Tuesday, February 1, 2011

W&W "Chocolate Pumpkin Brownie Muffins"

I met Heather in the cake mix aisle of Food Emporium last Saturday night. I was listening to a story my friend Brandon was telling me. It was heartfelt and I should be punished for not listening as intently as I should have been. If I had been listening with both ears focused solely on him, I probably wouldn't have heard the woman next to me asking an employee for pumpkin; real pumpkin, not pumpkin pie filling. I couldn't help but stop Brandon and ask her if I had heard her correctly. I mean how many people at the same time are looking for canned pumpkin? She said that she was indeed looking for pumpkin. She wanted to make these brownie muffins she'd seen made on television. I looked at her with a "What'chu talkin' 'bout, Willis?" look on my face and revealed the chocolate cake mix I had in my hand. We discovered we had both seen the same program and wanted to make the same brownie muffins. We laughed and introduced ourselves then went our our merry pumpkin-searching way.

Here's the story: Thursday I happened to be channel surfing and came across a channel that I'd never heard of before. It's called Cooking Channel. Sounds like direct competition with The Food Network to me. Anyway, I watched a couple of shows. One was about putting a french spin on ordinary dishes. I recorded that one so that I could try some of it later. The other was a series called Hungry Girl. On the episode I watched, the host, Lisa, was swapping. Let me explain that a little. She wasn't swapping butter for margarine; she was swapping the fatty food you love with something similar but low fat. She showed the viewer how to get the same type of feeling one gets from eating something they love without eating it and all of its fat. Her example: chips. She loves chips. Chips are loaded with fat. She took fresh kale and cut it up, sprinkled it with sea salt, sprayed it with olive oil spray (briefly) and then placed it in the oven to bake for 10-12 minutes. It came out of the oven crunchy. It's a healthy, fat free alternative to chips. She said it has the consistency of pop corn. Another chip replacement was Lavosh. I had never heard of Lavosh: a round thin Middle Eastern bread that is soft like a tortilla. It was very large. She cut it into pieces, placed it on a cookie sheet and popped it in the oven for 2 minutes. They crisp right up and again replace your crispy chip desire with something that crunches like a chip, but has no fat. Basically, you're tricking your senses with the crunch you desire but not adding the fat to you waist line. Disclaimer: I did not try either of these things.

What I did try was her low fat/low calorie chocolate brownie swap. It was so simple. Two ingredients is all you need plus whatever you might use to dress it up without taking away too much of its healthier-for-you factor.

1 box of chocolate cake mix
1 can of pumpkin

You read right. Those are the two ingredients.

I used a Duncan Hines® Devils Food cake mix and a can of organic pumpkin. It's important to note here that it's pumpkin NOT pumpkin pie filling. Just plain old pumpkin in a can. The pumpkin replaces everything else that the cake mix calls for.

Pour the cake mix into a bowl and then add the pumpkin to the mix. You're gonna need to put some elbow grease into it because it takes a bit of stirring to mix the pumpkin and cake mix to a smooth batter. Don't be afraid. It didn't really take that long. If you choose to taste the batter at this point, you're going to find yourself in brownie heaven. Seriously, that's what it tastes like; a rich, chocolate brownie.

Here's where I made some changes; I am a tweaker afterall. I added two teaspoons of vanilla and a sprinkling of cinnamon. Actually, I started with one teaspoon of vanilla and a sprinkling of cinnamon, but after blending it into the batter and tasting it, I decided to add another teaspoon of vanilla and more cinnamon. None of that is detrimental to the low fat/low calorie plan thus far. Oops (sly grin) here's where I messed up. You see, I wanted caramel baking chips in these brownie muffins. I couldn't find them at either grocery store I went to. I settled for a Milky Way® Caramel candy bar. Hey, I wanted my caramel and I found a way to get it. Who are you to judge me? I chopped the bar into small pieces and dumped them into the batter.

Let's review:
1 box chocolate cake mix
1 can pumpkin
2 teaspoons vanilla
cinnamon 'til your heart's content
1 Milky Way® Caramel bar chopped

Remember Lisa, the host? She suggested tin cupcake liners. I couldn't find any so we went without. I sprayed Pam® all over the muffin pan and then spooned the batter into the muffin holes. The recipe only makes 12 brownie muffins.

They bake for 20-24 minutes.

Get the liners! The brownie muffins didn't exactly stick to the pan, but they were so moist that they fell apart as I tried to get them out of the pan. The cupcake liner would hold it all together.

Okay, I don't want to brag and truthfully, I just added to somebody elses recipe, but they were amazing. Seriously, I recommend trying this at home. We served ours with fat free vanilla frozen yogurt.

They were dense and gooey and chocolatey just like a brownie should be. It was like a chocolate explosion in my mouth; sometimes sticking to the roof like too much Wonderbread® or peanut butter. Don't be deterred by that. It was amazing. The caramel melted, and in some instances bubble right out the top. I could smell the cinnamon while they baked. Everyone agreed that they were a good choice for satisfying our sweet tooth and our chocolate craving. That's killing two birds with one low fat/low calorie stone.