Falling into fall

Whew...fall finally fell in Fresno!

Sorry...I couldn't resist.

But, I'm so happy that it's true! Our summers are known for being pretty stinkin' hot. This summer started out mild, but picked up steam and ended up staying around for a long time to make up for it's sluggish start. Even a few days ago, we were in the 90s, and I wouldn't be shocked if this cool down (today it was 60s!) didn't last and summer tried to rear its head one more time.

I hope not, though.

Although I don't look forward to the fading of bright summer evenings -- filled with light and the earthy smell of my garden -- or the onset of shorter days that make you feel like you should crawl into bed, and then realize it's only 7:30 p.m., I do enjoy the crisp crackle in the air, being able to pull out my long sleeved shirts and sweaters and breaking out the pumpkin!

I'm an October baby, so I have fond memories of pumpkin pie and candy corn, of spiced apple cider, brilliant colored leaves...all that wonderful autumn-ness.

So yesterday, when it truly started to feel like something was shifting (we had a deluge of rain...which I also love!), I felt the need to follow suit in the kitchen. I'm no foodie. You won't see too many food or cooking posts here. I'm not talented enough to do that. I'm an adequate cook.

But, there are some things that I do enjoy making, and around this time of the year, it's soup/chili/warm casserole comfort food and spiced and pumpkin treats.

So, yesterday, I did both.

Thanks to my current obsession with Pinterest, I found a great slow cooker taco chili recipe. I got that in early in the morning and let that simmer all day long.

Then, I put my Libby's canned pumpkin to work and made some cake mix pumpkin muffins. I think this might be a Weight Watchers recipe. I've made it for so many years, I honestly don't remember. Anyhow, it's as easy as....well, pie...but easier because there is only two ingredients:

Pumpkin Muffins

- 1 15 oz can of pumpkin
- 1 box of spiced cake mix

Mix together and place in greased muffin tins (liners are optional).

You can also use a yellow cake mix and add in:

- 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
- 1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
- 1/4 teaspoon ground cloves)

Either way you do it, bake at 350 degrees for 20-25 minutes until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean. These will remain very moist and "tacky."  I usually store mine in the fridge with a paper towel over the container. If you seal them up, they tend to get even stickier.

So, this is what I usually do. However, I had an inspired (although not a new concept) to use some leftover cream cheese frosting to send these into the stratosphere.

I used my frosting receipe that I usually pair with red velvet cupcakes from my Kitchen Aid cookbook.

Cream Cheese Frosting

- 12 oz of cream cheese, softened
- 1/2 cup (1 stick) butter, softened
- 2 tsp vanilla
- 2 1/2 cups powdered sugar

Place all ingredients except the powdered sugar into mixer bowl. Attach bowl and flat beater to mix. Turn to speed 6 and beat 2 minutes. Stop and scrape bowl. Sift powdered sugar into bowl. Turn speed to 2 and beat 30 seconds, just until combined. Stop and scrape bowl. Turn to speed 6 and beat 2 minutes.

I put the frosting in a large pastry bag with the Wilton 1M tip and extra large coupler and just shoved it into the top of the muffin and squeezed that cream cheese goodness inside and then pulled up to make a little "flower" upon exit.

Pure heaven!

I took them outside to the children (also, a nice bonus of fall since our summers are so stinking hot that the kids don't want to play outside) and my little two-year-old ran up and took a look and clapped his hands in delight and exclaimed, "Happy cake!"  He was thinking it was definitely party time, but wasn't sure what we were celebrating.

But, I knew!

Fall has fallen!

And it couldn't be more welcome.

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