of person. Growing up, my family never made an occasion of anything; each year, I heard my friends talk about decorating sugar cookies, baking pies, dying easter eggs, and setting off fireworks. I think it was childish jealousy directed at all that unbridled holiday joy over the years that has faded into general indifference.  I guess that makes me kind of a humbug. 

But all that has changed, because this last weekend, after a quarter of a century of existence, I finally carved my first pumpkin for the First Annual Freehand Jen and Rob Pumpkin Carving Competition. 

Drum roll, please, for my entry...

I know. It's awesome. You can say it. Does it maybe play into some stereotypes? Sure. I'm Asian and I have a soft spot for Hello Kitty. Some stereotypes are just plain true. 

And now for my worthy competitor's entry:

Are you slightly confused?  For clarification, refer to the following picture for a glimpse into the artist's "inspiration."

A fine effort, for sure, but not really quite there, I'm afraid. After this crushing defeat, Rob has vowed to come back with a vengeance next year. Until then, we will also be going head-to-head in Thanksgiving pies, Christmas cookies, and Hanukah latkes.  

I'm sure the rest of you veteran pumpkin-carvers know how unbelievably messy the whole process is. After four hours of intense concentration, I was covered in stringy goop and and could not escape the overwhelming smell of pumpkin. You'd think that this would deter me from pursuing all things orange for awhile, but instead, I am a woman possessed. 

First up: pumpkin muffins. I used mostly whole wheat flour, and cut down on the usual amount of sugar, although you can add more if you prefer a sweeter treat. I think they're perfect for breakfast with a cup of tea, especially on mornings where the fall chill in the air makes getting out of bed a bit harder than usual.  

healthy pumpkin muffins
makes 12 muffins

1 ½ cups canned pumpkin puree
⅓ cup vegetable oil
2 large eggs
2½ teaspoons pumpkin pie spice*

½ cup brown sugar
½ tsp baking soda

1 tablespoon honey
½ tsp salt
½ cup all-purpose flour
1 cup whole wheat flour

1 teaspoon baking powder

Preheat oven to 350 F. Line cupcake pan with baking cups or parchment paper. (Cut squares of parchment paper and press into cups.)

Mix together pumpkin, oil, eggs, pumpkin-pie spice, sugar, baking soda, and salt in a large bowl until smooth and homogenous.

Stir together the flours and baking powder.

Add dry ingredients to the pumpkin mixture. Mix until just combined.

Pour batter into each muffin cup, filling each to about ¾ full.

Bake for about 18-20 minutes, or until muffins are puffed and golden brown. When muffins are done, a wooden toothpick inserted into the center of the muffin should come out clean.

*Note: if you don't have pumpkin spice, make your own!  
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
1/8 teaspoon nutmeg