Monday, December 24, 2012

Happy Holidays!

Wishing you and yours a wonderful holiday season & a bright and happy new year!

Friday, December 14, 2012

Gluten-Free White Chocolate Raspberry Cheesecake

We had a holiday potluck last night for my book club and this yummy cheesecake was my contribution:

While I've made a traditional version of this before, this time I made it gluten-free (GF) since a couple of our book club members can't have gluten. It turned out that none of the GF members came last night, but everyone still raved about this cheesecake. It's just as delicious as the original. The crust is delightfully crunchy and chocolately - you really can't tell the difference! This will definitely be one of my go-to recipes from now own when I'm visiting or hosting GF friends - delish!

Gluten-Free White Chocolate Raspberry Cheesecake
1 c. gluten-free chocolate sandwich cookies (I used a box of these), crushed
4 Tbsp. white sugar
2 Tbsp. cocoa powder
2 Tbsp. butter, melted

2 cups (1 12-oz. bag) white chocolate chips
1/2 cup fat-free half-and-half
3 (8 ounce) packages cream cheese, softened
1/2 cup white sugar
3 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1/2 cup seedless raspberry jam

Preheat oven to 325°F.
Wrap a 9 or 10-inch springform pan in 2-3 layers of aluminum foil and spray the inside of the pan with oil.
In a small bowl, combine chocolate cookie crumbs, 4 Tbsp. sugar, 2 Tbsp. cocoa and 2 Tbsp. melted butter. Stir until well combined. Press into the bottom of a 9 or 10" springform pan.
Bring a small saucepan of water (or the bottom pan of a double boiler) to a simmer. Place a metal bowl (or the top of the double boiler) over the water. Add white chocolate chips and stir constantly until melted. Then stir in half-and-half until smooth. Set aside.
In a large bowl, beat cream cheese and 1/2 c. sugar together until creamy. Beat in eggs one at a time.
Add vanilla and white chocolate mixture. Beat just until fully mixed.
Heat raspberry jam in the microwave (or on the stove) until it's the consistency of a sauce.
Pour 1/2 of the cream cheese mixture over the top of your chocolate crust.
Drizzle 1/2 of the raspberry jam on top of that.
Top with the remaining cream cheese mixture. Then drizzle the top with the rest of the raspberry jam. Run the tip of a knife through the jam to create swirls, if desired.
Place the filled springform pan into a larger pan (such as rectangular cake pan). Fill the larger pan with hot water until water reaches 1/2 way up the sides of the springform pan. (This creates a water bath around your cheesecake, which will help prevent cracking or uneven baking.)
Bake cheesecake at 325°F for 55-60 minutes until cheesecake jiggles only slightly in the middle when moved. (It should jiggle as a whole, like gelatin. If it looks soupy at all - cook it a few minutes longer until it's done.) 

Cool for 1 hour, then refrigerate for at least 8 hours before cutting and serving.

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Homemade Christmas Gifts: Chocolate Espresso Crinkles & Cranberry White Chocolate Biscotti

When I was a child, my mother started a tradition of doing a big weekend of holiday baking, then giving out the treats as gifts for aunts and uncles, neighbors, coworkers, etc. It was a family affair. My mother, my father, my brother and I -- we all had a role to play. Still today, it's one of my favorite Christmas memories. That's why I continue to put baking high on my list of to-dos during the holiday season.

This year, I have several holiday parties to attend in the next couple of weeks, so I decided to put together homemade hostess gifts featuring chocolate espresso crinkles and cranberry white chocolate biscotti. (Both of these recipes freeze well, so you can bake all at once, then take portions out of the freezer as you need them.) I decided to #ChooseSmart and go to Smart and Final to get all my ingredients and gifting supplies.

