Pumpkin, Zucchini and
Parmesan Muffins

If only pumpkins were available for a little longer than just a few weeks in the fall! I love them! They are amazingly versatile: in my cookbooks, I have found recipes for soups, salads, main and side dishes, even desserts such as ice-cream, puddings, and sufflés. And then there are - and who doens't love them? - pumpkin pies, (cheese)cakes, tarts, breads, and muffins - like this one! And let's not forget that you can turn particularly pretty (or unshaply) ones into jack-o'-lanterns or - with a little practice (and some pixie dust?) - into beautiful, fairytale-like carriages for soon-to-be princesses. ;-)

Ingredients (makes 12 medium muffins):

2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
1 cup shredded zucchini
1 cup pumpkin purée - see Tip 1
1 large egg
1/2 cup milk
1/4 cup melted butter or canola oil
1/2 cup grated fresh Parmesan cheese

Tip 1: To make home-made pumpkin purée, cut 1 lb. peeled and seeded pumpkin into chunks and steam or boil them for 15 to 20 minutes or until tender. Drain thoroughly, purée in a blender or food processor, strain. (If you prefer to use canned pumpkin purée, make sure it's the one made without sugar - check the list of ingredients on the can)!

Tip 2: And if you are making your own pumpkin purée, add some fun orange flecks to your muffins! Save some of the pumpkin and grate it up (about 1/2 cup). Stir into the flour mixture with the grated zucchini.

Preparation (about 15 minutes plus 30 minutes baking):

1. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit. Butter the muffin tin, if necessary.

2. Sift the flour, baking powder, salt, baking soda, nutmeg, and black pepper together into a large bowl. Stir in the zucchini (and pumpkin - see Tip 2).

3. Put the pumpkin purée in a separate bowl and beat in the egg, milk, butter, and two-thirds of the Parmesan. Fold into the flour mixture until the batter is just combined.

4. Devide the batter among 12 muffin cups and sprinkle each one with some of the remaining Parmesan. These muffins don't rise a whole lot. You may fill the cups all the way up (and leave some empty, if you are running out of batter).

5. Bake in the middle of the oven for 25 to 30 minutes until golden brown, and a skewer inserted into the center comes out clean. Leave muffins in the tin for 1 to 2 minutes and then transfer to a wire rack to finish cooling.

These muffins are best when they're still slightly warm. Grab a bottle of your favorite brew or have a nice glass of wine with them ... enjoy!