Eat Mendocino

2 women, 365 days, 3,878 square miles


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Good Farm Fund Benefit Dinner serves up a side dish of hope

Tomorrow night is my favorite event of the year. And it’s not because of the unparalleled farm to table menu, fancy locally-distilled cocktails, lovely summertime gathering of so many friends and community members, or the fact that we will raise thousands of dollars for local farms. It’s because of what happened when I went to the Dollar Store the other night to buy a few final event supplies…

germain_robin

(Yes, I know. “Eat Local & Shop Local?” Almost everything for the event is locally and consciously sourced/upcycled/reusable. It’s an imperfect wabi-sabi world… So I’m hoping you can suspend judgment about my trip to the Dollar Store, and that I bought a Snickers bar and ate it.)

I needed to purchase picture frames to put on each table for the 3rd Annual Good Farm Fund Benefit Dinner at Yokayo Ranch in Ukiah tomorrow night. We have 26 badass chefs and restaurants attending this year’s event, and each one is paired with local farms to create a special edition locally-sourced menu item served up in small plates all night long along with local wine, beer, spirits, and kombucha. I needed a lot of picture frames to capture this lineup.
benefit_dinner
Being in the Dollar Store means facing the unpleasant state of everything I wish were different. A bunch of imported cheap toxic plastic crap creating an illusion of abundance in an over-extracted and underfed world. A mother shopping for a graduate gift with chattering teeth and mumbling to herself, clearly strung out on meth. A young and able-bodied panhandler shamefully asking someone to buy him dinner which eventually manifests as a liter of soda, a bag of chips, and a stick of beef jerky. This is not food, and this is not the world I want.

I walked out with a box full of picture frames in my arms and a heavy heart. I almost wanted to turn around and return everything, hoping it would undo the whole experience – or at least cut into the Dollar Store’s profits by $30. But, as I drove away in the misty coastal rain, I wished not to undo a thing. Because I remembered this is exactly why we founded this organization. It’s exactly why we do this event. Because doing something small and imperfect is so much better than closing your eyes and pretending or wishing that everyone had real food on the table, and a job, and a loving mother.

When Gowan and I completed the year of eating local food, we realized that if enough people tried to do what we did even some of the time, there would be massive food shortages immediately. So she and her family purchased a 40 acre farm in Caspar and set out to produce more food for our community. For me, the question became: how can we scale up local food production and access throughout the county, so that it’s not such a rare – or elitist – endeavor?

This led to the founding of Good Farm Fund. This volunteer-led organization simply wanted to put money in farmers’ pockets so they could farm more land and produce more food, while battling an industrial food system that is rigged against them. In only two years, we have had a real impact on local farms as well as low-income people in our community. Good Farm Fund’s mission is to fund infrastructure development on local farms, and help make local food more affordable for everyone.

goodfarmfundlogoyellowAll event proceeds support Good Farm Fund’s two initiatives:  (1) Funding the EBT/Food Stamp Match at farmers markets to subsidize the cost of local food for families who can’t afford it and (2) The Farm Grant Program which helps support and grow small, local food farms by funding capacity-building projects like greenhouses, farmstands, equipment, and fencing. In 2016, we awarded $20,000 in farm grants to fourteen local farms. Read about our past grant recipients here!

We raise all of the money to do this work right here in Mendocino County through farm-to-table events and generous support from local businesses and community members. That’s the point after all – building sovereignty and resilience in the place we call home, and investing in the future of our local foodshed now.

So, if you haven’t gotten your ticket, yet get it now and come raise your glass to that tomorrow night. It’s a beautiful evening and it’s a chance to do something toward building a different food system while feasting on local food as you have never seen it before. If you can’t make it, but would like to sponsor someone else’s attendance, holler. Or make a donation directly on our website.

xo,
Sarah

Sneak preview of the menu…

Sisters Ridge Chicken Potstickers with Floodgate Farm Loganberry Glaze & Famous Greens

Goat Merguez Sausage Flatbread with Harissa Creme Fraiche and Fermented Veggie Pickle

Crostini with Pastured Chicken Liver Pate with Cherry Ollalieberry Compote

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Farm to Table Dinner: July 18th at Caspar Community Center

We are super excited to announce the first Farm to Table Dinner of the summer!