I was able to get pretty much everything I needed in one stop (can't beat that during the busy holiday season!)--flour, sugar, eggs, butter, vanilla extract, chocolate, cranberries, parchment paper, carry-out containers and more:

I used some markers, ribbon and gift tags I had on hand to "gussy-up" the white take-out containers I bought:

Using gift tags to make custom stickers
A more elegant presentation - fabric ribbon & gift tag

Then I filled the containers with my new favorite cookie recipes this year (recipes below):

Chocolate Espresso Crinkles

White Chocolate Cranberry Biscotti

Close up the containers, add a bow and ta-da -- easy hostess gifts ready to go!

Fun with markers! (Holiday lights are very easy to draw - and don't they look cool?!)
What are your favorite holiday traditions? Leave me a comment - I'd love to hear from you!

To get inspired with holiday recipes and crafting ideas, check out the Smart and Final Social Circular, or follow Smart and Final on Facebook and Twitter.

Chocolate Espresso Crinkles
(Makes 3 dozen cookies)

6 oz. semi-sweet baking chocolate
6 Tbsp. salted butter
2 tsp. instant espresso powder
1/2 c. granulated sugar
2 eggs
1 tsp. vanilla extract
1 1/2 c. all-purpose flour
3/4 tsp. baking powder
1/4 tsp. salt
approx. 2 cups confectioner's (powdered) sugar, for rolling

Place water in the bottom of a double boiler and bring to a boil Chop semi-sweet baking chocolate and butter into small chunks and add to the top pan of the double boiler. Stir until the chocolate and butter melt and are fully combined. Sift espresso powder into chocolate mixture and stir until dissolved. Remove from heat.
In a separate bowl, beat the granulated sugar and eggs on medium speed for 3-4 minutes until pale and thick. Add the vanilla extract and chocolate/butter mixture. Beat on medium-low just until fully incorporated.
In another bowl, mix flour, baking powder and salt. Slowly add to chocolate mixture, continuing to beat on medium-low speed until the flour is fully combined.
Cover the dough and refrigerate at least 3 hours, or overnight.
Once the dough has firmed up, preheat oven to 325°F.
Line baking sheets with parchment paper.
Scoop dough out of bowl by the tablespoonful and roll between hands into 1" balls. Roll in confectioner's sugar until well coated. (The dough balls should be totally white - like powdered donut holes.)
Place on prepared baking sheets about 2" apart. Bake at 325°F for 8-10 minutes until powdered sugar forms cracks and tops of cookies just start to feel firm.
Remove from oven and cool completely before packaging (or freezing).

White Chocolate Cranberry Biscotti
(Makes 2 dozen biscotti)

2 1/4 c. all-purpose flour
3/4 c. granulated sugar + extra for dusting
1 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. baking soda
1 Tbsp. vanilla extract
2 whole eggs
2 egg yolks
1 egg white (for egg wash)
1/2 c. dried cranberries
1 c. white chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 350°F.
Mix flour, sugar, baking powder and baking soda in a large bowl.
In a separate small bowl, whisk together vanilla, whole eggs and egg yolks.
Add egg mixture to dry mixture and stir just until crumbly. Fold in cranberries and white chocolate chips.
Work dough together with your hands until well combined and evenly moist. Shape dough into 2 equal sized balls.
Place one ball of dough on well-floured board. Shape into a log that's about 14" long and 2-3" wide.
Place dough on baking sheet covered with parchment paper. Beat egg white and brush over the top of dough. Sprinkle with a few pinches of sugar.
Repeat the process of shaping the 2nd ball of dough, washing with egg white and sprinkling with sugar. The logs of dough can be placed at least 3" apart on the same baking sheet, or on 2 separate baking sheets.
Bake at 350°F for 30 minutes, turning baking sheet(s) 1/2 way through.
Remove from oven and cool for about 10 minutes.
One cool enough to touch, cut each log on an angle into long slices about 1" wide x 3-4" long.
Place slices cut-side down on parchment-lined baking sheets.
Bake at 350°F for another 15 minutes, flipping slices 1/2 way through.
Remove from oven and cool completely before packaging (or freezing).

