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Holiday cooking - Pumpkin muffins and Buckeyes

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WORLD Radio - Holiday cooking - Pumpkin muffins and Buckeyes

Emily Whitten and Jenny Rough share their favorite holiday cooking traditions


Photo courtesy of Jenny Rough

MARY REICHARD, HOST: Today is Thursday, December 23rd. Christmas eve-eve! Good morning! This is The World and Everything in It from listener-supported WORLD Radio. I’m Mary Reichard.

MYRNA BROWN, HOST: And I’m Myrna Brown. Baking for the holidays can be tricky for people who have food allergies. But with a little creativity, you can do it without sacrificing familiar flavors.

REICHARD: Here’s our book reviewer Emily Whitten to start us off with today’s holiday cooking traditions.

CLIP: Are they pumpkin muffins or pun-kin muffins? They are pum-P-kin muffins.

EMILY WHITTEN, REPORTER: Whenever friends tell me they’re going gluten free, I often share our version of a recipe for pumpkin muffins. It’s easy to make, and it’s pretty healthy. And if you have a kid like mine with numerous food allergies, this recipe won’t make them feel they’re on a starvation diet.

CLIP: It’s really good. It tastes like pumpkin. Good. All right. This is actually really good. I can taste all the spices.

C. S. Lewis wrote that God often uses pain as His megaphone. If that’s true, food has definitely been His megaphone to our family. My oldest was still pretty little when we figured out that most of our normal food responded like poison in her body. So, pretty much every recipe my mom taught me to make for holidays is now off limits.

What do we make instead? Well, this recipe fits nicely as a substitute for my mom’s pumpkin pie. No gluten, no sugar, and no dairy all means no stomach aches, no acid reflux, and no child crying herself to sleep. In fact, these days our cooking is filled with a lot of laughter.

CLIP: We need 11/2 cups of blanched almond flour. Ok, why don’t you go ahead and find the almond flour? [LAUGHS] You found it! Oh, how exciting. And put it in the bowl.

We started our most recent batch with a cup and a half of almond flour. We then added salt and baking soda. Next came the spices—2 ½ teaspoons of cinnamon, ½ teaspoon of cloves, and ¼ teaspoon pumpkin pie spice which we substitute for nutmeg.

CLIP: This is one fourth. That’s what we want. ¼ of a teaspoon. You gotta use the mash and twist method on this almond flour. Some people sift it and they work really hard to get all the clumps out, but I feel like the clumps add some texture.

Then we mixed in the wet ingredients. ¾ cup of canned pumpkin and, because my daughter has trouble with eggs, we used an egg replacement. I’ve found that different ones work better in different recipes. For this recipe, we used a brand from Kroger with the creative title, Egg Replacer.

CLIP: You need to add eight tablespoons of water to that little bowl over there and then you’re gonna get a fork and mix it up. Ok.

Our final substitution makes the recipe lower carb so it won’t spike your blood sugar as much. Instead of ⅓ cup of maple syrup, which is delicious if you’d rather use that, we use ⅓ cup Whole Earth Allulose blend as a sugar substitute. One caution–it does tend to billow up out of the bowl.

CLIP: Yeah, sorry, you definitely want to give some room to the allulose baking blend. I feel like I’m going to, like, drown. It’s in my mouth.

After we mixed everything together, we put the batter into greased muffin tins. We sprinkled them with allergy-friendly Enjoy Life chocolate chips, and we baked the muffins at 350 degrees for 25-30 minutes. My suggestion, make a sample batch beforehand to nail down your perfect bake time. Almond flour can be tricky to bake without over-baking or leaving a mushy middle.

This Christmas, I confess I will miss pressing sugar cookies and mixing fudge with my mom, who’s now in heaven. But this recipe for pumpkin muffins lets me pass down some of our favorite flavors to another generation. That makes the new Christmas memories we’re baking up just a little bit sweeter.

CLIP: Merry Christmas from the Whittens! Merry Christmas! Merry Christmas!