Onions

When: Friday July 18, 2014 at 7 pm

Where: Caspar Community Center

What: A delicious meal featuring locally sourced veggies, meats, cheese and grains from farms throughout Mendocino County. The meal is a surprise, based on what is seasonally available. Dinner is served in family-style courses, complete with appetizers and dessert. Vegetarian options will be available.

Who: Everyone is invited! This is a family-friendly event and children are welcome.

Why: This dinner is a benefit for the Farmers Market Food Stamp Match fund for the Mendocino & Fort Bragg Farmers Markets. This important program makes local food more affordable for all members of our community by matching Food Stamp/EBT funds. If people spend $10 in food stamps, they will be given an extra $10 in tokens for a total of $20 to spend at the farmers market. This program grows the farmers markets, supports local farms, and gets healthy, fresh food to those in need; it’s a win-win-win!

How much: Tickets are $30 in advance and $35 at the door for adults, $15 for children.

TICKETS:

Available every day at If the Shoe Fits in Fort Bragg & TWIST in Mendocino.
Also available at the Fort Bragg Farmers Market every Wednesday from 3 – 6 pm and at Mendocino Farmers Market every Friday from Noon – 2 pm from Julie & me (Sarah), the market managers.

Presented with love by Eat Mendocino and Noyo Food Forest, prepared by the Spontaneous Cafe

We hope you all will join us, and bring your friends and neighbors. It takes the whole village to feed the village!

Email eatmendocino@gmail.com with questions, or to RSVP or volunteer. We need people to help with all aspects of the event including food prep/cooking, serving, and clean-up.

We are also collecting items for the silent auction, so let us know if you’d like to donate something you do or make!

Love,
Sarah


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The Solace of Food: 3 lessons from my year as a locavore

At the culmination of the year of eating local, I was invited to write a retrospective piece for a local magazine. Due to publishing delays, they invited me to share the article with you here. This article was written in January 2014.

If you had asked me a year ago what I expected things to be like at the end of this project, I probably would have been wrong. The unknown has characterized this project from Day One. If we had known what we would endure in the roughest times, we might not have signed up for this. Similarly unknown was the profound impact of this mammoth undertaking.

For exactly one year, my fierce farmer friend Gowan Batist and I embarked on a radical plan to eat locally for one year. In the past twelve months, our siblings both married, our friends raised children, and we wed local food.

The rules were inspired and unforgiving. The goal was to eat food produced within Mendocino County, exclusively. This meant all of the raw inputs, from the grain to the oil, salt, and spices we consumed. No chocolate, no Sri Racha sauce, no coconut water, no avocados – no exceptions whatsoever. After 365 days of this extreme locavorism, I am a changed woman.

Now that the project is officially over and I am stumbling around the grocery store aisles like Encino Man, I am struggling to assimilate back into society. Everyone is wondering what post-project freedom looks like. It’s been strange. The first time I went grocery shopping, I left the store without buying anything, overwhelmed at the entirety of the experience.

The second time I went, I bought a half-gallon of organic milk. It was the first time I’d bought milk in a carton in over a year; my milk has been coming in glass mason jars, straight from the cow. Coincidentally, the cow that has been providing for us dried up the week that the project ended, and there won’t be more fresh milk until spring – or I befriend a new cow. I stood in the aisle bewildered by the fluorescent lights and bright cartons, and was surprised that the cost of milk in the store was actually the same as what I’ve been paying for fresh local milk.

Standing there I realized that I really did not want to buy that carton of organic milk. And then I wondered if that may be the most pretentious thought I’ve ever had. The point wasn’t just that the milk didn’t have the same unadulterated richness and a thick layer of cream on the top. It felt uncomfortably foreign to just go to the store and take a generic carton off the shelf. I would never know where the milk actually came from, nor where the carton would end up. These seem like inconsequential details, but they staggeringly matter to me now. I have become so intimately involved with the lifecycle of every single item that came into my kitchen for a year that I now see this carton as part of a profoundly complex and fragmented food system where the cow is separated from the consumer and the cream is separated from the milk.

