Sunday, April 29, 2012

Cilantro-Lime Vinaigrette

Picture used from Google Image

I'm having the minister's wives over for lunch on Tuesday.

I've settled on a menu . . . but it's only Sunday, so I'm liable to change my mind 10 more times before I head to the grocery store!

I'll be serving a green salad and I was flipping through some recipe books looking for a new dressing. 

I normally go to one of my 3 favorites because I know they're delicious.

But I'm branching out a bit for this lunch.

I saw this recipe in a Southern Living book and it sounds great!

I think it would be great drizzled poured over some greens with some sliced mango, purple onion, and avocado!

I think it would also make a great chicken marinade -- or fish too!

Let's make a new dressing together!

Cilantro-Lime Vinaigrette

1/2 cup cider vinegar
2 tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro
1 teaspoon grated lime rind
2 tablespoons lime juice
Click to see savings

1 tablespoon honey
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup olive oil

Whisk together first 6 ingredients; add oil in a slow, steady stream, whisking constantly until smooth. Whisk well before serving.

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Corn dog Casserole

Corn Dog Casserole Recipe

True confession:  this sounds gross!

It does!

True confession:  we ate it.

We did!

Worked all day.

Ran home.

Had  45 minutes before the girl cherub had to be at dance and the Mr. and the boy cherub had to leave for the Rangers/Yankees game.

Cooking dinner is much cheaper than going out.

Remember this!

Not "this" -- but that statement before it.

It's true.

You're like me.  You look in your cabinets at "stuff" and say, "There's nothing to eat."

We're spoiled.

It's true.

But this isn't an editorial about our abundance.

It's a blog about food.

I look in the freezer.  There are hot dogs.

Not any ol' hot dog.  The boy cherub is particular.

They're Hebrew National hot dogs.  The fat free ones -- or whatever they call them.

I had a box of jiffy cornbread mix.

Because everyone should keep a box of that stuff.  It's handy.

I had onion.

We made dinner!

Corn dog Casserole

1 jiffy cornbread mix
1 package of hot dogs, cut into bite size pieces
1/2 onion, chopped
1 egg
3/4 cups milk
1 cup cheddar cheese, or to taste

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.

Chop onion and saute in pan in a smidge of oil.

When the onions are soft, add the hot dogs and continue cooking until the onions are a caramel color.

In a bowl mix the cornbread mix, egg, and the milk.  Stir until well combined.  Add the cheddar cheese, onion/hot dog mix and stir well.

Pour into a 8X8 pan (or 9X9) that's been sprayed with Pam.  Bake for about 30 minutes or until done and golden brown.

Serve with mustard . . .after all, it's kinda like a corn dog!

I served chips and fresh mango for a complete meal!   The only problem with this -- it was all kind of the same color!  Next time, I'll go for strawberries; that'll break the orange/yellow on the plate!

Sunday, April 22, 2012

Matt's Easy Ranch Chicken

This weekend we were busy.

Between homework, baseball games, laundry, and a wedding  -- there wasn't much time for anything else.

Saturday afternoon, the Mr. says, "We need to think about what the cherubs are doing for dinner." 

Mind you -- it's 2:00 and we leave for the wedding at 5:00.  Everything is in the freezer.

My mind wandered . . . what would I feed them?

I grab the crock pot -- because that's what first comes to your mind when you're in a hurry, right?!

I throw in some chicken and a seasoning packet and turn it to high.

It cooks.

The cherubs and the dude who came over to hang out with them said it was good.

My boy cherub said it was "blog worthy."

While there's no picture of the dish, there is the endorsement of a 13 year old boy and a 25 year old single guy!  That's a pretty strong support!

In honor of the brave man who ate something I had never made and didn't have a recipe for, I bestow the honorary naming of the new crock pot recipe to him!

I do feel the need to give a disclaimer:  since I didn't taste this, I don't know if it needed more seasoning; if you could reduce the amount of water --in case it was too "juicy"; or if noodles would be better.  I'll make it again and any changes to the recipe, I'll update.  You can always feel free to make a comment on how you made it better too!

Matt's Easy Ranch Chicken

1 pound boneless, skinless chicken (I used tenders)
1/2 onion, thinly sliced
1 package dry ranch dressing mix
1/3 cup of water
1/2 package of cream cheese, cubed

Spray the crock pot with Pam.

Place onions on the bottom.  Top with frozen chicken.  Sprinkle dry ranch mix over the meat. 