I am a member of the Collective Bias™ Social Fabric® Community.This shop has been compensated as part of a shopper social insights study for Collective Bias™ and Smart & Final #CBias #SocialFabric. All opinions and recipes are my own.

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Things to Do in Southern California: Visiting the J. Paul Getty Museum

Hubby and I love to do little day trips on the weekend to make it feel like we're really "getting away from it all" - like the all the dishes and laundry and other household chores. One of our recent escapes was to the J. Paul Getty Museum at the Getty Center in Los Angeles.

It's about a 1.5 hour drive north of the San Diego area - and well worth it to visit. The museum hosts a variety of European paintings, artifacts and sculptures, as well as both American and European photography.

The building and grounds themselves are also very impressive to behold - with amazing gardens and views clear to the ocean.
Perhaps best of all, entry to the museum is FREE! If you drive to the location, all you have to pay is a $15 parking fee per car. That's probably the best deal you'll ever get for an afternoon's worth of entertainment in LA. 
And if all that wasn't enough, there is one last cherry to place on the top of the sundae:
Jelly & Nutella Sandwiches in the Museum Cafe!! (That was my first Nutella & jelly sandwich - but I can guarantee you, it won't be my last. Absolutely delicious!)

Sunday, November 18, 2012

Thanksgiving Makeover: Chocolate Pie

I'm not sure if it's really "traditional" Thanksgiving fare for most folks, but growing up, my grandmother always made chocolate pie to go along with the usual pumpkin & apple pie offerings. It was my brother's favorite--the only kind of pie he would eat. Even though I thought the cook & serve pudding pie was a bit rubbery, he loved it. Piled high with Cool Whip, he would carry his slice back to the kids' table, thanking Grandma along the way for making his favorite once again. At least until I was 12, and Grandma passed away.

One year after that, whoever had taken over dessert duties had forgotten the chocolate pie. And everyone noticed, not just my brother. Since then, my mother and I took over chocolate pie duties, firmly cementing it as a Thanksgiving tradition.
As I got older and started getting more into baking, I decided to elevate the humble chocolate pudding pie. And so this French Silk Chocolate Pie was born.

It is creamy, rich, chocolaty deliciousness that's sure to please the chocolate lovers in your life. Even though I won't be spending Thanksgiving with my actual family this year, this pie is definitely making an appearance at my adopted "California family's" Thanksgiving table!

French Silk Chocolate Pie
(Makes 1 9" pie)

1 unbaked 9" pie crust (use 1/2 of this recipe, or 1 store-bought crust)
1 c. (2 sticks) salted butter, softened to room temperature
1 1/2 c. superfine (or baker's) sugar
4 Tbsp. unsweetened cocoa powder
4 Tbsp. Hershey's® Special Dark cocoa powder
2 tsp. vanilla extract
1 cup egg beaters
whipped cream for topping (optional)

Preheat oven to 400°F.
Roll out pie crust to fit a 9" pie pan. Fold overhanging crust under the edges and crimp.
Cover crust with parchment paper and place pie weights (or 1-2 cups of dry beans) on top of the parchment to keep the crust from puffing.
Bake at 400°F for 12 minutes. Remove pie weights and parchment, and continue baking another 10-15 minutes until crust is fully cooked and lightly browned all over.
Cool completely.

Once the pie crust is fully cooled, begin making the filling (which you will not be baking). Using a hand or stand mixer, cream softened butter and superfine sugar until light and fluffy.
Add both types of cocoa powder and vanilla, and beat until fully combined.
Add 1/4 cup of egg beaters and beat mixture for 1 minute until egg is completely incorporated and mixture is fluffy and mousse-like.
Add another 1/4 cup and beat for another minute. Repeat with remaining egg beaters, beating for about 1 minute between each 1/4 cup addition.
Spread chocolate filling into baked pie crust.
Refrigerate for at least 1 hour. Serve with whipped cream, if desired.

