Garden Scenes and an Extra Chocolate-y Muffin

Birds have a mysterious way of suddenly appearing in big, excited flocks at the feeder, or of disappearing altogether. Where are all the goldfinches when they are not nibbling black oil sunflower seeds? I don’t know, because I don’t see them up in the trees. A question for an ornithologist. So when I saw this robin posing on a fence post, I had to take his picture!



I also saw the fellow below, resting. Whether he is a dragonfly or a damselfly, I’m not sure. He swooped out of nowhere and caught a bug in mid-air–here he is resting and digesting. Kind of made me glad that I am large enough not to be of interest to him!



I have a few more photos from Cantigny Gardens. The flowers are coneflowers and it shows how far plant breeders have come with this species. I wrote down ‘Cheyenne Autumn’ in my notes, but I’m afraid I don’t know which is which here. They’re all pretty!

IMG_0952 IMG_0954 IMG_0955 IMG_0960

Finally, we come to the Extra Chocolate-y Muffins! This is a recipe from Muffins A to Z by Marie Simmons. I baked them in parchment tulip cups from the Paperchef, so they not only are extra chocolate-y, but extra cool in presentation. These muffins rise high, so if you don’t like muffins that flop over and spread, these are for you.


Extra Chocolate-y Muffins

IMG_1477Makes 12

2 cups flour
2/3 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1/2 cup sugar
2 teaspoons baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1-1/3 cups milk
1/3 cup vegetable oil
2 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 cup semisweet chocolate chips, divided

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Place paper muffin liners in pan.

In a large bowl, combine flour, cocoa powder, sugar, baking soda and salt. Stir to blend evenly.

In a separate bowl, whisk together the milk, oil, eggs and vanilla until spoon. Add the liquid ingredients and 1/2 cup of the chocolate chips to the dry ingredients and fold just until evenly moistened.

Divide the batter evenly among the muffin cups. The batter will come right up to the edge of the paper liner. Sprinkle the muffins evenly with the remaining chocolate chips.

Bake for 18-20 minutes. When you press the top of the muffin, it might seem a bit underdone, but that’s ok. Cool and eat!

Baking notes: The first time I made this recipe, I baked in for the time indicated in the original recipe–22 minutes, and they were dry and I was disappointed. The 18-20 minutes time works much better.


Also, I baked these both with the Special Dark cocoa and regular baking cocoa, and to be honest, couldn’t see a lot of difference. Either way, they are chocolate-y. You can certainly use regular paper liners. If filling the regular paper liners right to the top makes you nervous, make 14 to 15 muffins, instead. They will still be nice and and high. Lastly, these muffins are not super rich, just nice and chocolate with a certain understated quality. So if you are tired of gooey desserts, you will enjoy these. One more thing–I think these would be good with a teaspoon or so of instant espresso coffee mixed in just for a bit more oomph. And (last thing, I promise!) with the quantity of ingredients shown, I haven’t seen these muffins slop over, but am not sure what would happen if you add anything else, such as nuts or more chips–you’ll be on your own!

Naked muffin!

I’ve enjoyed watching the chickadees on our new round feeder. Upside down nibbling seems to work.




Fall is coming, and today is such a beautiful day! Peace to you. Fran

Solomon’s seal


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