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Gingerbread pumpkmuffins topped with cream cheese frosting crushed shredded whecandy pumpkins are made by Judith Dunbar Hines Wednesday October 24

Gingerbread pumpkin muffins, topped with cream cheese frosting, crushed shredded wheat and candy pumpkins are made by Judith Dunbar Hines on Wednesday, October 24, 2012. | Stacie Scott~Sun-Times Media

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Learn a variety of cooking skills with our own Judith Dunbar Hines, who now will be teaching classes at Kendall College as part of the school’s Spice Up Your Life program.

She’ll be teaching Thanksgiving Basics at 11 a.m. Nov. 10; Bountiful Table (side dishes for the holiday) at 11 a.m. Nov. 17 and Holiday Brunch at 11 a.m. Dec. 1. For information or to register, visit

Kendall College is at 900 N. North Branch St.

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Updated: December 8, 2012 6:03AM

Before I left town a few days ago, I wrote an article for this column about one of the most successful recipes from my catering days. But when I boarded my return flight, things changed.

The middle seat stayed empty. Would we have extra room? No, someone was headed for that seat. With a silent sigh of relief I realized she was petite and we would not be overcrowded. As we took off, she opened a magazine.

In this case, it was a food publication. Since I hadn’t yet read the latest issue of Food Network magazine, I indulged in some neighborly over-the-shoulder reading. The page that caught my eye featured cute fall cupcakes. Ah, I thought, good idea.

Suddenly these Gingerbread Pumpkin Muffins, used often in so many different ways, got yet another a makeover somewhere around Tennessee.

I have made mounds of them for every fall event: split and stuffed with cream cheese, chutney and thin sliced turkey as a savory hors d’oeuvre, they are perfect tiny “sandwiches” for cocktail parties or for Game Day. Dusted with cinnamon and confectioners’ sugar, they are mini muffins for a brunch. Or, as here, when decorated they serve as dessert.

The batter works in regular cupcake tins, mini muffin tins, or baked into mini loaves. Adjust bake time to suit your pan of choice.

Use canned pumpkin, which is on sale now through Thanksgiving, or roast and mash a fresh locally grown pumpkin or butternut squash for the pulp needed (see recipe note). The addition of molasses and familiar spices such as ginger, cinnamon, cloves and allspice takes the flavor into cozy gingerbread territory.

They freeze beautifully and the recipe doubles easily, so prepare a big batch to have on hand all during the entertaining season ahead.

You’ll thank me for this recipe. For their cute new late fall look, thank that lady in row 32B!

Judith Dunbar Hines is a cooking teacher, tour guide, writer and culinary consultant in Chicago. Contact her at

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