(Be sure to store the pie in the refrigerator. The egg beaters are pasteurized, so it's safe to eat them raw, as long as they're stored at the proper temperature.)

Saturday, November 3, 2012

Pumpkin Cheesecake with Pecan Crust {Gluten-Free}

Wow! It has been a wild ride the last couple of weeks. We went back East to visit our families, narrowly escaped Superstorm Sandy on the way home, spent a night at the emergency vet with a sick kitty (she's fine now, thankfully) AND I started a new job! The new job is going well, though I've (re)discovered how tiring commuting can be. Still, I've managed to whip up a few yummies here and there.

One that I wanted to share are these mini-pumpkin cheesecakes:

They're made with a pecan crust, which makes them extra decadent -- and gluten-free!
I made them for a small get-together, so I went with minis (using my favorite mini-cheesecake pan) and that's the recipe that follows. But you can also make a full 10" pumpkin cheesecake by doubling the crust ingredients and tripling the filling. It would make a great addition to any Thanksgiving table!
Mini Pumpkin Cheesecakes with Pecan Crust
(Makes 12)
For the crust
1 cup ground pecans
1/4 tsp. ground cinnamon
1/4 tsp. ground ginger
2 Tbsp. brown sugar
1 Tbsp. butter, melted
For the filling
1 (8 oz.) package cream cheese, softened at room temperature
1/4 c. brown sugar
1/2 c. pumpkin puree (or canned pumpkin)
2 Tbsp. heavy cream (or milk)
2 Tbsp. maple syrup
1 tsp. vanilla extract
1/4 tsp. ground cinnamon
1/8 tsp. ground ginger
1/8 tsp. ground nutmeg
1 whole egg
1 egg white

Preheat oven to 350°F.
In a small bowl, combine ground pecans, 1/4 tsp. cinnamon, 1/4 tsp. ginger and 2 Tbsp. brown sugar. Mix well. Pour melted butter evenly over the mixture and stir until evenly moistened.
Distribute mixture evenly into mini-cheesecake tins. Press into bottom of tins, making about a 1/8"-1/4" crust.
Bake at 350°F for 8-10 minutes.
Let crust cool completely.
Increase oven heat to 375°F.
In a large bowl, beat softened cream cheese on medium speed until smooth. Add 1/4 c. brown sugar, pumpkin, heavy cream, maple syrup, vanilla, remaining spices, whole egg and egg white. Beat again on low to medium speed until there are no lumps.
Divide and pour mixture evenly into mini-cheesecake tins.
Bake at 375°F for 14 minutes.
Cool at least 20 minutes before removing from pan. (Run a knife around the edges to release the filling, if needed.)
Refrigerate at least 4 hours before serving.

Sunday, October 14, 2012

Pumpkin Date Scones with Maple Glaze

This past week, cooler temps finally came to Southern California - and I've been baking up a storm to take advantage of it! One yummy fall creation I came up with are these pumpkin date scones:

They have just the right amount of flakiness while still being moist - and have all the fall/pumpkin spice flavors I've been craving of late. The dates and maple glaze, while optional, add moisture and richness -- plus a little extra sweetness, as the pumpkin scone base itself uses little sugar. And while some scone recipes can be intimidating, this one is very easy - I promise (check out the helpful photos below). As long as the fall weather holds out, I see another batch coming our way very soon!

What's your favorite fall treat - pumpkin pie? apple cobbler? something else? I'd love for you to share!