I waited until there were exactly four squares of toilet paper left in my house before I forced myself to go to the grocery store again. I pondered the week-old Christmas cookies (I’d been lusting after them during the holidays) but they just didn’t look that appetizing. Most things don’t even look like food to me anymore and the ingredients lists confirm that. I came home empty handed and made improvisational butternut squash ice cream and muffins, which were delicious. I have become so accustomed to the DIY lifestyle – and it being better than anything you can buy (and cheaper) – that I think I’ve passed a point of no return.

My Cupboards Contain Multitudes

The first few months of 2013 were stark and trying. Yet, by the end of last year I was well prepared for the winter. We have become food-sourcing samurais and my fridge, freezer and pantry are fully stocked with a collection of stories in the form of foodstuffs. My shelves hold an assortment of pickled veggies, tomato sauce, peaches, grape juice and applesauce canned by neighbors and friends. From the woods, dried hedgehog, bolete and candy cap mushrooms, and roasted bay laurel nuts. From the sea, I have a collection of dried kombu, wakame and sea palm seaweeds, and some canned tuna. The spice rack holds dried bay leaves, oregano, sage, dill, cayenne peppers, lots of garlic, alongside a wedge of fresh honeycomb and Lovers Lane Farm wildflower honey. The olive oil comes from Terra Savia, the apple cider vinegar from the Apple Farm, and I fermented the red wine vinegar using Frey biodynamic wine. The tea section is comprised of wildcrafted nettle leaves, peppermint, elderberries and chamomile.

In the grain department I have whole grain rye, purple pearl barley, oats, and wheatberries, cereal mix, and Red Fife wheat flour from the Mendocino Grain Project. We helped harvest the heirloom Green Dent Oaxacan corn from Mendocino Organics, and the quinoa was cultivated at the Ecology Action garden at the Stanford Inn. The bin of speckled bayo beans from McFadden Farms couldn’t fit in my miniscule kitchen, so I stowed it in the laundry room in my building. Thankfully my neighbors are really understanding of my food sprawl – and sometimes even bake me local pies.
It took an entire County and many hands, many seeds, and many bees to fill these jars. It took two women an entire year to track down all this food, process and store it, and learn what to do with it. These are some of the most important lessons I learned in doing so.

Lesson #1 Eat whole foods.

Many people ask how I feel on the local food diet. I tell them I feel like superwoman, and that cannot be attributed to my minimalist exercise regime. Yet, I have never been physically healthier. I know it, on a cellular level. I even defied certain self-imposed dietary restrictions and began eating wheat and more fruit and honey than I would normally allow myself. What I found is that my body told me what it wanted and needed, and I listened. The seasons provide perfect balance and have a natural way of moderating excess and abundance.

I believe that most modern “diets” miss the point entirely by creating an artificial food ritual that involves constantly counting, eliminating, worrying, and encourages eating highly processed fractured foods. I believe that we have lost our intuition when it comes to food due to a highly predatory food system. I think the single best way to rediscover an intuitive relationship with nutrition is to eat more whole foods, before you go for the supplements and miracle shakes. Many chronic health issues actually disappeared this year and I was able to reintroduce gluten in moderation, eating the local heirloom grain that is delivered whole or freshly milled. Much of the contamination and degradation of our food happens in the processing and the closer we eat to the source, the more nutritional return.

Lesson #2 You don’t need a recipe.

The constantly changing flow of seasonal ingredients required nothing less than fearless improvisation on a daily basis. In a reversal of our usual relationship with a meal, we started with the available ingredients and shaped the meal accordingly. I usually start with a general concept, consult my favorite cookbooks and the all-knowing Google. Recipes served as inspiration and guidance in terms of temperature, ratios and flavor combinations, but much of our cooking was intuitive and experimental, with ingredients limited by the seasons. When I post pictures of meals online and people ask for a recipe, I often feel bewildered. Each meal is an original creation, probably imperfect, and will never be recreated in quite the same way. To me, cooking is less about the recipe than it is about the process of learning how to be resourceful and creative. Which is why I’m terrible at baking. My takeaway here is that you don’t need to be a genius in the kitchen to prepare delicious food, especially when you’re working with real, fresh, tasty ingredients). You don’t need a dishwasher either, or even an adult-sized kitchen to cook regularly (though I dream of having both when I grow up). You do need courage, and a lot of mason jars.