Turn the crock pot on High, if you're in a hurry, or low if you're not!

Just prior to serving, place the cubed cream cheese in the crock pot and allow to melt.  Gently stir around to make a "cream" sauce.  *I broke the tenders into chunks when stirring.

Serve over rice.

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Strawberry Sugar Cookie Bars

Confession:  this is a trial and error recipe.

The thought is there.

The family liked it.

I would change a thing or two.

The family doesn't care what I change -- as long as I make it again!

We debated what to call this.

It's kind of like a sugar cookie.

But it's thick like a cake.

It's dense like a shortcake.

It's moist like a  .  . .

Ummm.  I don't know what it's moist like.

It's just moist.

I would add more frosting.

The family says there's enough.

What I think I like about this recipe is the flexibility!  If you want a buttercream frosting -- do it!  If you don't have time for homemade frosting, use a canned frosting.  I think a cream cheese frosting topped with some chopped fruit would be tasty too. 

This dessert is like an artist canvas, just waiting to be colored!  (Gag!)

Point is -- there's no wrong here! 

Strawberry Sugar Cookie Bars

1 cup unsalted butter, at room temperature
2 cups granulated sugar
4 large eggs
1/8-1/4 tsp. Fiori di Sicilia flavoring (or 1 TBSP vanilla)*
5 cups flour
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon baking soda


1/2 cup of butter
3-4 TBSP strawberry jam
3-4 cups powdered sugar, sifted
6-8 strawberries, diced; optional
milk, as needed (1-2 tsp. at a time)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

In a large bowl, cream the butter and sugar on medium-high speed until light and fluffy, about 2 minutes.

Reduce the mixer speed to medium and add the eggs, one at a time, mixing well after each addition.

*  Add the flavoring of your choice.  I used the Fiori di Sicilia because I like citrus and strawberry together; but vanilla is just as good.  Use what you've got!

In a separate bowl, whisk together the flour, salt, and baking soda, mixing well.

Reduce the mixer speed to low and slowly add the flour mixture to the butter mixture. Mix until thoroughly combined.

Bake for 20-25 minutes.   DO NOT OVERBAKE!!!  When you touch the center of the cookie-ish, there should be some give to it.  It's better to underbake than overbake.  Remember, it will continue cooking once you remove it from the oven.  (They should be light golden brown).

Let the bars cool completely.

To make the frosting, cream the butter and the strawberry jam together.  Slowly add the powdered sugar, 1/2 cup at a time, until you reach the desired consistency.  If your mixture becomes too thick, add 1-2 tsp. of milk, alternating with the powdered sugar.  Create your frosting to your desired thickness.

Gently stir in the fresh chopped strawberries.

Frost cooled cookie bars. 

Store in the refrigerator.

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Egg-cellent Gift-Giving Idea

Last week, my cherub went to a birthday party.

Here's what stresses me out about 10 year old girl parties:

 .  . .the gift!

There are so many choices . . .
and kids have so much these days . . .

Point is this:  I really prefer to give money.

But giving "just money" isn't very fun.

So, on a whim, my cherub and I came up with this money-giving idea.

She decorated an egg carton!

Together, we tore up 3 coordinating printed papers into pieces.

Not tiny pieces -- just pieces.

She then used mod podge to glue the paper on, in random patterns.

Once it was glued on, she put another coat over the entire outer surface.

She let it dry over night.

Then we took colored plastic eggs and filled each one with money.
Put a little card in it that said "Happy Birthday" and that was it!

There you go!

Gift is done!

And it was cute!

And my cherub did it by herself.

This concept can be translated to other means items . . .not just egg cartons . . .
which by the way, since the birthday party was on Easter weekend, it made perfect sense!

Some of you craft-loving, glue-gun-waving people are probably saying, "that's so yesterday!" 
And you're right!

Many of you have already let your mind run wild with the possibilities of paper and mod podge . . . while I'm just thrilled I even had a jar of the stuff in the game closet!  Clearly, it was an oversight from when I cleaned out the junk! 

What I liked about this idea:
  • it up-cycled or re-cycled -- or whatever the new term is now these days
  • it was different than the other gifts that were there .  . . and we like being different
  • my cherub did it -- a great learning experience
If you're into crafting, or not, maybe my cherub and I have inspired you to try a new project . . . or maybe you can see our limited ability and give us a suggestion of something else to use mod podge with! 

Either way, here's to a little creativity!

