“The theme of winter is rich in inspiration and material…Our ancestors celebrated the paradox of light at the heart of the darkness, and the consequent miracle of rebirth and the regeneration of the seasons.”
– Sting, from “If On A Winter’s Night.”
Today is December 21st, the shortest day of the year and the first day of Winter, also known as Winter Solstice. While it seems as though winter has already been here for some time (we’ve had lots of snow, and many many cold days), I still think it is important to take a moment to herald the actual arrival of the season. I know many people dislike Winter, at least, Canadian winters. We spend what seems like four or more months bundled up, having to make our way through all manner of slush, sleet, snow, ice, freezing rain, and wind chill temperatures. But I always think that Winter has its own beauties and that every season has its joys, and Winter Solstice is an important marker in the cycle of the seasons. I also happen to know that Sting – whose beautiful, haunting, medieval, traditional album If On A Winter’s Night perfectly captures for me the feelings of winter and the music of winter – shares my thoughts. He notes:
“I have a certain affinity with [Winter] — I think it’s an undervalued season. For me, it’s the season of the imagination, of spirits, of ghosts in the chimney, frosts, snow. It has a lot of paradox in it, too. It’s the season I look forward to — I love the central celebration of it — but I also am aware that winter’s a difficult time for a lot of people…I think it’s the season of reflection…we seem to need the winter to reassess ourselves, to hibernate, if you like; to seek home, to seek comfort. Somewhere cozy: the church, the family home.”
– Sting; from an interview with NPR music, 7 November 2009
So there you have it. Embrace winter as a magical time of reflection and imagination, and take a moment today to appreciate that from here on the days incrementally become longer and more light-filled. And while you are doing so, bake up a batch of these beautiful pumpkin cranberry muffins. You can think of these muffins as symbolic of the hand-off of the seasons, a kind of baked good passing of the torch: the beautiful beta carotene-y and mellow spiciness of pumpkin (Autumn) mixed with the tart Vitamin C-packed flavour explosions of ruby red cranberries (Winter). A delicious physical manifestation of one season gracefully conceding to the next. If the seasons could shake hands in muffin form, this would be it.
And if that weren’t enough, they’re tasty, too. Made with spelt flour and organic palm sugar, and topped with beautiful green zinc-filled pumpkin seeds for crunch and colour, these muffins are both delicious and nutritious. The recipe makes a larger batch than is standard (closer to 14 or 15 muffins) but I always think it’s nice sometimes to bake up 12 perfect muffins, freeze them all for work snacks, and bake the rest in a mini-loaf pan or other pan to be able to enjoy right away.
So, bake up a batch and savour this sweet beginning to Winter. Blow Blow Thou Winter Wind: we have muffins and we’re ready for you.
Vegan Pumpkin Cranberry Muffins
- 1 3/4 cups light spelt flour
- 1/4 cup chickpea flour
- 2 teaspoons baking powder
- 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
- 1 teaspoon cinnamon
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- 1/3 cup canola oil
- 1 cup packed organic pumpkin puree
- 3 tablespoons ground chia seeds mixed with 1/2 cup almond or soy milk
- 3/4 cup palm sugar (or other organic sugar)
- 2 cups fresh or frozen cranberries
- pumpkin seeds (for topping)
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.
- Whisk together spelt flour, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon, and salt.
- In a separate bowl, mix together pumpkin puree, canola oil, and palm sugar, and whisk until well-combined.
- Mix together chia seeds and non-dairy milk, stir, and once thickening, whisk immediately into pumpkin mixture, stirring well to thoroughly combine.
Add flour to pumpkin mixture and stir gently to combine. At the point at which almost all flour is mixed into liquid, add cranberries. Mix to incorporate, being careful not to over mix.
Scoop muffin batter into a (lightly greased, if an old pan like mine) muffin tin, adding any extra to a mini loaf pan or other pan of your choice.
Sprinkle muffin tops with pumpkin seeds.
Bake for 20-24 mins (or as required for your extra pan).
Reflect, imagine, and enjoy!