Lesson #3 Friends are those who feed you.

We owe our survival to the farmers, ranchers, and foragers who provided our sustenance. We can name these people off one by one, and I have come to see every food transaction as a life-giving act. To be a farmer or rancher today is an act of righteous faith. Growing real food is an investment in our collective future, and the people who choose to do so are my heroes. I can name them by the first names, and many of them have invited us into their homes, shared of their pantries, or met me on the side of the highway to give me bacon. We supported many local growers and we also received many generous gifts, from strangers and neighbors alike, of everything from home canned goods to abalone and shiitake mushrooms. Our friends fed us, and those who fed us became friends.

It is a test of a friendship to have a devout locavore around. It is an extraordinary friend who will bake you a 100% local carrot cake for your birthday (sans baking powder) because it’s what you want the most. It is a patient friend who will teach you how to can even though you’re really afraid of it. It is a generous friend who lets you take over their kitchen with your huge cooler, mobile pantry, and lots of dirty dishes every time you come for a visit. It is a gracious relative who will halt holiday preparations to help you track down a local chicken on Christmas Eve. I am beyond lucky to have many such people who tolerated my lifestyle, fed me, and made this pioneering journey more delicious and less lonely.

The Solace of Food

In reflecting on this outrageous, profound experience only a week and a half since the finish date, many of my thoughts are still lost in translation. One thing I know, for sure: this project wasn’t really about food. It’s about what we found through food. Things that I don’t want to give up, even when the rules no longer apply. What I have found is more than just how to cook spare ribs, make meringue or, bake bread. It is Intimacy. Connection. Limits. Abundance.Standing now in the freedom of the future, I find myself wanting to be home in my kitchen, stirring the milk to make yogurt, existing in the solace of food. In learning how to feed myself, I feel I learned how to truly nourish myself – which may be the greatest lesson of all.

As the seasons go, winter leads to spring and our endeavor will not end with the calendar year, but transition into a new beginning. Living and eating with the seasons is a way of life, and it’s a really good life. In a world of seemingly endless choices, the best choice may actually be the simpler choice. We will continue to eat close to home, to be fed by our neighbors, and to believe in a different agricultural future, where all people can be healthy and nourished. We can take a step toward that every day, with every meal.

Much has been compromised for this food mission, and other pursuits will surely reshape my rhythm. But, I have channeled my inner pioneer woman, and she’s here to stay. She will continue to stock the fridge and pantry with local goods, pull over on the side of the road to pick berries or nuts, and she will keep cooking without recipes. The days ahead will also hold a little more spontaneity, a lot more tea parties with friends, some traveling, plus the addition of exotic spices and leavening agents.

Sarah Bodnar is a consultant and writer living in Mendocino, CA. When not cooking or foraging, she can be found on her yoga mat or throwing an axe. Follow her on Twitter @sarahebodnar.


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The Gratitude Tree: Thanks for the love!

After launching our Kickstarter campaign only 4 days ago, we are delighted to have raised just over 25% of our goal! As each donation comes in, I’m amazed at the outpouring of support from fans, friends, neighbors, relatives, colleagues, high school classmates, and people I don’t even know! It’s really an incredible feeling to know that each of you has been affected by our journey, and wants to see this book written. Last night I wrote down the name of each supporter to hang on the gratitude tree, which is a manzanita branch that hangs on the wall of my bedroom.

Gratitude_tree_names

Gowan came by to find me hanging the last name and vocalized her amazement at all the people who love us. She’d been busy tromping around in the mud installing an automatic watering system at the farm and was surprised and moved to see what had transpired amidst our “virtual” community. She pointed at names of past interns, community members, and friends with the same pride and humility that filled me as I decorated the tree. Even though I’d been tracking the donations, the magnitude of it didn’t hit me until all thirty names were dangling from the branch. It was beautiful. And really inspiring.

Every single one of you brings us closer to our goal, and makes it evermore real that we are actually going to do this. Upon waking in the morning, the first thing I see is the gratitude tree and I know that 1. this book must be written 2. you all will make sure that it does (even though the idea is a quite daunting). Thank you all for believing in us – and for helping spread the word!