Monday, April 16, 2012

The Mr.'s favorite: Hummingbird Cake

A long time ago my papa's wife, Hap, made this cake.

She called it "Dr. Bird Cake."

I have no idea why . . .but I do know I liked it, even as a little girl.

One summer, I was staying with them.  Hap was a great baker and she made this cake during the week I was there.

We were down to one piece of cake left.

We were going to save it for dessert after dinner and all share it.

That was the deal.

We shook on it.

Me and my pa-pa did.  We had a deal.

I went "to town" with Mee-Maw (that's what I called her that Summer.  I was all the time changing the name I called her.)

We came home and the cake was gone!

For a home-sick little girl, that's all it took!

I cried!

And cried!

And cried!

My pa-pa was mean!  He'd take advantage of any situation to get a good laugh!

Even a crying little girl.

Not just any little girl!

His first grandchild!

He let me go on and on . . .

and call my mom and dad . . .

before he pulled the plate out of the cabinet that held the last piece of cake!

I can still hear him laughing!

Years later, I found this recipe and made it for Easter Sunday lunch.

It quickly became the Mr.'s favorite cake for Easter!

I think the only time I make this cake is for Easter lunch!

The Mr. begs for me to make it!

I knew the cake to be called "Hummingbird Cake."

When I told my mom about this "new" cake -- she said, "Oh!  That's an old cake.  That's the cake Hap made and she always called it Dr. Bird cake!"

Whatever you call it, you're gonna love it . . . you might even cry when the last slice is gone!

Hummingbird Cake

3 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
2 cups sugar
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
3 large eggs, beaten
1 cup vegetable oil
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 (8-ounce) can crushed pineapple, undrained
1 cup chopped pecans
2 cups chopped bananas

Cream Cheese Frosting
1 (8-ounce) package cream cheese, softened
1/2 cup butter or margarine, softened
1 (16-ounce) package powdered sugar, sifted
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 cup chopped pecans

Combine first 5 ingredients in a large bowl; add eggs and oil, stirring until dry ingredients are moistened. (Do not beat.) Stir in vanilla, pineapple, 1 cup pecans, and bananas.

Pour batter into three greased and floured 9-inch round cake pans. Bake at 350° for 25 to 30 minutes or until a wooden pick inserted in center comes out clean. Cool in pans on wire racks 10 minutes; remove from pans, and cool completely on wire racks.

For the frosting:  Beat cream cheese and butter at medium speed with an electric mixer until smooth. Gradually add powdered sugar, beating at low speed until light and fluffy. Stir in vanilla

Spread Cream Cheese Frosting between layers and on top and sides of cake of cooled cake; sprinkle 1/2 cup chopped pecans on top. Store in refrigerator.

Friday, April 13, 2012

Super Easy Peanut Butter Cookies

A recipe this easy shouldn't be allowed.

This is ridiculous!

If you like peanut butter, then you're in business.

There will never be the excuse of:
  1. I don't have the ingredients.
  2. I don't have time.
  3. It takes too much stuff for the recipe.
  4. Or whatever other reason . . .
This kind of recipe makes you look like one fantastical amazing person!

This cookie recipe only has 3 ingredients!

 . . . and the result is one big taste!

If you want to be a fancy-pants, just drizzle the cooled cookies with chocolate; either melted chocolate almond bark or chocolate chips melted in a baggie.

3 Peanut Butter Cookies

1 egg
1 cup peanut butter
1 cup sugar

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Using a mixer, combine all ingredients until well blended.

Drop by whatever cookie size you want.

Bake for 9-12 minutes, depending on size and desired doneness.

Allow to cool on cookie sheet for 3 minutes before removing to wire rack to cool completely.

Thursday, April 12, 2012

chicken lasagna

This is the only picture I could find that resembled my friend's
pasta dish.  This is not my picture -- I found it on the internet.

Not long ago, I was invited into the secret club of pokeno.

This is a girl's night out club.

Need I say more?

When I say "invited in" I only mean as a guest -- subbing for a night -- not the "invited in to stay" kind of gig!

It's all "oh, we'll have a great time, dinner and playing . . .bring a gift for the game."

Sounds fun, right?

It's cut throat!

During dinner, it's all "We're so glad you're here . . .and lots of laughing."

Then the game starts and the cut-throat playing begins!

First you win prizes . . .then they can get taken away from you.

Those girls don't care if you're new . . .they want the prize!