Pumpkin Date Scones with Maple Glaze
(Adapted from King Arthur Flour - Makes 12)

2 3/4 c. all purpose flour
1/3 c. granulated sugar
1 Tbsp. baking powder
3/4 tsp. salt
1 1/2 tsp. ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp. ground ginger
1/4 tsp. ground nutmeg
1/4 tsp. ground cloves
1 stick (1/2 c.) cold butter, cut into 1/4-1/2" pieces
2/3 c. pumpkin puree
2 eggs
1 c. pitted dates, chopped into small pieces

For the glaze:
1/4 c. maple syrup
1/2 c. confectioner's sugar

In a food processor, combine flour, sugar, baking powder, salt and spices.
Add cold, cut-up butter and pulse until crumbly.
In a separate bowl, mix pumpkin puree and eggs until smooth. Then stir in the chopped dates.
Add the flour mixture to the pumpkin-date mixture and mix just until all the ingredients are evenly moist.
Dump the dough out onto parchment paper (or foil) and divide in half.
Form each half into a 5-6" circle:
With a sharp knife, cut into 6 wedges:
Carefully pull the wedges apart so there's at least 1" of space between each one:
Transfer the whole thing (parchment and all) to a plate, then place in the freezer for about 10-15 minutes. (This will help the scones "puff up.")
Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 425°F.
When oven is fully heated, remove plates from freezer and transfer parchment (& scones) to a baking sheets.
Bake at 425°F for 22-25 minutes, rotating baking sheets 1/2 way through. Scones are done when toothpick inserted comes out clean.
Set the scones aside to cool for a few minutes. While they're cooling, prepare the maple glaze by whisking together the maple syrup and confectioner's sugar until smooth.
Drizzle over the top of the scones.

Serve immediately, or store in a tightly covered container. Enjoy!

Monday, October 8, 2012

Vegetarian Enchilada Casserole

Have you heard about Meatless Mondays? It's a campaign spearheaded by the Johns Hopkins School of Public Health to get people to eat meat 1 less day per week, and in doing so, help reduce your risk of heart disease, cancer and obesity while also reducing your carbon footprint.

Now, I'm all about meatless meals. My husband, on the other hand, generally believes dinner isn't complete until meat makes an appearance. So, I'm always experimenting to see if I can turn some of his favorite recipes into meatless alternatives -- without complaint. This vegetarian enchilada casserole is a big win on that front. I've swapped out the usual chicken or ground beef for pinto and black beans for a meal that's still filling and packed full of protein. It happens to be gluten-free to boot. Plus, it's covered with yummy cheese - how can you not like that?!

I highly recommend giving this recipe on your next Meatless Monday - or any other day!
(Note, however, that this recipe is not reflux-friendly. I thought mild enchilada sauce would be OK, but I'm not quite ready for that yet, I guess. It was worth the Tums®, though!)

Vegetarian Enchilada Casserole
(Serves 4-6)

9 6-inch corn tortillas
1 1/2 c. mild enchilada sauce (or green salsa)
1 15 oz. can pinto beans, rinsed and drained
1 15 oz. can black beans, rinsed and drained
1/2 c. light sour cream
1/2 green bell pepper, diced
2 Tbsp. fresh cilantro, chopped
1 1/2 c. low-fat shredded Mexican cheese blend

Preheat oven to 350°F.
Tear 3 tortillas into 4 pieces each. Dip into enchilada sauce to coat thoroughly, then spread pieces out to cover the bottom of a 9" x 11" baking dish.
In a medium-sized bowl, mix pinto beans, black beans, sour cream, chopped bell pepper and chopped fresh cilantro. Spread 1/2 of the mixture on top of the sauce-coated tortillas.
Sprinkle 1/3 cheese on top.
Tear another 3 tortillas into 4 pieces each. Dip into enchilada sauce to coat, then layer evenly on top of sprinkled cheese.
Top with remaining bean/sour cream mixture.
Sprinkle another 1/3 cheese on top of that.
Tear the remaining tortillas into 4 pieces each. Coat well in enchilada sauce, then layer over the top. Pour any remaining enchilada sauce over the top. Sprinkle with remaining cheese.
Cover with foil, and bake at 350°F for 30 minutes.
Remove foil, and bake another 10 minutes until cheese is bubbly and starts to brown.
Let cool 10-15 minutes before cutting and serving.

