Nibble and Nosh

In Celebrity Obsessions, Food, Tolkien on November 11, 2010 at 5:16 am
Oh, food.  In general.  How I love thee.  I love anticipating food, shopping for food, preparing food (and eating food isn’t half-bad either.)   My love affair with food is long-standing.  It began somewhere around age 9 or 10 when my childhood pickiness wore off.  My love affair with cooking food is much younger — it began the day we opened our wedding gifts and discovered all the awesome kitchen accoutrements that lovely friends and family had given us.  Nothing is more of an inspiration to start cooking than shiny new tools and toys (although no longer having ready-made meals from the cafeteria of Mom and Dad helps … I find that a “love of food” is usually accompanied by an equal amount of “fear of starvation.”)
I was already a Food Network viewer at that time, but it was then that my fanhood kicked into high gear.  Rachael Ray, Ina Garten, Nigella Lawson and their expert camera crews with their gorgeous close-up food-porn shots all contributed to my epicurean education (and to the drool stains on our couch.)  My relationship with Rachael Ray grew into an obsession of sorts: I collected her books and DVDs, subscribed to her magazine, and, for my birthday one year, even dragged poor Tolkien to Chelsea Market in NYC in the hopes of accidentally bumping into her.  (Since Tolkien’s and my birthdays are only 3 days apart, we usually do a combined birthday celebration.  That year, he insisted on a do-over.)  My passion for the Ray cooled, however, once she got her network talk show and started getting that world-weary smugness all celebrities seem to acquire.  I haven’t seen 30-Minute Meals in ages, but the last time I caught a clip of it, RR seemed positively bored with having to share her fabulousness with her lowly viewers.  I’ll always have a soft spot for her, though, because she really sparked my interest in the basics of cooking.  I’m no expert chef and never will be, but at least now I see the joy in it (that is, when one has more than 3 minutes to spend on a dish because no Peanut is screeching for one’s undivided attention.)
(Notable story about Rachael Ray’s magazine:  For awhile, I was trying desperately to get tickets to be in her studio audience.  The waiting list was 2 years long!  However, I sneakily thought I could increase my chances by being a frequent commenter on her website.  One posted question to subscribers was “How do you celebrate special occasions?”  I wrote an innocent sentence or two about how I like to make and sample multiple desserts instead of eating a multi-course meal.  I pressed “Submit” while blithely ignoring the fine print that stated that my name and comments were now the sole property of the Rachael Ray empire and they could come and demand one of my limbs at any time, and promptly forgot all about it.  Three months later I was idly flipping through my latest issue of Every Day With Rachael Ray when I came across a reader response column to the question “How do you celebrate Valentine’s Day?”  Some tool had written in, “My husband and I skip the meal entirely … and go straight to dessert!”  Imagine my shock when I realized that that tool was ME!   Now, I have a very unique name, but I still needed to read the tool’s hometown before I was convinced that this statement was actually being attributed to me.  I was mortified.  What if my family saw this?  Thankfully my family does not read Every Day with Rachael Ray, and neither does anyone else I know.  People found out about this humiliation through my own big mouth.  The irony is that a couple of months later, I actually did get selected for a pair of tickets to the show — and couldn’t go.  Cruel world!)
Anyway, while that experience taught me caution, it did not stop me from continuing to like food.  Therefore, whenever autumn rolls around, we all continue to look forward to my favourite pumpkin chocolate chip muffins.

Heavy on the chocolate, with an obligatory touch of pumpkin.

Chocolate is my absolute number-one vice — I have it with almost every meal.  Terrible, I know.  But if God didn’t want me to do it, why did He make chocolate taste so good?  I’ve even gotten Tolkien into this habit too.  (He, in turn, has gotten me to drink more water.  We’re totally even.)  And I thought of something that would make these little gems even better:


Nectar of the gods. No, I'm serious.

Frosting them with Nutella!  Creamy, ambrosial, hazelnutty Nutella is such a temptation for me that I am unable to buy any lest I eat it straight from the jar with a spoon.  I simply do not keep any in the house.  If you have never tried this incredible delicacy, I am exhorting you to run out and get some immediately.  You can thank me later.  Preferably with a jar of Nutella.