To add your name to the tree, visit our Kickstarter page and contribute today.

Sarah_gratitude_tree


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Eat Mendocino launches Kickstarter campaign to help us write a book!

A couple of weeks ago we shared some big news. That within our mighty little hearts was a book that needed to be written. And now, we invite you to help us make that happen.

We’ve said all the important stuff in this video, and in the project description: what we plan to do, how we plan to do it, and why we feel we owe it to the world to make this happen. Plus, the cool rewards you’ll get for supporting this project.

We ate local food for 365 days. Now we have 16 days to raise $5,000. I posted the video on Facebook this evening and we have already raised $340 from 9 backers and it’s not even midnight. My heart is swelling up.

This fundraising campaign is short and straight-shooting, ending on Valentine’s Day because it’s my favorite holiday (if you’ve been following us since last February you know I love any excuse to wear hearts), and I really see this book as a love letter to local food, from all of us.

The way that Kickstarter works is that you only get the money if you meet your fundraising goal, so know that every dollar counts; it all adds up. Watch the video, spread the word, and be our valentine!

Click here to visit our Kickstarter project page and donate.

A giant thank you to our wonderful friend Mischa Hedges of TrimTab Media for making this lovely video in record time and doing his best to make me seem charismatic in the morning, with a script that I could not memorize even though I wrote it. Ha!

Thanks for all your support in helping us “barnraise” this book!
XO


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Fan mail: Thanks for the love. Plus, a big announcement…

It’s almost two weeks since the “end” of our project, and we’re still digesting the past twelve months. Gowan and I met for bacon bloody marys yesterday morning at Flow in Mendocino and it was the first time we’ve seen each other this year. We compared postpartum assimilation stories from the last two weeks (such as me throwing a piece of romaine lettuce on my plate rudely at a restaurant, her crying over a plate of potatoes, eggs, biscuits and gravy and bewildering her waitress by sending it back uneaten). What we never expected is that in a way it’s harder to not eat local for us now.
Bacon Bloody Marys
Many people expected that we would rush to the grocery store and essentially reset our diets with everything that we’ve been “deprived” of for the past year. Instead, the transition is slow, awkward, and full of surprises. It’s taken me awhile to remember that certain things exist, and most trips to the store have involved a single purchase. One day I remembered cinnamon, another day sparkling water, and today it was vanilla. I didn’t even buy chocolate until Day 11.

The new dietary freedom certainly relaxes my routine, but instead of feeling liberated I feel a little lost. Food became the pendulum for my life, and the daily rhythm was comforting in its simplicity. This re-integration process has made me realize that I am a changed woman, and in a way there is no end. The greatest comfort right now is knowing that other people have also been affected by our endeavor.

Last week we got this email:

Dear Sarah and Gowan,

I just wanted to write and tell you both thank you for your blog this past year and the sharing of your journey. I came to Mendocino last February to work on a film and stayed for 2 months…during that time, I came across your story in a local paper and immediately was fascinated and started to follow your blog. I have loved every one of them and feel so fortunate to have found y’all and your stories.
I have longed for a stronger connection to food, farming and the earth and also community…reading your story helped me make that connection and to also think more about where I want my food to come from… and to take action on that.
You both have inspired me, touched me and helped me realize more about what is important to me in life…and so I want to thank you. I wish you the best of luck in your future endeavors and if I get back up to Mendocino anytime soon…would love to see what projects y’all have going on!

Sending you peace, health, prosperity and love in 2014 and beyond!

And this morning we received this one, from France (which I especially loved because I’ve had Julia Child on the mind)

Dear Eat Mendocino,

I believe in your adventure and I think this is great.
Me and my boyfriend plan to visit the Mendocino Area next month for a few days.
We are very interested into eating local, truly.
We are french and we consider eating local as a way to discover Mendocino as tourists.
Would you have some adresses to share with us? Restaurants, coffees, bars or grocery store lists so we are not completely clueless when we arrive?

Notes like these make my day. To know people have been watching, listening and connecting to our project makes feel way less alone. Because Eat Mendocino is really a beginning, for all of us. Thank you to those of you who have shared your stories with us, it means a lot. To everyone else: we’d love to hear how you are changed, seriously. Email us (eatmendocino[at]gmail.com), post on our Facebook page, or respond to this post.