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Celebrating with Dulce de Leche Cupcakes & #CoolWhipFrosting

As I get older, I realize more and more how important it is to show your love for friends and family members often and to celebrate everyday accomplishments - not just big holidays or events. This has been on my mind a lot lately since my husband's been working long hours on a project and we haven't gotten to spend a lot of time together. So, when he mentioned his project was starting to wrap up and he might actually get home at a reasonable hour, I decided to celebrate by baking up some yummy dulce de leche-filled cupcakes.

When it comes to holidays and special occasions, I usually make my own cakes or other desserts from scratch. But for a weeknight celebration, I'm more than happy to go "semi-homemade." For this recipe, I picked up the new light and fluffy Cool Whip® Frosting:

And some other baking-made-easy goodies:

You can check out my full shopping adventure here on Google+.

If you're a regular reader, you know I did some prep work ahead of time by making my homemade dulce de leche for filling the cupcakes. I suggest making that the night before, or at least in the morning so it has time to cool. The rest of the recipe comes together fairly quickly.

Dulce de Leche Cupcakes
(Makes 12)

1 box Betty Crocker® butter yellow cake mix
1 cup water
1/3 c. butter, softened
3 eggs
1 recipe homemade dulce de leche
1 tub vanilla Cool Whip Frosting

Preheat oven to 350°F. Line 2 12-tin cupcake pans with paper liners.
In a large bowl, beat cake mix, water, butter and eggs until smooth.
Divide batter evenly into 24 cupcake tins (filling each about 2/3 full).
Bake at 350°F for 17-22 minutes, or until toothpick inserted comes out clean.
Cool completely. (Note that while a box makes 24 cupcakes, you only need 12 for the rest of this recipe. I suggest freezing the other 12 for another day!)

Once cupcakes are cool, using a knife or cupcake corer to make a well in the center of each cupcake:

Using a pastry bag or a spoon, fill the wells with dulce de leche. (If your dulce has been in the refrigerator, warm it up a little first to get it to spread more easily.)

Using a pastry bag and a large star tip, pipe vanilla Cool Whip Frosting on the top of each cupcake:

Using the back of a spoon, drizzle some of the remaining dulce de leche over the top of each cupcake:

Refrigerate until ready to serve. When you are ready to indulge, get ready for this gooey goodness:

The rich dulce de leche goes perfectly with the light, airy Cool Whip Frosting (which to me, tastes like the "whipped" frosting they use on bakery cakes).

My husband made it home even earlier than expected (6:30 is amazing as of late!) and definitely enjoyed his pre-dinner dessert:


To find out more about the new Cool Whip Frosting, check out their Facebook page. Or browse for Kraft Recipes here.

I am a member of the Collective Bias™ Social Fabric® Community. This content has been compensated as part of a social shopper insights study for Collective Bias™ and Kraft Cool Whip. #CoolWhipFrosting #CBias #SocialFabric

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Easy Homemade Dulce de Leche

Dulche de leche ("candy of milk") is a creamy, smooth, sweet treat that's popping up more and more on dessert menus, in cookies - and even in coffee shops. If you've never had it before, it's kind of like a really thick, milky caramel. It's amazingly delicious - and surprisingly simple to make!

Traditionally, dulce de leche is made by boiling milk and sugar on the stove top for hours until the water evaporates and the sugar caramelizes. A simpler method is to use pre-sweetened milk - aka sweetened condensed milk. There are many different preparations out there - some of which include boiling the sweetened condensed milk right in the can (yikes - the risk of explosions, BPA contamination and who knows what else scares me!). For safety and ease, I decided to go with an oven recipe from one of the dessert gods - David Lebovitz.

2 ingredients, basic equipment, no frequent stirring and amazingly creamy results - what more could you ask for?! You can see the simple recipe and instructions below.

I'm planning on using my gooey goodness in another dessert later this week (stay tuned!). But it can also be used as a simple dip for fruit or as an ice cream topping. Have you ever had dulce de leche? How do you like to use it?