There's a great possibility you'll go home empty handed!

It's hard for me to even talk about the night . . .but what I can talk about is the dinner!

It was fantastic!

Because at a gathering of cut-throat pokeno playing girls, the hostess is busting out the best!

We had an appetizer that was fantastic.

Then a wonderful casserole and salad
followed by tempting dessert!

The hostess was kind enough to share the recipe . . . I think she said it was from Southern Living.  But don't let that scare you; the ingredients are simple and so is the assembly!

Chicken Lasagna Florentine

2 cups chopped cooked chicken
1 (10 3/4-ounce) can cream of mushroom soup, undiluted
1 (10-ounce) package frozen chopped spinach, thawed and well drained
2 cups (8 ounces) shredded Cheddar cheese
1 (6-ounce) jar sliced mushrooms, drained and chopped (the chop is optional; it's my preference)
1/4 teaspoon pepper
1 cup sour cream
6 lasagna noodles, cooked and drained
1 cup grated Parmesan cheese
3/4 cup to 1 cup chopped pecans

Stir together chicken and next 6 ingredients.

Arrange 3 noodles in a lightly greased 9X13 baking dish; top with half of chicken mixture. Repeat layers with remaining noodles and chicken mixture. Sprinkle with Parmesan cheese and pecans.

Bake, covered, at 350° for 45 minutes; uncover, and bake 15 minutes or until bubbly. Let lasagna stand 15 minutes before serving.

To Make Ahead: Cover and chill. Let stand at room temperature 30 minutes before baking; proceed as directed.

*If you desire a thicker lasagna; simply double the ingredients.
**You could also double the ingredients and assemble in 2, 9X9 pans.  Serving one now and freezing the other for later.

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Fresh Broccoli Salad

I made this salad to go with our Easter lunch.

It was been awhile a long time since I made it last and I had forgotten how easy and wonderful it is.

The first time I had this side salad, I was in graduate school.

I was young!

I was poor!

And anything that was homemade was great!

I went to school and I worked as a secretary to a professor.

Most of the other secretaries were wives of the men who were in school -- so many of them took me under their wing and helped me right along.

We would have salad luncheons and this salad showed up almost every time . . .and I was impressed!

I was early 20's and living on steamed veggies and toast . . .
unless my parents came to town and went to the grocery store for me!

But I remember loving this salad then . . . and now!

Fresh Broccoli Salad

4 cups chopped broccoli
4-6 slices of cooked bacon, crumbled
1 cup raisins
1/2 of small red onion, chopped
handful or more of cashews, optional (the recipe I have doesn't include the nuts)
1/2 cup mayonnaise*
1 1/2 tsp. sugar
1 TBSP red wine vinegar

Whisk the mayonnaise, sugar, and vinegar together.
*This dressing amount is half of the original recipe.  If you prefer a saucier salad, simply double the amount of the dressing ingredients.

Place the remaining ingredients in a bowl.  Pour the dressing over the veggie mixture and toss to coat.  Serve immediately.

If you are not serving immediately, do not add the bacon or cashews until ready to serve so they do not become soft.

*This isn't a great salad leftover.

Monday, April 9, 2012

Speedy Quick Alfredo Sauce

Not my picture; not my pasta.
Image used from the internet.

My family loves pasta.

As in, they would not complain if I served pasta every night of the week.

I would complain.

They would not.

My girl loves Alfredo sauce.

Matter of fact, a real "treat" to her is when I let her get a lean cuisine meal for dinner!  She always gets the chicken Alfredo!

Now, my boys, they are a classic red sauce.  I'll post that recipe later -- but today is for a quick Alfredo sauce.

I made this when we were having friends over for dinner.

It was such a hit.  It's great because these are normal ingredients and you are not having to start with a basic white sauce. 

This recipe is basically melting cheese together!

And even I liked it! 

You want to know what I liked about this sauce -- it was thick. 


Not a thin little white sauce that you're kind of scraping the plate with your noodles.

This is a substantial, stick to the noodles, kind of sauce.

If that bugs you -- but you like the way this tasts -- just add some more milk to your desired consistency!

Speedy Quick Alfredo Sauce

4 TBSP butter
1/2 tsp. chopped garlic
1 pkg. cream cheese
2 tsp. garlic powder
2 cups milk
6 oz grated Parmesan cheese
1/8 tsp. black pepper
1/8 nutmeg, optional

In a large sauce pan, melt the butter.  Add the chopped garlic and saute until fragrant; being careful not to burn the garlic.  Add in the cream cheese and stir until melted.  Add in the garlic powder and the milk, whisking quickly until the milk is incorporated and the sauce is smooth. 