If you’re a normal person, you will actually need something on which to spread this delightful confection (thankfully I have never been normal) and therefore I am sharing with you my foolproof pumpkin chocolate chip muffin recipe (although plain bread or bagels or some such would probably work fine as well, not that I’d know.)  Enjoy!
Much’s Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Muffins (adapted from
3/4 cup white sugar
1/4 cup vegetable oil
2 eggs
3/4 cup canned pumpkin
1/4 cup water
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
3/4 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1 cup chocolate chips (the success of this recipe relies on using decent chocolate, such as Ghirardelli)
1. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.  Line muffin tin with paper liners.
2. Mix sugar, oil and eggs.  Add pumpkin and water.  In a separate bowl, mix the flour, baking soda, baking powder, spices and salt.  Add the wet mixture to the dry mixture and then add the chocolate chips.
3. Fill muffin cups 2/3 full with batter.  Bake for 20-25 minutes.
These go so quickly that I find it beneficial to double the recipe.  Give these only to people you like, because they’ll keep hanging around.  I may love food in general, but at this time of year I have to admit that these muffins might be slightly more loved than all the rest.
  1. THIS IS MY FIRST COMMENT ON YOUR BLOG! I had a nice time imagining you walking around NYC with JRR Tolkien, but then I realized he is probably dead, and that probably didn’t happen. I am still amused by your fascination with Rachael Ray; I hope in a future post you will explore your past (current?) love-hate relationships with her, Ashlee Simpson, etc. Also, I LOVE PUMPKIN CHOCOLATE CHIP MUFFINS. My friend gave me a slightly different recipe and I’ve made 3 batches in the past two weeks for folks at work. I haven’t even had one myself! People have asked me to leave out the chocolate chips (sacrilege!) or add nuts (more sacrilege!), but I think the muffins are perfect the way they are (I often add 150% of the cinnamon and chocolate chips the recipe calls for).

    Wow, this was a long comment. I hope you don’t get a love-hate relationship with me…

    • Thank you Vric! Me and JRR are besties, so I don’t know what you are talking about, he was totally there. (Don’t tell him I don’t know anything about hobbits.) I will definitely bore any future readers with my celebrity relationships (“relationships”) at some point. And yes, pumpkin chocolate chip muffins are heaven incarnate. They’re more like chocolate chip pumpkin muffins to me, so why someone would suggest something as foolhardy as omitting the most important ingredient is beyond me. (Mental illness, probably. You should check into it.) And don’t worry, long comments earn you a special place in the Much Hall of Fame (motto: “We’re So Exclusive, You Have to Be Human to Get In. Usually.”)

  2. Oh, Much… My mouth is drooling. My only question is: Where were those muffins only 9 hours after you posted this blog, when you had a fellow chocolate-addicted visitor? I can’t be too upset, though. I did enjoy the best brunch in the entire state! I’m impressed that Vric makes these muffins also… I’ve missed the boat on this chocolately goodness. I’ll make them sometime and let you know how it turns out!

  3. O, I must admit that after writing the entire post, I was too pooped to actually make the muffins. So don’t worry, you weren’t stiffed, I’m just lame. In any case, I think your filet mignon with crab was probably an acceptable substitute.

  4. Nice blog, plenty of apt observations. Please allow me a couple of random thoughts. I believe your argument linking Nutella and the Lord’s bounty is the same one that junkies make about crack. As for this sentence: “Thankfully my family does not read Every Day with Rachael Ray, and neither does anyone else I know”, I think you can go ahead and delete the last two words.

    • I am going to out you here, Baby Howie, in retaliation for your snipe against RR, for despite my no longer being a card-carrying follower/sheep of her empire I still possess the knee-jerk defensive reaction I spent years honing. She has plenty of readers around the world! Dozens, at least! Perhaps jealousy of her cutesy catchphrases and odd-looking culinary concoctions is at the bottom of your distaste? Hmmmmm??

      • Much, what are the chances of Baby Howie setting up his own blog? His comment is hilarious!

        (Sorry for such a late comment on this post, but I have apparently decided to devote some of my free time this evening to rereading your old posts.)

      • I totally agree! The world needs a door into the mind of Baby Howie, but he insists he doesn’t just give away this stuff for free. (Except on this blog, evidently.)

  5. The muffins turned out really well! I ate 2 of them within minutes after taking them out of the oven. Then, 2 more today after my work potluck. I told myself that my overindulgence was necessary as part of my scientific experiment (The Effect of Time and Level of Hunger on the Deliciousness of Muffins). The experiment was wildly successful as measured on all variables. Oh, and thanks for outing Howie. I had a feeling that insolence was coming from him… and I agree with every word he wrote.

  6. […] of us. It’s the time of year when it’s not only acceptable to start thinking of ways to combine pumpkin and chocolate, it’s unacceptable not to. For some reason, October always makes me think of […]

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