Easy Homemade Dulce de Leche
(Adapted from David Lebovitz)

1 (14 oz.) can sweetened condensed milk
1/8 tsp. salt (about 1-2 pinches)

Preheat oven to 425&degF. Bring a tea kettle (or sauce pan) full of water to a boil on the stove.
Pour sweetened condensed milk into a shallow pie pan:
Sprinkle with 1/8 tsp. salt. Cover tightly with aluminum foil, and place inside a larger roasting pan or casserole dish.
Place nested pans on a lower rack in the oven. Carefully pour boiling water in the outer pan until it comes about 1/2 way up the side of the pie plate:
Close oven and bake for about 60-90 minutes (adding water to the outer pan every 20-30 minutes to keep the level consistent as it evaporates) until sweetened condensed milk thickens and turns a rich caramel color:

Carefully remove pans from oven and take pie plate out of water bath. Let cool about 20 minutes, then whisk mixture until smooth. Cover and store in the refrigerator. Reheat in the microwave (or by warming in a pan of hot water) before serving.

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Saturday, September 29, 2012

Pumpkin Cream Cheese Muffins

I've seen variations of this recipe floating around the blogosphere lately - and I even saw some of these muffins at Starbucks the other day - so I decided they were just calling to me to give them a try. I started out with a base recipe from on of my favorite baking blogs, Annie's Eats, but I lightened them up by cutting the fat and sugar, so I felt like I was eating a breakfast muffin and not a cupcake. The result is a spicy, moist muffin with a creamy, sweet surprise in the center.

I thought they were a great breakfast treat. My hubby took some to work and said they were a big hit with his employees, too. So these is definitely going into the rotation for fall baking recipes! Here's my version:

Pumpkin Cream Cheese Muffins
(Makes 12)

For the cream cheese filling:
4 oz. light cream cheese
1/3 c. confectioner's sugar

For the muffins:
1 1/2 c. white flour
1/2 tsp. baking soda
1 1/2 tsp. ground cinnamon
1 tsp. ground nutmeg
1/2 tsp. ground cloves
1/2 tsp. ground ginger
1/2 tsp. salt
2 eggs
3/4 c. granulated sugar
1 c. pumpkin puree
1/2 c. vegetable oil

For the cinnamon sugar topping (optional):
1/4 c. brown sugar
1 tsp. ground cinnamon
2 Tbsp. white flour
2 Tbsp. cold butter, cut into small pieces

About 2-3 hours before you plan to bake, beat cream cheese and confectioner's sugar until smooth. Shape into a 6-8" log on plastic wrap. Fold up the wrap until completely covered, then place in the freezer.
Once the cream cheese mixture has firmed up, preheat oven to 350&F. Line muffin pan with paper liners.
In a large bowl, combine 1 1/2 c. flour, baking soda, 1 1/2 tsp. cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves, ginger and salt. Add eggs, granulated sugar, pumpkin puree and oil. Beat on low speed just until combined.
Remove the cream cheese mixture from the freezer and cut into 12 small blocks.
Fill each of the muffin liners 1/3 of the way with the pumpkin mixture. Place 1 block of cream cheese mixture into the center of each muffin, then top with remaining pumpkin batter. The muffins tins will be very full - almost (but not quite) to the top of the liner.
In a separate small bowl, mix brown sugar, 1 tsp. cinnamon and 2 Tbsp. flour. Cut butter into mixture with a fork until the mixture is crumbly. Sprinkle evenly over the tops of the uncooked muffins.
Place the muffins in the preheated oven and bake for 20-25 minutes or until toothpick inserted (into the side - not the cream cheese center) comes out clean.
Cool completely before enjoying.
(If storing for more than few hours - keep these in the refrigerator. Pop them in the microwave for about 15-20 seconds each before eating - delish!!)

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Totally Tasty Tuesdays