Add in the Parmesan cheese, a bit at a time, whisking until the cheese is melted and sauce is smooth.  Season with the black pepper and the nutmeg, if desired.

Serve over hot cooked pasta. 

Add grilled chicken or steamed broccoli to the sauce for a complete "meal in one!"

Friday, April 6, 2012

It's a Tie

Our boy cherub is in a new phase of life.

The teenage years.



This week he wore, for the first time, a tie.

He and the Mr. went shopping and brought home 4 shirts and 4 ties.

No pants.

My cherub selected the shirt and tie that he liked best with his khaki uniform pants.

He got dressed.

He felt "weird."

He looked handsome.

He wore his dad's shoes this day.

There's something sobering to watch your boy walk out the door in his dad's shoes . . .

When we watched our cherub walk across the stage, we were so proud of him!  He is
  • far more funnier than we could ever try to be.
  • far smarter than we could ever imagine.
  • far more grounded than we could have hoped.
  • far more humble than we have taught.
  • far more than we deserve.
Son, you know:  "You're my favorite little boy!" 

Here are some pictures of my cherub getting ready for the induction ceremony.

The Mr. had no time to teach his cherub
how to master the tie . . .
when all else fails, let dad do it!

The Mr. and his boy after the event.
Don't look at the Mr.'s shirt -- it'll make
your eyes go crazy!

Oh my word, he's the cutest thing ever!

Thursday, April 5, 2012

No Knead . . .Bread

As you think about having company this weekend
and you look over favorite recipes and plan your menu,

you may want to add this recipe to your list of "must haves!"

Homemade bread!

You can't go wrong!

Making bread can be so . . . .

Sometimes it can be finicky . . .
Sometimes it can be down-right frustrating!

This recipe, though, is neither!

I found this recipe on "Tasty Kitchen" and I've made it 3 or 4 times now and I've had the same success each time!

Sometimes I make loaves and sometimes I make Parker House rolls. 
Once, I even made cinnamon rolls! 

Matter of fact, since I've started making this, I've not bought bread at the store.  I make 2 loaves a week, place in the freezer and remove them when we're in need to bread. 

While this is a "no knead" bread, it is not a quick bread!  You can make the dough, which goes very fast, but depending on the warmth of your kitchen, it will take several hours for the rising, then punch down, and rising again -- so plan accordingly, but you don't have to hover around the house all day to get your bread made!

No Knead Bread

3 cups Warm Water
2 TBSP Yeast
½ cups Sugar
½ cups Vegetable Oil
2 tsp Salt
6 cups To 7 Cups  Flour
1 stick Butter

In a large mixing bowl dissolve yeast in warm water with 1/4 teaspoon sugar.

When the yeast has activated, add all other ingredients, except butter, and stir well with a wooden spoon or a stand mixer with a dough hook until all ingredients are incorporated. Avoid over mixing and do not knead the dough. Just stir it.

The dough is soft and will be somewhat sticky, not drier like other roll doughs that you may be used to using.

Cover bowl and let dough rise until doubled in bulk. Punch dough down and let it rest for a few minutes.

Melt the butter in a small bowl. Prepare a baking pan by greasing the pan with some of the melted butter or spray with Pam.

To shape a Parker House style roll, divide the dough in half and roll out one half of the dough on a well floured counter top until about 1/2-inch thick. Using a round biscuit cutter, cut out circles of dough. Stretch the dough just a little lengthwise and dip one half into melted butter. Fold dough over in half and place on the pan. Place the rolls close to each other in rows. Repeat with remaining half of dough. Work the left-over dough from the two dough halves together to finish making your rolls. You should be able to get 32 rolls on a large baking sheet (4 rolls across and 8 rolls down).

For loaves, divide the dough in half.  Using 2 loaf pans, spray well with Pam and place the dough into the prepared pans.  You can "shape" it, if that's your preference, or you can simply place it in the pan, stretching a bit to make sure the entire pan is covered with the dough.

Cover rolls or loaves and let rise again until almost doubled in size. Bake at 375ºF for 20 minutes or until the rolls are golden brown. Brush hot rolls with additional butter if desired.

Note: This dough can be kept in the refrigerator for at least a week and the dough just pulled off as you wish to use it to make cinnamon rolls, scones, pull-aparts, hot rolls or bread sticks during the week.