I’m Emily Whitten.


MARY REICHARD: Aw. That’s what moms do, isn’t it? Find a way. Well, now we’ll hear from our Jenny Rough, whose Christmases past came to the fore in a very meaningful way this year.

JENNY ROUGH, REPORTER: Buckeye trees grow abundantly in Ohio, where my two younger brothers and I grew up. A buckeye is a dark brown, round nut with a light brown circle on one side.

GREG: We were running around Ohio, I saw one on the ground and said, “Oh, man, I love buckeyes.” And I picked it up and put it in my mouth. They’re not edible. You can’t really chew through it with human teeth.

My brother Greg learned the hard way that the nut wasn’t the same as the buckeye treat. Peanut butter balls partially dipped in chocolate. Keep a circle of peanut butter visible to match the look of a real buckeye.

GREG: They look so much like the nut. For a 5-year-old you can’t distinguish.

Real buckeye nuts are poisonous.

GREG: You can’t eat them. That’s the big point. And if you could, they’re not nearly as good as these.

It’s hard to stop eating the treats. Highly addictive. When I was growing up, my mom made them every Christmas. And my brothers and I loved to help.

We’re adults now. Our lives have taken us in different directions. But this December, brought us back together. Although not entirely for a season of good tidings and cheer. It’s also a season of mourning. Our mom was dying. On an evening in early December, her earthly pilgrimage came to an end.

Two days after the memorial service, my brothers and I gathered for breakfast in my dad’s kitchen.

AUDIO: [Eggs cracking]

JENNY: Dad, do you want your eggs over spinach?

DAD: Sure. Anybody want a croissant?

Spouses and kids had already come and gone, so it was just us. A family of four now, instead of five. That morning, we made buckeyes.

JENNY: So we need something to mix the buckeye mix in.

GREG: Like a mixing bowl?

ADAM: Bottom left next to the oven.

Start with peanut butter.

AUDIO: [Removing wrapping from jar of peanut butter]

Add butter, vanilla, and powdered sugar.

AUDIO: [Opening powdered sugar bag]

Squish together with hands.

AUDIO: [Mixing dough]

GREG: Yeah, a little bit more powdered sugar.

JENNY: I just kind of dump it until I get the right consistency.

GREG: This is half the reason we wanted to make this because we got to use our hands to mix the dough. As a kid that was super fun.

As an adult? More of a task, as my brother Adam notes.

ADAM: One year I wanted to make a bunch. And then when we got into it, I was like, “Oh, this is taking forever.” It’s not hard work, it just takes a lot of time.

Roll the buckeye dough into balls—one by one. Freeze them. Then dip the frozen peanut butter balls into melted chocolate—one by one.

ADAM: What kind of chocolate did you get?

JENNY: Semi-sweet and then unsweet.

AUDIO: [Pouring chocolate chips in double-boiler, mixing chocolate chips]

GREG: Is the double-boiler on?

Adam’s right: The steps are simple but making them can be a bit of a pain. It makes me appreciate all the mundane, tedious, and laborious things our mom did for us over the years. She loved her family well.

We’re suffering this Christmas season, the first without her. But we’re not without hope. Christmas, after all, is the fulfillment of a long-awaited promise: Christ has come, our Savior, our Redeemer.

At my mom’s memorial service, a family friend read from Job 19.

SMITH: “I know that my Redeemer lives. And that in the end. He will stand upon my grave. I will see God. I, myself will see Him with my own eyes.” He’s looking forward to the day when he sees God face-to-face.

Death is not the end.

SMITH: And then here’s what’s really sweet. He’s standing on our grave to give us assurance. And we are standing on His grave, the empty tomb, we’re standing on that to give us our assurance that He will be on the other side.

Christ’s birth, death, and resurrection gives us assurance that His people will be restored and live again. Merry Christmas.

I’m Jenny Rough.


WORLD Radio transcripts are created on a rush deadline. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of WORLD Radio programming is the audio record.

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