And now, for the BIG news…
This is not the end of the story. Because this truly is just a beginning and there is so much more to tell, we agreed yesterday morning to write a book. For real. We will be launching a fundraising campaign tomorrow so that you can help make this happen.

Thanks for reading, eating, and changing with us this year.

Lots of Love,
Sarah


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Baking pumpkin bread from scratch with mom’s recipe

Everyone wanted to know what we would eat when the year was over. We didn’t really know how to answer that question, or what to expect. The only way you can do something like what we’ve done is to give up on the alternative and stay singularly focused on the day and the meal directly in front of you. Instead of thinking about what we couldn’t have, we directed all of our energy on what we could discover, create, and improvise. This was necessary for survival, and also for joy and creativity. So, I began this year with a fridge and pantry stuffed with local food, and I could have easily glided into another week, month, or year with the same modus operandi. Not only that, but I have actually found it difficult to transition away from our food routine – which I didn’t exactly expect. The rhythm of living and eating this way has been grounding, cozy, and private, and I am emerging from it with a sense of being an alien from another food planet. During my first trip to the grocery store, I got so overwhelmed that I left without buying anything. I don’t love to cook – I love to eat. But, now I find a profound comfort in preparing food for myself. That said, I also have a lot of other things that I want and need to do in life, and look forward to having more time for life outside of food, once I adjust.

As it turns out, most of what I’ve eaten in the first few days of 2014 is basically what I was eating last week, with a few additions. Like bubbles in my water, and cinnamon and leavening agents in my baking. Today I baked pumpkin bread, and it was not totally gross at all! That’s because I uncharacteristically used a recipe this time. When I realized we could use baking powder & soda again, I excitedly texted my mom and asked for her pumpkin bread recipe, ASAP. I guess it was on my mind since ’tis the season and I had to watch everyone else eat loaves of it during Christmas. Of course, I still improvised a few things and used mostly local ingredients, but it was a baking success! One of the hallmarks of mom’s recipe is that the bread is super moist and yummy. I think you’ll love it.

I got the pumpkin for this one from Adam and Paula Gaska at Mendocino Organics in Redwood Valley. I roasted it and then pureed the pulp in the Vitamix to get the right consistency (sometimes you need to strain it if it’s super juicy). A tip on winter squash: Most farmers are sitting on more squash than they can store right now, and are feeding it to the pigs. If you want a good deal on winter squash, approach a farmer about purchasing larger quantities directly from them. You will get a much better price than at the store or the Farmers’ Market.

Fresh pumpkin puree

Mom’s Pumpkin Bread Recipe

1.5 cup & 2 Tbsp. flour  
(I used Red Fife wheat from Mendocino Grain Project, because that’s what I had)
1.5 cup sugar or substitute  
(I used honey to taste, much less than 1.5 cups – honey is ultra sweet in baking)

1 tsp. baking soda
.5 tsp. cinnamon
.5 tsp. nutmeg
1/3 cup water
.5 cup oil   (I would have used local butter if I’d had enough, instead used coconut oil)
2 eggs  
(I used local duck eggs only because I’m allergic to chicken eggs, but many people swear are the best for baking due to added loft)

Sift dry ingredients together.

Sifting the flour

I have never sifted anything, ever, so I asked mom if I had to and she said she always sifts, and I didn’t want to be the one to make this recipe look bad. I remembered I had bought a tiny vintage sifter at a thrift store because I thought it was cute, so I excavated my kitchen to find it.

Hello cinnamon!

I find following a recipe more tolerable when using heart-shaped measuring spoons. I think Mom got me these, too.

Beat all other ingredients in a separate bowl and then add all together.

Adding the wet ingredients for pumpkin bread

Honey trick: I heated up the coconut oil and then stirred the honey into that to make them both easier to mix in.

Bake at 350 degrees for approximately 40 minutes. Enjoy!

Mom's pumpkin bread

Since I don’t know anything about baking with leavening agents, I didn’t want to overfill the bread pan, so I also made some little cupcakes, and then froze most of them for a rainy day (a smart thing that I never do, but my mom does it all the time and it is her recipe afterall).

Pumpkin bread cupcakes