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Slow Cooked Mexican Meat

 A couple of weekends ago we had lunch with some friends after church and my friend made a fantastic meal.

I asked her to share the recipes with me . . .
which really means I'm sharing them with you!

By the way -- I asked her if I could post it here and she said "Yes!" 

It's your lucky day!

She served this fantastic meat so we could make soft tacos.  It was spicy and perfect!

It was delicious!

How do you say "delicious" in Spanish?

I don't know, but I do know you'll want to make this meat  . . .and don't forget to make the Green Chili rice to serve with it!

Slow Cooked Mexican Beef

1  (4 pound) chuck roast
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon ground black pepper
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 large onion, chopped
1 1/4 cups diced green chili pepper*
1 teaspoon chili powder
1 teaspoon ground cayenne pepper*
1 (5 ounce) bottle hot pepper sauce*
1 teaspoon garlic powder


Trim the roast of any excess fat, and season with salt and pepper. Heat olive oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Place meat in hot skillet, and brown meat quickly on all sides.

Transfer the roast to a slow cooker, and sprinkle onion over meat. Season with chili peppers, chili powder, cayenne pepper, hot pepper sauce, and garlic powder. Add enough water to cover 1/3 of the roast.

Cover, and cook on High for 6 hours, checking to make sure there is always at least a small amount of liquid in the bottom. Reduce heat to Low, and continue cooking for 2 to 4 hours, or until meat is totally tender and falls apart.

*My friends uses exactly 1 large can and 1 small can of chopped green chilies
*Cayenne can be very spicy; add sparingly or leave out if serving to small children or wimps.
*She says that a 5 oz bottle of hot pepper sauce is, and I quote, "waaaaaaaaaaaaaaay Toooo much."  She only uses about 1/4 of the 5 oz bottle.  Which would be about 1 TBSP, I'm guessing.

Monday, April 2, 2012

Pumpkin Muffins

The baked goods at Starbucks are really delicious.

But honestly, they're over-priced.

For what you pay for one muffin or loaf slice, you can just about make enough to feed your family for a week.

Ok, maybe not that much, but close!

The Mr. loves the pumpkin muffins from there;
and since he bought me 40 cans of pumpkin on sale the other day, I'm trying out all kinds of recipes!

I've never had a Starbucks pumpkin muffin (Gasp!), but the Mr. surely has and he says these are just as delicious!

And so does my friend, Julie.

I took her one for breakfast . . .at Starbucks! 

We meet there every Wednesday morning before Bible study.

It's a religious experience.

I can't remember which website I found this recipe at, but I made some minor changes.  Here's my recipe, which is really their recipe, only tweaked.

How do you credit that? 

I'm not sure . . .
I'll ponder that!

Pumpkin Muffins
3 cups flour
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 teaspoon nutmeg
1 teaspoon ground cloves
4 teaspoons pumpkin pie spice
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon baking soda
4 eggs
2 cups sugar
2 cups pumpkin
1 ¼ cups vegetable oil
8 ounces cream cheese
3/4 tsp. King Arthur pumpkin flavoring, optional; divided
chopped pumpkin seeds, or walnuts, or pecans (optional)
Preheat oven to 350.

Put the softened cream cheese in a bowl and stir in 1/4 tsp. pumpkin flavoring (or vanilla if you wish).   Place cream cheese on a piece of wax paper or parchment paper and shape it into a long log.  Put it in the freezer while you mix and fill the pans, up to an hour

Unwrap cream cheese and cut with a sharp knife so each cream cheese disk equals 1-2 teaspoons (or the number of muffins you are making.  This is a guess:  I was able to make about 28 muffins.)  If the cream cheese disks are too big around, cut thick slices and then cut them in half. This lets you push it down into the batter easier.

Mix flour and the remaining 10 ingredients together (except cream cheese and nuts).  If you do not have cinnamon, nutmeg, and cloves, add an additional 3 tsp. of pumpkin pie spice to the mixture.  This is a very "spicy" muffin.

Fill muffin tins (greased or paper cups) half full.

Put cream cheese disc in the middle, pressing down.

Sprinkle with 1 tsp chopped nuts, if desired.

Bake at 350 for 20-25 minutes, until a toothpick comes out clean from the muffin part, careful not to "test" the cream cheese!

Let cool in pans for 5 minutes, then remove to racks to cool completely.